“It’s a small world,” has become a cliche, but it sure does take a lot of time for us to get out to a refugee camp!
After leaving LAX, it took us 26 hours to get to our hotel in Yaounde, Cameroon. Refugee sites in Cameroon are actually our second destination, but we decided to land in this beautifully green city first because we’ll be leaving for home from here.
iACT’s Sara-Christine Dallain on the tarmac.
After a day of half recovering from the jetlag and knots on my back, we headed back to the airport to take a humanitarian flight to Chad. We checked in but were promptly informed that our luggage might not be able to travel with us, even though we had paid for cargo. Understandably, cargo and extra luggage can never be guaranteed on these flights. They weigh everything, even our bodies. After my colleague, Sara-Christine, stepped off of the scale, the flight manager turned to me and said: “If everyone was like her, your bags would for sure go with you,” which I took as a suggestion for me to lose some weight!
After a stressful hour of seeing passengers checking in, they told us that our luggage could indeed go with us. It would have been tough if it had not been allowed on the flight. Not only our food and clothing but the materials we need for our work in the refugee camp would have been left behind. There is no way our bags would have caught up with us in time before we’d be on our way back to Cameroon.
It was a nice flight in a small plane across Cameroon to Chad. We made two stops along the way in small towns whose airports were bigger than expected but which still seemed eerily deserted. They reminded me of scenes out of the post-apocalyptic books I usually read during these trips. (I know, but I also read books on mindfulness!)It’s now four days since we boarded a plane at LAX, and it will be another two days—and more small-plane flights—before we make it to camp Goz Amer, where our real work begins. I’m looking forward to it.
We return to Goz Amer to work alongside Little Ripples staff on assessing and expanding the program. We will also be training facilitators on iACT’s Lead with Empathy leadership curriculum. We’re excited about this. It’s a priority for us to support and provide the tools necessary for the refugees to be the creators and managers of the programs that are the foundation for a better present and future for their community.
What iACT has learned from our Darfuri refugee friends is overwhelmingly more than what they get from us. Based on this learning, we will next go to refugee sites in Cameroon and assess the preschool and sports program needs of refugee communities from the Central African Republic. If conditions are right, Refugees United Soccer Academy will take their first steps outside of eastern Chad. We’re excited about the potential for having an impact in the lives of refugees, anywhere in the world.
I’m looking forward to the days ahead. I miss my family, and I’m battling a caffeine-withdrawal headache but I’m proud of the work we’re privileged to do. Still, I wish that we did not need to do it. Join us on this journey, iACT24 (our 24th trip!), and in acting to make this a more peaceful, compassionate world.