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i-ACT 21 Day 2: A Safe Island for a Mandatory Vacation

“We were building a camp. They were building a city.“


NDJ van

Being in the hotel doesn’t feel actually like being in Chad. It’s more like a Western standardized island that landed accidentally in the city. It doesn’t match with the things which it is surrounded by. I opened the window of my room just to feel a little connected to the city. In the distance, a call to prayer of a muezzin from a mosque can be heard.

The last two days I enjoyed the drives in the car across the city. I was fascinated by the street life. The areas beside the streets seem to be magnetic for people and all kinds of shops and market stalls. I like the creative potential of the people that seems to lay in the fact that many parts of the city don’t consist of ready made structures. Rather, the people had to take the initiative and came up with their own ideas how to set up own market stalls, turn small houses beside the street into shops, and create areas to meet up. I remember a merchant standing under a tree selling bags. To present his goods he hung his bags with strings in the tree like christmas balls on a christmas tree.

Since we are back – from our last drive – at our strange appearing but safe island we are staying inside the hotel and waiting for our permits. At least this is giving me the opportunity to write my first blog and introduce myself. Coming from Germany and being on my first mission with i-ACT I have met only three yet wonderful members of i-ACT in person so far. I first got to know Gabriel when I started my research on urbanization of refugee camps for my diploma thesis in architecture. He was interested in my research. I was inspired by the work of i-ACT. Long story short, I became a member of i-ACT. And now I am on board with i-ACT21 hopefully departing soon from our insular (isolated ?) hotel and heading for the refugee camps in the east of Chad. I will work with Gabriel on the launch of the first three Little Ripples Ponds in Goz Amer and on the set-up of the Darfur United Soccer Academy clubhouse in Djabal.

Besides working on these projects I will also do some research for my diploma thesis which deals with the permanent non-permanence of refugee camps. Refugee camps are commonly thought of as temporary emergency situations. But when the exception becomes the rule the well-arranged camp with its strict pattern of tents is turned into a complex maze of improvised houses, shops, and other facilities traversed by roads and small marketplaces. The refugees show high potential as city developers when adapting the camps within their means and according to their needs. The fact of camp urbanization becoming a permanent condition has not been adequately taken into account in the planning guidelines for refugee camps. This causes problems and increases the subseque