BOONSBORO, Md. — Rosemary Ganama finds it hard to talk about the day her father's house was burned to the ground by Boko Haram fighters and her elderly mother was forced to flee to the mountains in the Chibok region of Nigeria, where she hid for almost a week with no food and little water.
A member of Nigeria's Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa Church of the Brethren's women's choir, Ganama wants the world to know about the horrors her people are suffering at the hands of the Islamic insurgents.
"We find it very difficult and very emotional," Ganama said. "Almost everyone has been affected one way or the other. We all have lost relations. We really want the world to know what is going on."
The 30-member Christian women's choir started its summer tour of the United States on June 23, performing at the Fahrney-Keedy Home & Village, a retirement community in Boonsboro.
The tour runs through July 16, when the choir and members of BEST, a group of Nigerian business professionals, will attend the Church of the Brethren's annual conference in Tampa, Fla.
"We feel really great to be here," Ganama said. "We are really honored to be here."
The summer tour is a chance for the Nigerians to express their gratitude to the Church of the Brethren in the U.S., which to date has raised roughly $1.5 million to help those impacted by violence at the hands of the Boko Haram.
The choir has scheduled performances at churches throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
Boko Haram fighters have seized towns and cities in Nigeria, destroying homes and churches, while slaughtering thousands of Christians and moderate Muslims.
They gained worldwide condemnation in 2014 when they kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Chibok as part of their effort to form an Islamic government.
The money raised by the Church of the Brethren is providing food, relief supplies and shelter for the refugees displaced by the fighting.
"The money has helped relocate refugees, build temporary structures and provide education and basic food," said Pastor Tim Hollenberg-Duffey of the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren. "But we know this is not going to be solved overnight."
Hollenberg-Duffey said he was excited to welcome the choir to perform at his church Tuesday night.
"This is really neat," he said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both sides. It's wonderful for us to hear their stories. But what we're going to hear will really be eye opening."
Diana Dawha said she was excited to be in the U.S. and away from the difficult conditions at home.
"It's very rough," she said. "There has been so many deaths in Nigeria."
Ganama said that just hours after arriving in the U.S., they learned that a village in their area was attacked on Monday by Boko Haram insurgents.
"There is still so much (destruction)," she said.
Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., http://www.herald-mail.com