About the Author: Robert J. Tate serves as Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger.
In commemoration of the anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, U.S. Embassy Niamey partnered with GAVHLN, an association of disabled artisans, to hold the “United We Serve” Day of Community Service and Remembrance at College Mariama in Niamey on September 11, 2009.
The event honored those who work with people of other faiths, cultures, and backgrounds to help improve their communities and build a world in which innocent people will never again suffer from injustice and intolerance. GAVHLN, as a recipient of assistance from both Islamic and Christian charities to provide skills training and goods such as wheelchairs and eyeglasses to the disabled community, is a model of interfaith community service. GAVHLN was very grateful for the national media attention the event brought to disabled Nigeriens, which they said should raise their profile and enable them to expand their services.
Nearly 200 people attended the event, including Islamic and Christian leaders, educators, development and assistance workers, and disabled artisans. U.S. Ambassador Allen and the President of GAVHLN stressed the importance of tolerance and service as a way to build bridges between different communities and drew parallels between the theme of the event and the spirit of Ramadan. The themes of tolerance, remembrance, and community service were woven into the other activities of the day: a moment of silence to honor the victims of 9/11, musical and dance performances by a choir of disabled artists, short theater pieces, hand-powered tricycle races, and an exposition of crafts, including traditional leather goods, silver metalworking, hand-powered tricycles, clothing, soccer balls, and shoes, made by disabled artisans as a way to support themselves. During the event, GAVHLN and the U.S. Embassy presented a joint donation of children’s shoes and hand-made furniture to a local orphanage.