i-ACT’s Gabriel Stuaring and James Thacher are in eastern Chad documenting the stories of Darfuri refugees. This trip, i-ACT #16, coincides with the 10th anniversary of the start of the genocide in Darfur and the more recent influx of 300,000 new refugees into the region.
This is not Southern California. As soon as we step out of the airplane, the 90-degree heat hits you, and it’s 9pm.
The days leading up to departure are always hectic, but there were many more unknowns for getting ready for the 16th trip than our first trips. We are now doing so much more, adding complexity and stress. The long (very long) Air France flight from LAX to Paris gives me some time to relax – and start missing my family.
Arriving at our hotel in N’Djamena feels so familiar now. The staff receives us as friends and asks about family and everyone back home. We were caught in a coup together, the experience created some special bonds. Abubakar at the front desk, Yves in the bar, Olga with her ever present smile, and all of my other friends here bring a sense of calm to what can be a hectic and stressful arrival. Watching the River Chari’s steady flow adds to the calmness, as we prepare for everything we need to do out in the refugee camps.
Of course, calmness does not usually last here. Working through the permits has been even more frustrating than usual. I am writing this paragraph after taking a break from writing the above ones, so we could go out around town chasing stamps and signatures. As of right now, we’re not sure we’ll have our permits to leave the capital because of some logic defying process that is not happening.
If everything goes right and the permits do come through, we leave early tomorrow to go visit camp Djabal on the other side of the country, close to the border with Darfur. Besides James and I, we’re traveling with John Prendergast and Omer Ismail from the Enough Project and John’s friend Jason Hackmann. We’ll visit Djabal and visit some schools and talk with teachers and kids about education. We’ll talk with refugees about the tens of thousands of newly displaced refugees that have been arriving at the border because of a spike in violence inside of Darfur. After ten years of conflict and man-made human suffering, it is more than alarming to see more of the same.
After three days of visiting camp Djabal, the Enough team leaves, and other members of our team arrive. With this crew, we head to camp Goz Amer, where we’ll work with new teachers in preparation for running the first Little Ripples early childhood development center. Construction is close to finished, and a project we have been working on for more than two years begins in a very concrete, real way.
I’ve asked this of you before, during some of our past trips. Please cross your fingers and send good vibes, so that we get our permits and get on that plane tomorrow. A few days from now, I’ll ask you to do the same for the Little Ripples team.
I don’t feel like the “mission” starts until we get to the east. Let’s get started already!