We Want to Go Back Soon, We Need Food Now

By Gabriel Stauring

IMG_0618_MariamMariam was only ten when she had to run away with what remained of her family, as her village was being attacked by Janjaweed. Her father, aunt, and others were killed. She, her mother, and sisters escaped with only the clothes on their backs—not even shoes, she says. They ran towards Chad, and other survivors from her village ran the other way and might be in internally displaced camps. What remains of her village? Nothing but dirt, she says.

Mariam is now 23 and the mother of three beautiful children. She is raising them alone because her husband left her. Well, she’s not exactly alone. She still has her sisters and mother. They all gather at the matriarch’s home, which has a big tree that offers cooling shade, even on days that feel hotter than 110 degrees.

I asked her about food, and she laughs. The last food distribution was 30 days ago, and that food only lasted 10 days. For the rest of the month, she goes out to farms belonging to the locals, but there is rarely any work available. When there is, she says, work begins at sunrise and ends at sunset. The pay: less than one US dollar for the entire day.

She asks us to help with allowing them to go back home to Darfur. They want peace, development, and education—and they will welcome us on visits there. For now, what they need is food, and she asks if we can help.

Peace,
Gabriel

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Kick-Off

By Tobias Kusian

DSC00807We spent the first seven days of waiting in N’Djamena where nothing was really going on. And now the incidences are overturning. But as my teammates would say, “Yeah, Tobi. That’s Chad!“ The last two days were just overwhelming. After my exciting journey with Sara-Christine, which she described well in her Day 7 blog, we now just returned from our – my very first – visit of refugee camp Goz Amir.

It is difficult to put into words what we experienced today. Especially when you have to find the words in a different language. I saw a lot of photos before I came here. But these were just extracts from the life here. Being surrounded by a combination of these extracts – each different – feels likes another world to me. It feels even stranger when I remember that this is still the same world which we are all living in and which we divide so unequally among us.

DSC00678On our way to the camp I wouldn’t have been able to say where the settlements of the local people ended and where the camp began if it had been for an administration facility at the beginning of the camp. Perhaps at best, one might be able to tell by the increasing density and the higher number of compounds. After we were dropped off by Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the camp I had the chance to see the Little Ripples preschool in action. It was amazing. And a perfect kick-off for the first day in the camps.

When we were doing a walk with Oumda – who I finally met after hearing so much about him – I just let myself drift and float through the camp. I asked Oumda a lot of questions about the camp and how it once was. Keeping in mind that it used to be a large accumulation of strictly ordered tents. Oumda told me that after two years the people began to replace the tents by huts. It’s absolutely DSC00696 impressive what this tent city turned into – a huge fabric of huts, a few adobe brick houses, marketplaces and some shops. That’s what I’ve seen so far. It was also followed by a mixture of feelings. On the one hand I am enthused about the energy and potential that the people here have to adapt the camp to their needs. On the other hand the houses also tell the story that the camp is not just transitory as hoped for when the tents were set up in the first place, rather it became a permanent situation which is expressed in the more stable structures. While we were talking to Mariam (mentioned in Gabriel’s blog above), I was reminded that no one is here voluntarily. One person has more, the other less, hope to return someday to their homes.

Today was a good start for our Little Ripple Ponds. Idriss, who is living in the “new Idriss-DSC00742arrival area“ of the camp with his wife and six children, welcomed us at his home. Sitting on mats under a straw roof held together by tree branches, we talked about the Ponds. I was impressed by Idriss’ openness concerning the project. He could imagine setting up a Pond at his home. There are some adjustments we need to make, like setting up a slightly larger shaded area for the children with an elevated floor out of bricks so they can use it in the rainy season too and creating a secure place where the children can play. But all the arrangements would be manageable. Even though we are not sure that his home will be one of the first three homes where the Ponds will be integrated – we have to see what places we will find in the next days – it was a great start for our task on this mission, and especially for me a good opportunity to get a feel for it all.

I am looking forward to spending the next days in Goz Amir and finding out more about life in the camp, both the good and bad.

Thanks for reading,
Tobi


Talking Surveys and Fundamentals of Interviewing

By Sara-Christine Dallain

IMG_0057IMG_0052“We will do our best because this is very important for education and the future of our children,” said Zakariya, one of the 10 refugees we are training and employing to conduct more Little Ripples assessments over the next year. Our goal is to build the capacity of a small team of men and women assessors who can continually and independently conduct assessments. Why bring in experts from the outside when there are lots of capable individuals here!?

Today was day one of training with the assessment team. Most have already assisted us in previous assessments of Little Ripples, so it was wonderful to see familiar faces. I’m heartened by their ongoing commitment.

We began training with a silly icebreaker to get everybody up on their feet and laughing a bit. I’m happy to report It worked, but I’m almost embarrassed to say that it might have been one of the highlights of my day. It never ceases to amaze me how infectious and uplifting play and laughter can be at any age! We went on to sit in a circle and have a general discussion about the objectives of the assessment and a general overview of the assessment process and survey. Most importantly, we received their feedback and suggestions for improvements on the survey questions based on their previous experience.

I loved all of it. Sitting in a circle. Collaborating. Talking surveys and the fundamentals of interviewing, listening, learning, and finding solutions with the refugees. We all bring our own set of experiences, knowledge and skills. All we ever need is an opportunity to come together.

So now that we’re together, we will accomplish as much as we can over the next few days.

Stay tuned,
Sara-Christine


Traveling to Eastern Chad, and Seeing Little Ripples and Camp Goz Amer for the First Time: Photos from Yesterday and Today

By Felicia Lee
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