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Hasha and Khajia

With no cover from the sun, beads of sweat immediately start to build on my forehead and chest. I am sitting cross-legged on a woven mat, with two Little Ripples female cooks. We are in the home compound of a Little Ripples Pond in refugee camp Goz Amer, eastern Chad.

Just a few feet away, under the shade of the Little Ripples Pond, 50 boys and girls are singing, playing, and learning. The cooks, Hasha and Khajia, sit within view of a pot of lentils cooking on the fire—the morning meal for Little Ripples students. Khajia’s baby boy, her first child, sits on her lap. Hasha’s young daughter keeps a close distance from her. And I try to pay no mind to the heat.

Hasha and Khajia have been cooks with Little Ripples for over six months. They are unique. They have jobs in a camp where there are very few employment opportunities and where most families struggle to eat more than two meals a day. Hunger, unemployment, and stress are constants for nearly everyone. Hasha tells me that she thinks the two most pressing problems for her community are hunger and education. Men and women do their best to find work, she says. For women, that often means leaving the camp to seek work on the farms of local Chadians, or to spend the day, hours away from camp, on foot, collecting firewood in hopes of selling some bundles. However, Hasha explains, these solutions are never guaranteed, and refugees are often left struggling with nothing for their families. “How can you face your children at the end of the day when you have nothing for them to eat?” she asks passionately.

However, the daily struggle to find work and provide has changed for both women since becoming Little Ripples cooks. With a monthly salary, they no longer face the uncertainty of feeding their children, and, I learned, the uncertainty in asking their husbands for things. “We feel strong. Before we didn’t have any money. We were too shy to ask our husbands for things. Now, we can provide for our families and buy things when we need them,” says Hasha. That critical opportunity to make decisions in their household is one important reason that iACT employs women to manage the majority of its programs.

Our conversation topic shifts to hope—that vague, powerful feeling so many of us share and hold on to. When asked about it, Hasha and Khajia are quick to express that what they hope for is an education for their children–and for women, too. “We have hope when we see our children educated because that is what will advance our community. And for us women, we have hope for education, too,” says Hasha, as she gestures to the Little Ripples Pond where her child and others are playing hopscotch with a set of colorful rings.

On that hopeful note, I stand up from the mat; I now have a thick layer of sweat, head-to-toe. I wander back to the shaded Little Ripples Pond, and standing next to my iACT teammates, I quietly watch the “hope” that Hasha and Khajia were speaking of—young refugee boys and girls being educated and shaped by playful, caring, and bright women.


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