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iACT33 in Chad: The Work Continues

Toward the end of January, iACT’s program associate Julia and I traveled to Chad to connect with our teammates living in the Darfuri refugee camps located in the eastern part of the country. We were there for a couple weeks, and the camps we stopped in were Am Nabak, Touloum, Iridimi, Djabal, and Goz Amer. We refer to this trip as “iACT33” because members of the iACT family, starting with our founder Gabriel Stauring, have now gone to Chad 33 times. Gabriel’s first trip was in 2005, and Katie-Jay later joined him for several visits.

iACT33 was unique. This was the first time that teammates from the United States and Chad met with each other since the tragic car accident that took the lives of Katie-Jay and Gabriel. I’ve visited Chad more than 10 times, and although there were parts of those visits when another teammate and would I split off from Gabriel, there had not been a single trip of mine that Gabriel was not also on.

The iACT volunteers and staff knew this trip would be important, even if we were going on it “just” to reassure our far-away friends that our support would continue, and that iACT’s programs and work would not cease or be negatively impacted by the loss of our organization’s leaders. However, it wasn’t until Julia and I saw our refugee colleagues face-to-face that the enormity of our trip’s significance was revealed.

Some Little Ripples (LR), teachers and cooks as well as some Refugees United Soccer Academy (RUSA) coaches expressed their concern over whether preschool classes and soccer sessions would keep going. Some expected to not have their jobs anymore. These worries were heard in their voices, just as much as the grief over the passings of Katie-Jay and Gabriel was seen in their tears. Then, when it was understood that Little Ripples, RUSA, and Darfur United were not going away, it was relief that was shown in our friends’ faces.