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On the Road, Shaking and Thinking

The car ride from Guereda to Iriba shook me to the bones, especially the ones on my back. It was a bumpy two-hour drive through sandy and rocky terrain. Long drives used to be the norm back when I started coming in 2005. Now we jump on the small humanitarian flights as much as possible, since our time is better spent working on our programs with the refugees. This ride did give me more time to think about my family, about how much I miss them, and about how lucky we are.


At times, it’s probably not fun being one of my three kids. I do bring my work home. Refugees are a part of our lives. I started coming out here after long conversations with my then nine-year-old daughter, Mimi. Gabo, from when he could barely walk, would go to all my events and work. He would help put up and take down our tent exhibit, Camp Darfur. He used to say, “When I grow up, I’m going to talk with a microphone about Africa, like Papi.” Leila, our little one, will start conversations with the lady behind her in line at Target about how “We work with refugees. They don’t have a lot of food, but they have some schools. We help them with schools and to play soccer. Do you want to go to a refugee camp?”


What might be difficult for the kids is that they don’t only hear about the beautiful, strong people in the camps (and they’ve met some of our refugee friends from the Darfur United team), but they also hear about the struggles and extremely difficult lives that young people like themselves are going through. It’s hard for me to keep jumping back and forth from one perspective to the other. It’s now been twenty-eight trips.


I know that life close to the beautiful beaches of Southern California can have its own difficulties and frustrations. People suffer everywhere, and it’s not fair to compare suffering. But, as I’m thinking about that during my bumpy ride, I then see young girls in a field in the middle of nowhere working in the burning sun. Then I see other kids riding donkeys with supplies for their home. It’s serious, survival-related work!


My head and the rest of my body are still settling down from the two hours of shaking. I have another week out here before heading home. Get ready kids: here comes Papi with more stories.


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