American humanitarian Jeff Woodke was abducted a year ago in Abalak, Tahoua region, by a group of armed men. Jeff Woodke has been working in Niger for 30 years. As director of the NGO JEMED, he was responsible for several humanitarian actions, the fight against environmental degradation, and emergency care for the people of Abalak and surrounding areas. Today, he is hostage of an unknown group. A year later, his family is still without news of him. Sahelien.com spoke with his wife, Els Woodke.
How did Jeff and you come to Niger to work?
The JEMED project exists because of a personal invitation, which came from an elder of the community.
Tell us about Jeff’s work in Niger.
The Tamasheq people have an expression “Aman Iman”. It means water is life. That is why well drilling is important part of our work. We also gave training to the people so that they could provide medical assistance in the bush. We also distribute food during crises.
Madam, where were you when Jeff was kidnapped?
Jeff Jeff was committed to keep his promisses to the people and stayed, but he thought it was too dangerous for my family to stay.
How did you learn what had happened?
Well, a friend called me. At first I did not believe it but I called a friend in Abalak and she said it was true.
For all this time, you have not had any word from those who hold Jeff today?
No. At first I got some messages, but it was just people who wanted to gain something for themselves. After Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen … released their video and Jeff was not mentioned. I made a video with a call, and my number.
I was hoping someone would contact me, but nobody contacted me.
If they ever contact you, what would you tell them?
May the peace of God be with you. Jeff understood the fate of the people of the Sahel. That is why he has devoted thirty years of his life to helping them. He deserves to return home. I await your call or message.
“I trust you will come back”
If Jeff ever watches this video, what would you say to him?
Hi Jeff. I love you very much and the boys send you their love. Our friends help us a lot. Have confidence in God. Many people pray for you. I trust you will come back. Have courage. God is with you.