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i-ACT 21 Day 7: To the East We Go!

From N’Djamena to Koukou

By Felicia Lee

So today we were up at around 4am, in order to gather our things and ensure that we were completely ready to go by 5am. We were picked up by our friend Max, as well as a UNHCR van. Our team had to split up at the airport, since we couldn’t find a flight with enough available seats for all 4 of us, so Sara-Christine and Tobi left first while Gabe and I waited a couple hours to check in for a later, but direct, flight to Goz Beida. After we landed, a UN vehicle took us to the UNHCR compound, at which we were quickly able to find a ride to the town of Koukou. Originally, the plan was to arrange a ride for the entire team to travel to Koukou together, but we were told that there wouldn’t be a car which would be able to fit all of us plus all our bags. Although we received assurance that the transport of the other half of our team would be taken care of, Tobi and Sara-Christine’s journey ended up taking much longer than anticipated.

As for Gabe’s and my 45-minute-long ride to Koukou, I can’t even find the words to describe what the trip is like (it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced), but I can say that today was my first time doing any kind of off-roading. Here are some of the sights along the way:

  1. LOTS of trees: the further south we went, the less brown the trees were – at one point they actually became green, although their leaves were still sparse

  2. camels, donkeys, goats, one herd of sheep

  3. donkeys carrying firewood

  4. animals being herded by children

  5. two whole animal skeletons lying on the ground

  6. part of a marriage ceremony taking place on the outskirts of Koukou: a group of people were holding up a bed and walking in a pack – I waved at them and some waved back

When we arrived at the UNHCR compound in Koukou, I noticed that I have the beginnings of a farmer’s tan. I am sure that this tan will deepen over the next 2 weeks, since we will be out and about in camp Goz Amer, and I cannot wear tank tops here.

Tomorrow morning, and every morning while we are here, we will be transported to the camp by our friends at Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). One piece of good news is that there is no longer the need for a security convoy to escort us, which means that we will have much more freedom in planning our daily travel schedules.

Miscellaneous thought of the day: What myriad respiratory problems must the residents of Chad have? A couple days ago I began coughing here and there as result of inhaling all the dust that we’re constantly bathed in while outdoors. Even if Chadians aren’t as sensitive to the dust as I, a newcomer, am, the hazy air must contribute to Chad’s being ranked at the very bottom of the list of life expectancy by country. How do the thousands of refugees here fit into this statistic? How do they escape it? Hopefully, the programs, that i-ACT implements and trains refugees to run as their own, will be one step of many to helping these people carve out new futures for themselves.


It was a Journey

By Sara-Christine Dallain

There weren’t enough seats available for all four of us to fly together to the east. So we partnered off. Tobi and I taking the longer route. There we are at Abeche Airport, waiting for our connecting flight to Goz Beida. We were told the flight would be in about five hours. I turned to Tobi, and said, “Welcome to Chad, we’re waiting five hours at this desolate airport!” I then gave him the lay of the land. “There is the indoor waiting area. Out there is the bathroom with 4 stalls, choose wisely, and over there under the tree are chairs and tables next to a small stand made of wood and corrugated metal selling soda, juice, and water. And that’s it.”

Flash forward six hours later and the small plane that would take us to Goz Beida finally did arrive. Tobi and I were giggling in awe at the amount of time we had just spent sitting and waiting under a tree. The longest wait I’ve yet to have on these trips.

After that plane ride and two car rides later, including a vehicle switch somewhere along the dirt road amongst the camels, cows, and sheep, we made it to Kou Kou to reunite with our teammates! In total, it took us 12 hours from the time we left the hotel this morning in N’Djamena to arriving at the UNHCR compound in Kou Kou.

Though however exhausted and dehydrated I may be, the journey was worth it. Tomorrow morning I get to wake up and see the Little Ripples teachers. I can say with certainty that greeting them will be a highlight of my day. I will collaborate with a group of young men and women who will help us implement more assessments to measure the social-emotional, cognitive, and physical health of children, and I get to be a part of expanding Little Ripples. I know for sure there will be so much more that comes up each day in the camps, but for now, I’m just grateful to be here and ready for a fresh start tomorrow.



Restore 2100 image 2


The petition to President Obama and UN Ambassador Samantha Power.


More information about food insecurity can be found on our virtual Refugee Rations report.


To support our Little Ripples’ efforts to improve children’s nutrition and health.


Help iACT continue to do what it does best:

Support refugees in the forgotten corners of the world through soccer and preschool.

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