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i-ACT20 Day 12: Pillars of Touloum

The Village Women Built

By Gabriel Stauring


Touloum is visually striking. When Darfuri refugees were first brought to this area for what was supposed to be a temporary stay, they were given tents for homes.  But, tents are actually very temporary and cannot withstand years of the rough environment of the Chad-Sudan border.

As tents began to disintegrate and life in these camps became more permanent, the refugee women began to do what they do best, take care of their families.  They built what is, in effect, a large village for 30,000 people right from the ground.

The sand around Touloum is dark and rich to the eye. The women make walls and fences from mud made from this sand, and the results are beautiful and functional.  They adorn the outside walls with paint, carvings, or different color mud.  They also add bottles, cans, and other objects for effect.

When entering a home, it’s like a maze; the walls twist and turn, and I got lost more than once, when going around taking pictures.  I’d have to call out, “Oumda, where are you?”

The women also collect the little wood and grass that is used for some of the roofs, but the great majority of this village is made from mud.  It almost feels like you’ll run into Georgia O’Keeffe at any time, the great artist that lived in and painted the New Mexico landscape, including the adobe homes that look so much like Touloum homes.

Peace, Gabriel

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A Day in a Life

By Sara-Christine Dallain

Hosna is 27 years old. She has three children and is pregnant with her fourth. Below is a typical day for Hosna here in refugee camp Touloum, as told to me by Hosna.

She wakes up at 5am. The first thing she does is say her prayers. She then cleans her house and prepares tea. Once she has her tea, she goes and fetches water. She then comes back home and prepares breakfast for her children – lentils. She then sends her children to school.

At this time, if she has work, she goes to work, which is washing clothes or building mud bricks for local Chadians in a nearby village. She walks there. If she has no work, she goes and visits with her relatives or friends. Together they discuss food, problems in the camps and news from Darfur.

At the end of the afternoon, she comes back to the house to prepare dinner for her children. This is around 4 or 5pm. During the afternoon, her children are at home playing alone. After dinner, she has a break. She takes time for herself and goes to sleep.

I asked Hosna what some of her hopes and wishes were in life, she responded, “I hope in my life, for education for my children. If they have education then I will be happy. If they become educated then this will improve their future and they will be like people in America.”

Hosna was extremely welcoming and kind. When I apologized to her for asking so many questions, she stood up, went and got a bowl of lentils and a spoon, placed them on the ground in front of me and said she would be happy to sit and answer my questions until the day was dark. I would have taken her up on that offer had I not had other obligations today.

Before I left her home, she said to me, “Life is not comfortable here in the camp, we want to go back to Sudan. We want peace so we can live there. So our children can go to school there.”

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