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Saturday, January 5, 2008
  A situation that changed my life
Eucharia Mbachu

One day, a woman from my village was struggling desperately to save the lives of all her four children because of a deadly illness at the time, dumped the youngest child on my lap. Unfortunately for her it was a big market day, when buying and selling was high and no adult was at home.

As I was running to find someone to help me with the other kids, I had no clue as to what was going on. By then my father who was called the “local doctor” was informed, he got home and took the other kids to the hospital not knowing that the youngest was with me because at that time she was not yet sick (at least to me). As they were rushing the kids to the hospital, one died on the way. Again, before they could even get to the hospital, the others died in rapid succession. The whole village was in chaos. They were getting ready to bury the dead kids.

Meanwhile, the little girl on my lap started throwing up. I rushed out to call her mother but she was already gone. After I got her seated in her family living room, the little poor girl threw up and answered the call of nature all around me as I was trying to comfort her. Immediately, I saw her eyes changing. “That was all I remembered about that horrible day where a mother had to bury all her five children within the space of three hours,” I was about ten years when this incident happened. Such a traumatic experience has lingered in my mind and I developed a strong phobia about dying kids throughout her high school and even college days.

While in high school, my parents made sure all their children (nine children from same mom and dad) went to private boarding schools. According to school rules, students were allowed to visit home once every semester. In preparation for our trips to boarding schools, our parents would give us enough money for the semester. Because of my financial security due to savings from pocket monies, I found it possible to buy food for the kids in my village. Most of these kids went hungry from morning till evening. Food was available only when their parents returned from the farm or market usually between 6-7 p.m... This strong commitment to help the other kids soon became a passion for me... Sometimes I would pick homeless kids from the street and brought them to my parents. “My mom developed the habit of making sure there was enough food for us and ‘Eucharia’s homeless madness,” our mother would say to the other siblings.

I spent most of my formative years in Rome, Italy, where I obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees. During my student days I volunteered at Mother Theresa’ home for pregnant women in Rome. I met Mother Theresa and Pope John the Second several times, not knowing that I was within the circle of future saints. While in Rome, I advocated against human trafficking, particularly among Nigerian women. Sometimes I would pick up some Nigerian prostitutes in the city and make arrangements for assistance from the Nigerian Embassy. Alternatively, Iwould help them to secure legitimate jobs.

One day very early in the morning, on my way to school, I saw a black man sitting on a bench at the Bus Stop eating bread. After classes, I headed to my baby sitting job, there again was this guy was still there, but sleeping. And after work, again, he was still there. I decided to approach him and asked why he was sitting there all day. He revealed that he was new in the country, ran out of money, and was kicked out by friends he was staying with when they found out he had no money.

My heart went out for this poor fellow; I could not imagine an African coming all that long distance to be homeless in a strange and foreign land. I asked if he would like to come to my apartment for a shower. He was happy. But the problem was I had no food in the house, and so we stopped at a grocery store to get some food. Upon arrival at the house, I showed him the bathroom to shower while preparing food for him. Meanwhile, I called my boyfriend and told him what had happened. He came, saw the stranger and then said to me, “this guy does not see you as helping him; he feels you’re one of those women who picks men from the street, but I did not accept the wisdom of my boyfriend because “I knew he was not making any sense to me”. To resolve this problem, Charles my boyfriend agreed to put the stranger in a hotel for the night until the next day when arrangements would be made for a job somewhere. Meanwhile Charles was busy contacting his friend who helped immigrants in Rome to find some domestic, gardening jobs. So this friend told him that actually there was a family looking for a gardener. They promised to provide accommodation for him. As a result an agreement was made that on the following day the strange immigrant would be picked up at the hotel. On getting there the following day as planed, the hotel attendant informed us that the strange immigrant disappeared. This was confusing, we thought something might have happened to him.

About a month or so, I saw the stranded immigrant standing at the Bus Stop, I ran to him and asked what happened. Angrily he responded in the following words: “Never you do to another guy what you did to me.” I was so confused and taken aback; thinking that probably he was referring me to another person. Then I asked what he was talking aboutbecause we came to the hotel to pick you up for the job, but they told us you left the hotel same night, what happened I asked him? He became physically aggressive, he said, “So you wanted me to see that you have a beautiful place and a boyfriend? If you have done this to another man he would have killed you” I became more confused, and asked him again what I did to him, but instead of explaining what he perceived might have been wrong about this good Samaritan gesture, he garbed my ripping through my chest and breast, I started to bleed heavily. When the bus driver saw what was going on, he informed the police who were already waiting for us at the next bus stop with their mobile ambulance. As the driver handed us over to the police, they questioned us about what happened. This fellow who went by the name Samuel, told the police that he was training me in school and after I had finished I drove him out and brought in another man. Since neither the police officers nor my attacker could communicate with one another, I became the interpreter and the victim whose case was under review.

I was crying and at the same time trying to tell the police officers what happened. But like lightening from the sky, this guy (how he did it I am still trying to figure it out after many years) limped, ran in zigzag motion through Roman crowded streets and disappeared. That was the last I saw him. A female police officer at the scene sternly said to me, “that was insane thing to do”. She said she would never bother to do that even with her own brother under similar circumstances... “Girl, that was a big risk on you life” she told me. Yes, a big risk indeed! I did not attend classes for several weeks and when I returned, I could not wear anything that would not cover my chest. The mark could still be seen, but not as visible as it was when I was teenager.

In the United States of America, I had on several occasions picked homeless women who came looking for shelters at the church where I volunteer. This risk-taking approach to me is a service to the poor and helpless but is taken with care, I trust in God and pray for his eternal guidance and succor...
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