Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Humanitarian Crisis in Northern Nigeria

Child Deaths in Northern Nigeria

For months there have been hints that all is not well in the camps for IDPs – Internally Displaced Persons – in northeast Nigeria. I’ve read bits about the humanitarian crisis.

Humanitarian crisis in northern Nigeria

Humanitarian crisis in northern Nigeria

The New York Times had an article on Tuesday about the report from Doctors Without Borders that provided stark details about child deaths from starvation.

I might have missed it but Vinnie Ferraro had the news and the link.

This humanitarian crisis is such a major tragedy for Nigeria. It is also a reflection of the government’s being unwilling to acknowledge the situation.

Don’t we all know how difficult it can be to ask for help? At least I know it’s true for me. I’d rather not admit that I’m in distress.

Yet I know it is not shameful to ask for help, for individuals or countries. It is a sign of strength to recognize that you’re not all powerful.

Humanitarian Crisis – Get Help!

It is certainly not a sign of weakness for a country to say it needs help in confronting a disaster like this. But it is necessary to say there is a problem in order to get assistance!

The authorities have denied the havoc caused by Boko Haram for too long.

Neighborhood Love Notes

Have you heard about the “Neighborhood Love Notes?”

Senior Minister Rev. Dr. John Morehouse asked us in his Sunday sermon at The Unitarian Church in Westport to do several things. One was to write “love notes” on the sidewalk with chalk. He explained that people especially in larger cities are doing this. It’s their way to say to people who may be frightened by the election results, “We’re with you.”

To be honest, I had forgotten his call for this action. But on Tuesday I was reminded.

I was searching online for Ashley Horan. Our Intern Minister Lara Fuchs read Ashley’s words about community as her opening words on Sunday. I wanted to use the quotation.

Rev. Ashley Horan, formerly minister in Joliet Illinois

Rev. Ashley Horan, formerly minister in Joliet Illinois

Another Coincidence – a Familiar Place

I didn’t find the quote. But I did find that Ashley is a UU minister. She had been the minister at the UU Church in Joliet, Illinois. And I thought right away of my series of coincidences!

Have you even heard of Joliet? It feels very familiar to me. We used to see the name and even drive through it on our way to Chicago from our home in Normal, Illinois. Or when driving to Chicago from my grandparents’ house in Danforth Illinois (definitely not a place you’ve heard of unless you’re my relative! It has a population of 587. It was 350 when I visited as a child.)

I found Ashley on Twitter where she was tweeting about Neighborhood Love Notes. But I still hadn’t found the words that Lara read.

Onward Toward Greater Connection

So I emailed Lara. I wanted the quotation for closing words for our board meeting on Tuesday. Lara sent me the quotation. I read it for the board. Here it is for you:

“You are enough, you are precious, your work and your life matter, and you are not alone. You are part of a “we,” a great cloud of witnesses living and dead who have insisted that this beautiful, broken world of ours is a blessing worthy of both deep gratitude and fierce protection. Whatever happens tomorrow, our ancestors and our descendants are beckoning us, compelling us to onward toward greater connection, greater compassion, greater commitment to one another and to the earth. Together, we are resilient and resourceful enough to say “yes” to that call, to make it our life’s work in a thousand different ways, knowing that we can do no other than bind ourselves more tightly together, and throw ourselves into the holy work of showing up, again and again, to be part of building that world of which we dream but which we have not yet seen.”

Do you like it? I realized as I read it over that the words about our ancestors and our descendants attracted me. The ‘greater connection . . . greater commitment to one another’ pulled me in.

What Makes Community?

Because I’m writing about belonging in my second book, I’ve been thinking often of what binds people together in community.

kola nuts, a sign of welcome and belonging

Kola nuts, a sign of welcome and belonging

For the closing words at the board meeting I also shared kola nuts. I had nine nuts left over from the Sunday service in Stamford earlier in November.

So I explained to the board that these were for welcoming people. I said kola nuts are a sign of sharing and being in community. I held up one of the nuts and said, “We thank our ancestors. We praise them. We honor those who will follow us.”

I explained the custom of giving a visitor a nut to take home. Then I said in Igbo, “Oji luo uno, o kua ebe o si a bia, When the kola reaches home, it will say where it came from.” The visitor will tell his people how well he was treated by his hosts!

Environmental Care in Nigeria

Buhari was in Morocco for the recent Climate Change conference. He made a commitment for the country.

“In his speech delivered during the opening plenary session, Mr. Buhari pledged that Nigeria would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by the year 2030.”

I’d be curious to see what the current greenhouse gas emissions are. Don’t we need to know that to understand what the 20% reduction means? What ministry has responsibility for monitoring this? Hmm – research needed!

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. I had not heard about the neighborhood love notes. Can you give us an example or two of how to word such a note?


  2. Thanks for “Neighborhood Love Notes.” I realize I saw some of these on the doorsteps in Northampton, MA, a week ago and Julie has seen them here on the Windsor Trail. We had not known what they were. A very positive note in a troubling time.

    Grim story from Northeast Nigeria. Most of the reporting is from Borno State. I hope things are different in Adamawa where American University of Nigeria and the Adamawa Peace Initiative have done so much feeding and supporting.

    • Thanks, Lowell. I haven’t seen any of the notes. Westport hardly has sidewalks, and we have very few people who would feel threatened here and now. But we do have many people, from our UU congregation and others, who volunteer, work, or study in Stamford and Bridgeport where there are larger communities of color.

      Yes, grim news indeed. I don’t know the exact locations of the IDP camps. I do know that American University has been active in supporting people who have come to them or come to the town.