As I do on every trip to this camp, today I visited my favorite little Darfuri girl, Guisma. Her mother, Achta, receives me with genuine friendship and warmth. Meeting with her and her five children makes my heart melt. I get happy but then almost immediately sad—seeing their one hut home, the tattered children’s clothes, the skin on bone, and the tired eyes of a mother that is barely keeping the family…alive.
But they smile and even laugh. The one that was not laughing today was the one Adef and Achta named after me, little Gabriel. He was hiding one hand, and in particular his index finger, with his other hand, and he looked worried and in pain. Achta told me that he had burnt his finger and later injured it further playing with his brothers. When I finally could peek at his finger, it looked swollen and with a good sized break on its skin where he had burnt himself. It looked really bad, and all these thoughts and emotions started to run through my mind: “He must be feeling so much pain. It looks infected and will get worse. Long lines at the clinic. He looks so sad.” I even felt a little lightheaded. I’m not good with seeing children in pain.
During the past days, we’ve heard stories of horrible violence and loss. It’s not easy to not let it affect you. I actually don’t try to not let it affect me. But seeing this little hurt finger and Gabriel’s sad eyes was so hard, and it affected me maybe even more than the stories I heard before. It was right there in front of me.
Even with all the mixed emotions, I love seeing the family. This time, it’s the most I’ve seen Guisma smile and laugh since her little sister died some years ago. Little Gabriel was looking better at the end of our day at the camp. I asked our friend Busseina, who is now studying to be a nurse and working at the camp clinic, to attend to the injured finger. I gave Achta some antiseptic wipes and a tube of antibacterial ointment. Gabriel even looked a little happy at having a bright white bandage on his finger!
Peace, Big Gabriel