When Less is More
Halimo had three children, one dead and two living. She was HIV positive and her youngest, fourteen months old, had been tested twice. Once positive, once negative. Halimo had her first baby, the one which died, when she was fourteen. Malnutrition stunted her growth and her children’s hair was peachy fuzz and falling out, all from malnutrition. Her 14-month old baby couldn’t sit up yet and hung in a sling tied across her back.
Halimo used to run a small restaurant selling tea but she was in Djibouti illegally. Born in Mogadishu, she never obtained a refugee card or a legal Djiboutian identity card. Her husband gave her three children and HIV, then ran off to Eritrea.
One day the police visited her restaurant - an orange cooler, some plastic cups and a single gas burner for boiling water and tea leaves - searching people for identity cards. She was arrested and kicked out of the country. She returned but the police had "confiscated" her supplies. She resorted to begging and prostitution for the equivalent of fifty cents a day.
I wanted to help Halimo start over. She came to my house with her children and dozens of flies. We discussed what sort of business she would like to try, what supplies she would need, how to manage her profits and reinvest them rather than simply “eating it”. She made a plan for how to keep her supplies safe from another confiscation.
“I’ll leave half the pots and plates at my house,” she said, “half at Raqiya’s house and half at Medina’s house.”
In the market, she picked out metal plates, pots, cups for tea, a cooler, a large spoon, a knife, five blue flowered oval serving dishes, five plastic plates with huge oranges painted on them and a small gas burner. We bought thirty bags of pasta and tomato paste.
At the car a blind beggar led by a barefoot girl approached and held out his hand for sadaqat. Halimo had fifty franc for the bus and a piece of bread. She handed it to him. All the money she had for the day.
The miracle wasn’t that I gave out of my abundance, but that Halimo gave out of her poverty. The miracle was a lesson in humility and true sacrifice and in that moment I saw Halimo as a woman who could change the world.