i-ACT20 Day 5: Out to the East

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We Keep Going

By Sara-Christine Dallain

Our morning of travel to Iriba in eastern Chad was filled with both newness and the usual excitement that comes with heading out of the capital. On our first flight to the large town of Abeche, we were served a juice box, crackers, and peanuts! What a treat. We have never been offered snacks before. Humanitarian air service in Chad has stepped up their game. However, they’ve also started charging for flights. So I guess my berry flavored juice box was not free.

At the desolate Abeche airport, where we take a connecting flight to the north, the procedure was the same. Get off the plane. Get on a small bus that drives you an absurdly short distance to the airport building. Show passport and travel permits. Then check in. Identify baggage. Stand in the waiting room. Keep an eye on baggage that is sitting outside. Get back on the small bus. Drive the short distance to another, smaller airplane. Identify baggage and make sure its loaded. Get on the plane. I was happy to see the same folks from previous trips were still the ones handling our baggage, checking us in, and verifying our travel permits. It’s always wonderful to see familiar faces and be greeted with warmth.

Next we hopped on a pretty small plane. Gabriel, Rachael, and I sat in the front row. I could have given the pilot a shoulder massage. The flight was picturesque, exhilarating, and a little nerve racking. The scenery below never ceases to humble and impress me. The desolation, dry river beds, clusters of villages, and a small hill here and there. A truly thoughtful perspective of Chad.

Once in Iriba, our afternoon was spent meeting with the field office staff of UNHCR (who have been so welcoming and informative), the Mayor of Iriba, and the traditional Chief of Iriba. The region of Iriba hosts refugee camps Touloum, Iridimi, and Am Nabak. These three camps host 57,000 refugees from Darfur. During our meetings we were informed of the grave needs of the refugees. The issues they face are staggering and have been exacerbated by the cut in food rations. What struck me the most during our discussions was a comment from the head of office for UNHCR Iriba. He said with emotion, that he was grateful i-ACT was here to support the refugees because he feels the world has forgotten about the refugees from Darfur, and knowing that i-ACT has traveled so far to get here to work alongside the refugees was very encouraging to him.

The feeling of being forgotten is a common sentiment in meetings and discussions with partners here in Chad. We all are trying to do our best to support solutions for the refugees. Those of us working on the ground in eastern Chad see it. We see that the situation is still critical, that there are still so many needs and no real solutions have been found for a refugee population that has existed for over 10 years now.

So, what do we do? We keep going. Today’s meetings were also an indication that nobody is giving up. We are all still striving for solutions. On our end, we will continue to raise awareness. Continue to connect our refugee friends with you. We will continue to create, implement, and test programs and models that might offer real impact and create real resilience.

Thank you for following the journey, Sara-Christine

 

G’s Day 5 Photo Journal

By Gabriel Stauring

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It was both nice and sad to see Musa in the capital. Musa has tried out twice for Darfur United, and actually made the team in 2012 but could not go to Iraq because of paperwork issues. Musa came to N’Djamena hoping to work and study, but it has been difficult for him to find a job. He says there are very few opportunities for a refugee.


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Amos has been an invaluable friend and volunteer team member. I’ve known him for many years. He takes care of us here in Chad.


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Leaving for the airport before the sun rises is always a bit unsettling, but it’s also always exciting, since it means we’re flying to the east.


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I have flown across Chad countless times, and I have also worn that t-shirt countless times. HbP!


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If you haven’t been on these flights, you would not exactly understand why having drink service is one of the most amazing developments (on the mundane side of things) since we started coming.


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They did not have Diet Coke, but not bad!


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Our pilot looked young and confident.


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Rach and Sara-Christine, (almost) always upbeat! The flight in the small, one propeller plane did rattle some nerves, right Rach?


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Solar cooker and ex-diplomat, Pat, has been a wonderful traveling companion. I can’t wait to read her book, a novel based on her time in Afghanistan.


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I love the patterns of the desert, but my mind also always drifts to thinking: how would we survive down there, if the plane made an emergency landing!?


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We finally landed in Iriba. It’s not as cold as everyone told us it would be.


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We arrive at our home for the next 11 days, the UNHCR compound. It was a nice, friendly welcome.


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Pat, Rachael, and Sara-Christine are ready to start our round of meetings with the town’s leadership.


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Pat showed photos to and talked about a new model of solar cookers with the local Mayor. He had many questions. We had a good conversation with him about the situation in and around the camps.


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From left to right: local CNARR (Chadian refugee agency) official, Bilal (a representative of the Chadian government, accompanying and supporting our mission), the Mayor, G, Sara-Christine, Pat, and Rachael.


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We then visited the region’s Sultan, and his mansion was impressive! He was not ready for photos but allowed us to take one of his home.


 

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