Them is Us.
By Sara-Christine Dallain
“There is no us and them. When we take on this approach, we are ignoring our common humanity. Them is us.” I read this somewhere recently, I cannot remember the source, but it stayed with me. This quote speaks to the way we at i-ACT approach our work. We focus on how we can make the circumstance and lives of the refugees more personal and relatable. How we can put a face to the numbers and reveal the people under the blanket of statistics.
Guess what? Each one of us is a statistic. We make up the characteristics and changes of a population. We too are labeled and defined by our demographic information such as our ethnicity, socio-econonimc status, level of education and gender. But I bet you don’t feel like a statistic. I don’t. Rather we feel like unique individuals, with lived experiences, hopes, aspirations, talents, roles, relationships, and purpose. Well, so too does a Darfuri living in a refugee camp have lived experiences, hopes, aspirations, talents, roles, relationships and purpose. Being a refugee may make them a statistic and it may be a sliver of their story, but there is not a statistic nor a single story or label that could or should depict any individual or circumstance.
And so, this is why i-ACT. No matter how difficult these trips to Chad may be, however emotionally and physically demanding, I act because every person living in a refugee camp has a story. There is not one story that defines what it means to be a refugee. And a refugee is not defined by that one label. And so my hope is that by sharing their stories, insights, opinions, and experiences, we will all see beyond their statistic and label, and instead see Achta, Adam, Halyema, Rashida, Oumda, Ramadan, Habiba, Guisma, Bashir, Bashar, and Leila.
i-ACT most likely will never capture every story of every individual living in the camps we visit. But we do strive to amplify as many as we can, using what we hear and learn along the way to inform and shape our efforts. So please, join i-ACT in making our friends in the camps feel less forgotten, less like a statistic, and less like a refugee. Because, them is us.
The Darfur Cat
Some years ago, NY Times columnist Nick Kristof wrote an article where he proposed that the world needed a Darfur puppy. He argued that people will care more and be willing to act for a single puppy (or person) they connect personally with, than for thousands or millions of people in danger on the other side of the world, as Darfuris were during the height of what was beginning to be called genocide.
“Time and again, we’ve seen that the human conscience just isn’t pricked by mass suffering, while an individual child (or puppy) in distress causes our hearts to flutter.”
During these slow days here in the capital, our team has been talking about the lives of the refugees and about the still dire situation inside of Darfur, where millions remain displaced and in danger. We discuss and analyze what could and should be done, getting emotional but still detached, feeling far from the actual suffering.
Today, as we drove across the city, everyone in the car was happy to be out of the hotel, taking in the colorful and often odd scenery in the streets of N’Djamena. Sitting in the front seat, my stomach suddenly sunk to the ground, as the corner of my eye caught sight of a baby cat running frantically across the multi-lane street. Traffic was heavy, and there was nowhere to go for the cute white kitty with black spots. The middle of the street had a high concrete median. My stomach sunk even lower, when I saw the cat run under our car, and immediately following, I felt the bump under our wheels.
I turned around, eyes wide open, and started to say something, but I then saw that my teammates were all smiling, enjoying the excursion, and had not witnessed the kitty tragedy. I was going to tell them but quickly stopped myself. I imagined that they would feel the same shock that I felt, so I wanted to spare them.
Thinking back on it, I see that I’ve been OK with bringing up the immeasurable human suffering in the camps and in Darfur, but I wanted to spare them the gut-dropping feeling of knowing that that bump on the road they had just experience was a little cat.
i-ACT has always acted based on the idea that we need to put a face on the numbers and make it personal. Humans are wired to respond to the immediate, both in time and space, when it comes to empathy and compassion with suffering. It’s important to be aware of this, as we work to change the way the world responds to mass suffering.
Day at Le Meridien Chari
By Felicia Lee
So since we were STILL waiting for our permits, we went to another hotel for a change of scenery while we got some work done. Here are some of the things I saw while there: [new_royalslider id=”76″]
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