We’ve made it out of Chad. I’m now sitting in the comfort of the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, drinking my caffe latte, in view of chocolatiers, jewelry and perfume vendors, and the fashion of the haute rich. Already the camps feel like so far away. I have to tune out the scene around me to think about the Little Ripples teachers, the joy and laughter we shared with them, and the tearful goodbye. The DUSA coaches, how proud they were to be chosen, hugging and thanking us for the opportunity. And the children, barefoot with their runny noses and tattered clothes, running away screaming and laughing when Rachael and I would pretend to run at them (that never got old). Or those that were so curious to shake our hands, completely intrigued, investigating the feeling of our skin.
It’s strange because I get so excited that we made it out of Chad! I’m always so happy and relieved to make it out safely. So happy to be back in comfort, with access to a variety of food, drink… and ice cubes. But the moment that I begin to reflect and remember all my new friends in the camps, I begin to feel nostalgic, sad and anxious. Already I find myself missing being in the camps, working with the teachers and coaches. I’m sad knowing that the refugees will remain, as they have for the past 10 years, eating the exact same food every week, waking up everyday only to focus on surviving, to attend whatever meager education is offered to them, wondering, waiting, for the time that they get to go back to their homes in Darfur…the homes that do not exist anymore, in the villages that have been destroyed. I get a small dose of anxiousness mulling over how to best balance myself between my western life, and being aware of the refugee’s lives. And also with the weight of responsibility that I feel for them, for expanding our work in the camps, for reaching more children through sport and education, to empower more teachers and coaches, and to provide more safe, and positive spaces that offer hope, empowerment and joy.
Some may think that these words – hope, empowerment, joy – are just the “buzz” words of today’s development world. The words we all throw around to inspire others do donate money and to believe in the work we’re doing. But let me assure you, they do have real, tangible meaning to the people that experience them. Seeing these words come to life, first hand, has completely changed my perspective on what is means to be a humanitarian, and on doing development work, aid, relief, or whatever you want to call it.
Alright time to change gears. Next stop Monaco, where I will be speaking with anybody and everybody at the International Peace and Sport Awards who will listen, about how a small but dedicated group of individuals who came together to empower and to give hope and joy through the Darfur United Soccer Academy.