We asked our subscribers to tell us their survival stories. And we received a tremendous response.
One of the best ones we received was from our friend Ray:
This is a survival story that goes back to the mid 90s.
Remember Rwanda? I mean when about 900,000 Tutsies were slaughtered by the Hutus. The U.S. State Department representative came on TV and asked what genocide was in relation to the reports coming out of Rwanda and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). I could have told her. I could have showed her.
I wanted to go to the U.S. and bring her to Rwanda and have her take a look and talk to some of the survivors. Maybe then she would have understood. How plain ignorant and stupid can a person get?
There were 1.5 million refugees in the Mugunga refugee camp in Zaire. I was one of several white people working there. There was no latrines at first. There was no food at first, until the Russians and Chinese brought in ‘biscuits’ and beans. The so called ‘biscuits’ from Russia were round, flat, white cookie like things. They came in tins which were about two feet tall and a foot square. Inside those tins were bags made of aluminum and inside those were the biscuits. They tasted pretty good. The beans came in 50 ltr bags.
At times when opened it was found that half of the ‘beans’ were actually rocks which made the bag the correct weight. Someone along the line of delivery had switched the beans for rocks. Want to know what it is like when several hundred people line up for food and the bags had rocks in them.There was a lot of support from NGOs such as Doctors without Borders, Food for the Hungry, along with UNICEF, the Seventh Day Adventist Relief Organization, World Vision (which coordinated the food distribution) and some others. I had a love for all those people no matter their religious beliefs or where they came from.
I was going thru Mugunga one day and came upon a woman who was carrying two children and had another alongside her. It was obvious she was in distress and the baby she was carrying was near death it appeared. I took her by the hand and led her to the Doctors Without Borders tent.
I was carrying the baby which was probably about a month old. Enroute the baby I was carrying wet on me and was convulsing. The doctors took the baby and upon examining her told me ‘this baby is dead’. They told me it probably died shortly before… probably while I was carrying it to them. It took me awhile to get over that experience and it still brings tears to me.I helped unload some of the aircraft that came in with the food, water and other supplies. The Russian aircraft were so big that they could put two or three large trucks in them. The Japanese Military helped with some security and transportation. Where was the U.S. of A? Nowhere to be found except for the volunteers and the NGO personnel.
We had a fly problem to where the tent lines (the blue UN tents that had been brought in) were black instead of white where the flies were hanging on. We had a severe diahreah problem especially with the children. Blood test demonstrated it was mostly due to the spray that had been used to rid the place of flies.To eliminate the flies and to put the feces in the right place several VIP latrines were built. (VIP .. Ventilated Improved) Prior to that people would just go wherever they could find a spot.Remember the pictures of the bodies in Lake Kevu? In ‘TIME’ and other magazines. So very many bodies. Mass graves were created. It was a mess. Parentless children called ‘unaccompanied’ so they would not have the tag of being orphans.I have some photos of the camp and the people that I took.
This experience has stayed with me all these years. One of the events that was heartbreaking, and there were many, was when the Representative from the U.S: State Department went on TV and wondered about what was Genocide. How do you define it? I can clue her in. You can see her speech in the movie “Hotel Rwanda”. It is an actual video of her. Pitiful. Unbelievable.This was a part of my life that has remained with me all these years.If nothing else I trust my experience or that of those people in the refugee camp or those that were slaughtered in Rwanda will not be met by anyone reading this.This was about survival.