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Fashion and Fields

Backpacks are becoming popular here. When there are assessments scheduled to take place, our Little Ripples assessment team members each carries a yellow backpack to the school. Since we walk to a nearby “restaurant” for our lunch break on these days, the owner of the establishment has been seeing the same yellow backpacks for a week now. This afternoon, he declared himself as part of the team and requested a backpack. Funnily, one of the guards of Little Ripples said the same thing as I was leaving the school to return to the UNHCR compound! Our assessment team works hard at collecting information, yet does not need to put much effort into spearheading a fashion statement!

However much diligence the team members are putting into their task, the fact that many families are currently, on average, 30 kilometers away from their camp homes trying to farm, makes the assessment process a bit choppy. We have successfully interviewed all the students for the first Pond as well as the maximum number of children needed for a control group, but finding all of our second-year Little Ripples students (or at least 100 of them) is proving quite difficult. The reason for this is food. In order to supplement the meager quantities of food that nearly all camp residents must contend with, most families grow crops such as sorghum, wheat, and/or maize on fields anywhere from 20-40 kilometers outside of camp Goz Amer. With the rainy season here starting in June and ending in November, refugees take advantage of the natural watering system and, along with spouses and children, live for up to almost half a year on land they rent from landowners for about $50/hectare (about 2.5 acres). Not all families have left their fields yet.

The last day that we spend on assessments, is, alas, tomorrow, and we’re hoping — insh’allah, as is often said here — that some more families will have returned by then. Our expert assessors may be able to create fashion trends, but they certainly won’t be able to conjure up preschool students out of thin air. Wish us luck!


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