Ahmed Oudou is a longtime driver for Lutheran World Relief in Niger. In 2007, he had the honor of distributing quilts and watching the gratitude on the faces of recipients who have very little. As quilters in the United States celebrate National Quilting Day, Ahmed wants them to know why what they do matters, from someone who has seen tremendous needs being met. He knows for a fact that LWR distributes much more than just quilts.
Ahmed said, “If I could be in their place, it would be such an honor to learn how to quilt, and even more so to use those skills to serve the most vulnerable people. The quilts provide comfort, particularly to women, while restoring the respect and dignity of the most vulnerable people in the world. I pay tribute to their courage and self-sacrifice to provide the dignity and hope for the thousands around the world.”
His First Quilt Distribution
The distribution Ahmed participated in was in the region of Maradi, in the southern part of the country. He recalls, “It was the first time I saw first-hand the activities supported by LWR,” in partnership with a local non-governmental organization (NGO).
The quilts were given away in the villages of Dakoro, Birni Lallé, Korahane, Bermo and Ajekoria. The actual distributions were done, for the most part, in the local schools and health centers. Ahmed estimates about four bales – 100 quilts – were handed out at each village.
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The need they were addressing was a basic one. “In Niger, the majority of people live on less than $1 a day and sometimes eat only once a day. Those who cannot afford to eat enough cannot afford to buy blankets,” he said. As if the extreme poverty wasn’t enough, the area was emerging from an acute food crisis. “Severe drought had detrimental effects to households. External humanitarian support, including that of LWR, had allowed communities to adapt to these effects.”
Ahmed continued, “Most of the people who receive quilts are extremely impoverished, lacking clothes, a bed or even a small mat to lay down on.” Bedding is one popular use for quilts and one reason they are highly sought after. “The area of Dakoro, in particular, is known for periods of unbearable cold at night for women and children, especially between December and March,” he added.
A Message of Gratitude
At the distribution, one woman, Harira Tanko, told Ahmed in Hausa (the local language), “They gave us blankets to keep us warm when it is cold and gave babies clothes. Truly, this is a blessing, for this year we will not be cold.” She added that when the temperatures rise, the quilts would be used as mattresses for people who have no beds.
For Ahmed, the memory of the distributions and the strong emotions of the recipients have stayed with him – so much so that one of his wishes if he ever comes to the United States is to visit the warehouse that LWR shares with several partners at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Maryland. There, the quilts are folded, shrink-wrapped and prepared for international shipping.
Ahmed wants to convey a heartfelt thanks for all the quilters and others who supply their skills and materials to make these distributions possible. As he said, it isn’t just quilts you are sewing, but also dignity and hope!
Looking for another way to thank the quilters in your congregation? Nominate them as an LWR VIQ (Very Important Quilter)!