Murtada was 12 years old when I met him in a primary classroom in refugee camp Djabal. He was taller than the other kids because most were younger and because, well, he’s just a tall guy. He did not speak a word of English, but he had a huge smile, a friendly personality, and an enterprising spirit. He showed up every time as soon as we arrived at his camp. He immediately became a friend. Now, he’s 23, married, and has a young son. He still has the smile, the personality, and the spirit—and he’s becoming a wonderful leader and important part of iACT’s work in Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad.
When we met him, Murtada was always with his two friends, Ali and Rahma. We gave them the not very original title of “the Three Amigos.” They all craved information about the rest of the world, and especially about the United States. Rahma already spoke English quite well and devoured any books he could get his hands on. Ali was the most good-natured, funny kid you’d ever meet. And Murtada wanted so much to communicate with us, and could only do it through Rahma.
Murtada is now fluent in English. He started learning by connecting through iACT and the Enough Project with students in the USA. Our collective project, the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Project, allowed students across continents to share about their lives, their cultures, and hopes. Murtada continued learning English on his own, adding words to his vocabulary on a daily basis by reading and listening to talking dictionaries. When he could afford it, he attended English classes given by other refugees.
Now, an experienced translator that regularly works for NGOs and agencies, Murtada is a part of the iACT team that traveled from their camps in the south to the camps we’re currently visiting, Kounoungou and Mile. He is translating, but he is also connecting with the communities in these camps and helping shape the programs that are run by the refugees. He talks about how the refugee community must continue to take ownership of the programs and find ideas to support from within. Murtada calls himself an “iACT kid.” He has been around us almost from the beginning. “But now I’m grown up,” he says. He’s a joy to work next to.