After mourning the loss of our father, my mother, who was already a devoted servant of God deeply involved in her local church, decided to entrust her burden to her Lord. Convinced that with God, anything was possible, she wiped away her tears, rolled up her sleeves, and got back to work. My mother was aware that she had to focus on her gifts and talents to earn money without compromising herself. She combined hard work, discipline, good resource management, and generosity to achieve her goal of providing a good education for her children and helping them escape the ghetto, both mentally and physically. She began her days very early with a time of prayer.

Afterward, she would do the housework before going to the market to buy the food she would cook during the day to ensure her sales in the early evening. On her food stand, which she set up and dismantled every evening, she displayed dishes, lit only by a kerosene lamp. She would come home late at night, do her accounting, encourage her children, and then pray with those who were awake to thank God for the day.

Then she could finally prepare for sleep. My mother’s discipline, integrity, diligence, and above all, her faith allowed her to continue financing all her children’s education. She knew she had a significant challenge to overcome and also knew she couldn’t rely on anyone on this Earth to support her. She seized every opportunity God gave her and worked hard.

This virtuous woman woke up very early every morning and went to bed very late at night after being active without interruption. She didn’t complain, blame, or judge others. She gave thanks in all things and regularly confessed that the best was yet to come. I knew she was sad and melancholic, but she did her best not to show it because that wasn’t what she wanted to communicate.

My mother showed generosity to everyone. She gave food to those who were even more in need than we were. She took care of the elderly women who were abandoned, and she taught us to do the same. After my father’s death, my mother could no longer rely on family members. Her two sisters, Philomène and Adèle, were barely making ends meet themselves. On my father’s side, however, I had an uncle named Benoît, my father’s older brother, who was himself the father of six children. My uncle Benoît worked as an employee in an urban transport company. His salary was just enough to take care of his six children.

Apart from him, my father also had two older nephews, both sons of his older brother. These nephews lived in the village with my paternal grandmother. Therefore, the only person in the entire family still alive and with an income was Uncle Benoît. Despite this, he never showed any desire to look after his brother’s children.

Not only did he never make any financial donations to my mother for our benefit, but he also never bothered to visit us to check on us. My mother had to strengthen herself and take courage.

I had to scavenge through garbage dumps.

My mother wondered how she could generate income in her situation. While meditating on this question, she remembered the many praises she received from her husband and children about her cooking skills. She had a particular gift for regional cuisine. Everything she made was delicious.

She decided to cook and sell pistachio cakes (or pumpkin seed cakes), white bean cakes, cassava sticks, and spicy fish cooked in leaves. Pistachio cake is a delicious dish that requires a high level of patience and precision to prepare. The basic ingredients for this dish are pistachios and smoked fish. My mother would crush the pistachios she had shelled and dried beforehand.

The paste she obtained was carefully wrapped in banana leaves, which she then steamed in a pot for at least two hours. For the preparation of white bean cakes, my mother used used tin cans as molds; metal cans of various sizes, washed and sterilized in boiling water before use.

The only place where they could be found was in garbage dumps. Someone had to go and search for hours to supply my mother. None of my brothers and sisters were willing to do this task; its degrading nature didn’t encourage anyone to engage in it. When my mother realized there were no volunteers, she had to appoint an emissary among her six children. For this perilous and very humiliating mission, the lot fell on me, and I couldn’t contest because I was the youngest in the family.

Twice a week, I would tour my neighborhood and neighboring areas in search of empty tin cans. I wandered the streets under the heat and…

This text is an excerpt from the book “From the Ghetto to the Bar” written by Dominique MBOG.

We invite you to read the following article “Between Wealth And Poverty.

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