i-ACT’s 20th Trip to Darfuri Refugee Camps
By Gabriel Stauring
I remember quite clearly sitting in this same Paris airport in 2005, experiencing a mash of feelings—excitement, confusion, responsibility, fear, power, hope, and so much more—as I was about to board the plane that would take me to Chad on my first visit to Darfuri refugee camps. I’m now on my 20th trip, and I’m still carrying all those feelings, but there is one more that now glues them all together: sadness.
We called that very first trip, i-ACT, short for interactive-activism, with an ambitious, yet simple, mission: to put a face on the mind-numbing numbers of dead and displaced from Darfur. It was just going to be that one trip, but here we are. Mass death and displacement has not stopped in Darfur, and the situation in the camps is one of hardship and loss of hope.
On i-ACT1, the word that we kept on hearing almost as a mantra was “home.” They believed they would be going back soon. Home. They could feel it, and we believed and felt it with them. On i-ACT20, we will ask them about home and what that looks like in their minds and hearts. We will also focus on food. How have they adapted in providing for their families, in an area that is extremely limited in resources and their rations are cut drastically.
It is not all sad, though. There is always joy when visiting Darfuris. One sure way to experience joy with them is to bring out a soccer ball. We’ve done it on all previous 19 trips, and i-ACT20 won’t be the exception.
Here we go. #20. We will be posting daily blogs, pictures, and videos. Let us know what you think and if you have any questions for our i-ACT team, aid workers, or our refugee friends. Join us on this journey.
N’Djamena Arrival, Excitement, and Uncertainty
We arrived to N’Djamena after 29 hours of travel and a meager 4 hours of sleep. It would be another two hours of passing security and getting our luggage out of the chaos that is the airport luggage and arrivals area. When we finally made it to our hotel we had a midnight meeting and some work already waiting for us. There were a few Chad logistical items to prepare before I was free to crawl into my hotel bed. When I finally did, thoughts of excitement and uncertainty of the weeks to come crept into my head as they usually do at the start of these trips.
The morning came quick, and Gabriel and I were off to attend a meeting and do some errands around town. Then, as always, the feeling of excitement that I felt falling asleep the night before was heightened. The smells, the thick dust in the air, the people going about their day, the traffic, the fruit stands and markets, and the desolate roads that make the city feel vast yet empty, reminded me that yes, I do love being here. Just like that, the 29 hours and lack of sleep was worth it and forgotten.
We never truly know what lies ahead when we arrive in N’Djamena. However after our first day here, I’m feeling more confident that things will at least begin as they’ve been planned. Emphasis on “begin.” How they will continue after that is still so unknown. Overall I’m genuinely excited to be back here, and all we can do is focus on one meeting at a time, one obstacle at a time, one day (or half day) at a time, and work with our partners to get ourselves to the east of the country as soon as possible in order to do what we do best.