In it for the long haul

By Sara-Christine Dallain

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As I waited to reunite with the rest of our team in camp Iridimi, I decided to walk up a little hill to see what was beyond it. At the top, I sat a on rock and stared into the distance of eastern Chad, soaking up its unique beauty.

Next to me was a donkey tied to a rock. He just stood there, staring at me. For a while it was just him and me. Peacefully accepting each other’s presence. I reminded myself where I was in the world. Visualizing a map of the world, and me sitting alone on a rock in this vast, isolated region.

The donkey’s owner came to retrieve him. A young boy, pulling with all his might to get the donkey to move. He greeted me quietly, “Salam Malikem” and walked away with his donkey. I would only get about five more minutes to myself until a pack of kids from the camp discovered me sitting alone.

scd 1It was enough time to get a view of just how widespread refugee camp Iridimi actually is. When walking in the narrow paths in-between homes, we forget the camp holds over 22,000 people and 5,000 households. It was yet another humbling perspective. I feel like I have so many of these each day while here.

Today was a day of goodbyes and see you laters. I hate those. It pains me to leave. I know I will be back, but I can’t help but wonder what it must feel like for the refugees to see us come and go. They are so gracious. They welcome us, offer us food, tea, gifts, and answer all of our questions. The deal with all of our strange cultural habits and outfits, and then send us off with a smile and “a peace be with you.”

But we wrap up i-ACT 20 with success. Another DU Soccer Academy is up and running. Which means more children will be learning soccer and social skills in a safe environment with their peers, and more men and women now have employment and a platform to be leaders in their community. We leave with more understanding and insight into the challenges and reality of daily life of the refugees, having spent a lot of time speaking with women from both camps. Information that we’ll use for advocacy and to shape our work. And as usual, I leave feeling more inspired, fueled, and committed to supporting the Darfuri refugees in achieving a better life, better education and peace in Darfur. This type of humanitarian work is not a job of instant gratification. You must be in it for the long haul. Change takes time, partnerships, ingenuity, persistence, policy, and radical hope, among other things (like funding). So we return home to work on all of those things, so that we can hopefully come back and provide more sustainable support to the refugees.

Thank you for all the support you have given our team out here on i-ACT 20, our team back in the U.S., and most importantly, the Darfuri refugees.

Sara-Christine Dallain


He Said: Meet Me in Darfur

By Gabriel Stauring

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We have been mostly visiting mothers over the last few days, and it’s been heartbreaking and inspiring. Today, in between visiting mothers in camp Iridimi, I met a refugee leader for the camp. His name is Abakar, and he came to Chad fleeing the violence of Darfur in early 2004.

He told me about all the children that have been born in the camp. “All they know is Chad,” he said. “They hear songs and stories from their mothers and families, but they really don’t know Sudan. For them, Darfur could be in any direction. It does not make a difference, because they have never lived it.”

Abakar said that his people believed that they would go home soon, after they had arrived in Chad and were given tents to live. The years kept passing by though, and they realized that the world was not paying attention. He also told me about how, in other places, the international community has stepped in to save people, but not in Darfur.

He is very grateful for the humanitarian assistance they have received in the camps, but now it’s being reduced to such low levels that he does not know how they will survive. As the mothers have been telling us, he says that they are now only receiving sorghum and lentils in very small quantities. If they are careful, it lasts them two weeks. After that, they have to scramble, asking others for help, looking for the few existing jobs in villages around the camp, and eat very little.

When saying goodbye, I promised Abakar that I would be back. He smiled and shook my hand with a firm grip. Then said: “I hope you come back, but I also hope you meet me in Darfur—because it has achieved peace.”

Gabriel

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