Connie’s Day 10 Journal

Common people making connections.

Everything has gone so right here at our last camp! The outlook coming in was challenging but all has fallen into place. Today is our last day at the camps and there is so much we still would like to accomplish. I hope that we made the best and also the right decisions we want to help the refugees in the most effective way possible.

Hala is in charge of UNHCR camps here in this region; She gave us a quick tour of the medical clinic and also the department of nutrition and prenatal care. UNHCR is doing its best even though funding decreased by 15% this year.
One of the greatest needs here is funding for a secondary school. We met up with Jacob again and he says that more and more kids will go join the rebels if there is no secondary (high school) school here at the camp. And we well know teenagers with nothing to do can be in many cases a motive for unreasonable behavior. So Gabe has promised that he will look into how all of us can help to make this very important dream come true. If there is something that the refugees have repeated over and over, other than wanting to return to Darfur, is the want and need for better education. There is nothing complicated about that, and no politics involved, if anything it is one of the more simple desires that could easily be fulfilled. And the benefits would be tremendous!

We visited with a man who represents a certain tribe here at the camps. Again the same horrible story of death and destruction, and as he was seating his children around him one of his daughters was slow to sit by his side, he told us that she was deaf. Many times here I have thought of the people and children with special needs. On one visit as we were leaving another camp, I saw a boy who had a lame foot and needed a tree branch to support himself and walk. Think of how extremely difficult his escape from Darfur had to have been! We also have come across mentally ill children and though I can tell they are loved and cared by their families it must be very challenging to care for them under these conditions. My heart goes out to all of them.

Ahmat’s grandmotherAlso I think about the elderly who sometimes have lost their family to this crisis for many different reasons and this brings me to Ahmat. Gabriel met Ahmat on his first visit and later was informed that Ahmat returned to Darfur looking for education. He had finished grammar school and wanted to continue to high school so he left his family, and Gabe until now had no other news of him. Many people in the U.S. were taken by his great personality and often ask about him. We asked and with great fortune were able to find his grandmother! She was left alone to care for two of Ahmat’s younger siblings. The father went in to Darfur, and the mother went to look for him to spend some time where he is. This crisis has separated families not only by death but also because of the different desperate needs of each family member. Ahmat’s grandmother told us that he was going to school and living with a sister in law. And then Gabe remembered that his computer was in the car and that he could show her the video from his first visit. When she first saw his image she was frightened, she asked if we had taken him and how we had put him inside this box. We explained and she was taken with emotion as she watched her grandson on the screen and heard his voice. It was very emotional for ALL of us. We departed and asked her if she could get word to him that many people ask and care about his well being and if possible we would love to hear about how he is doing. We said goodbye.

Lei with her babyThere is a group of women in L.A. that are looking to connect with women in Darfur, and they have named their group: 20 Women for Darfur. Gabe met with Lei, she was the glue who brought them together, we brought their pictures and their message to Aziza. She is a 20 year old woman who has 9 kids! She showed us her two tents and her kitchen and introduced us to some of her kids. When we told her about the women in L.A. she looked to me as if she were a little embarrassed that any one would be interested in her. We showed her the women’s pictures from L.A. and she commented how beautiful they all were. We also gave some letters to Jacob so that he could translate to her. And before we left she said the most amazing thing; I will get together with the women here and tell them about these women and what they wish for us. WOW that is exactly why we are here. Making connections common people sharing experiences and helping each other!

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4 Responses to “Connie’s Day 10 Journal”
  1. Lisa Goldner says:

    Hi, Connie!

    Great work by all of you! The actions of you and your other team members, in Chad and on the homefront, have stretched all of us in our empathy and hope for these refugees. I found my tears joining those of Ahmat’s grandmother, who must miss brave, young Ahmat and her other family members fiercely. What a joyful reunion theirs will be — we must remain optimistic for some positive outcome to result from such stories of perseverance like Ahmat’s courageous pursuit of continued education. I’m so glad Gabe was able to let this grandmother see him again through past video.

    Aziza’s sure to gather “20 Women FROM Darfur” in response to Connie’s presentation of the L.A. group who wants to connect with them. I wish there was technology possible to leave videocams and e-mail capacity for all the refugee camps. Can you set up a means for us to send supportive letters into any of the camps to be shared maybe through the schools or some other organizational element? I’m sure there’s concern for censorship and other great barriers, but the connections could forge hope and sustain morale.

    Keep us posted on what you may work out with Hala towards providing for a secondary school in this and/or other camps. We would love to be part of that effort. We’ll pray for relief of the physical suffering of all the refugees, with improvements to come in humanitarian aid. With their proper protection, the relief agencies can get on with their missions, and more hope can be restored to those so wrongly displaced.

    Peace/Paz/Paix/Salaam,

    Lisa

  2. MaryAnn says:

    You have all done a wonderful job!!!! Education is such an important part of life, it is so nice to see that although these people have suffered through so much they are still concerned with the education of their children. They have endured so much, yet they stay so strong. You have touched the lives of many in different parts of the world, a connection has been made across the miles. We can only thank you for all you have done. Be safe
    Peace,
    MaryAnn

  3. Pam B says:

    Dear I-ACT Team on the Ground!
    I have circulated Day 10, especially to the STFers who sent Ahmat messages and books with you on I-ACT #2.
    It was such an excellent job of editing and letting us see Ahmat again, with his Grandmother watching. An emotional experience for all of us. Thank you for all the work that made this trip possible. We send warmest wishes for safe travels home in the coming few days. We look forward to more reflections on your travels and meetings with so many new friends. But please get some rest, too!

    Ever onward to connections for peace, Pam

  4. mimi schiff says:

    Hello to all of you.
    Thank you for the last 10 days. Seeing Ahmat’s grandmother watch him on the computer was unbelievable. You have all moved my spirit to do more for the wonderful people that I met through you. I will never forget the faces of the children, the stories, the drawings, the smiles and their hope.
    It has been both a wonderful and sorrowful journey. I pray that there is not an i-Act 4 and that peace comes to Darfur.
    I only hope that not only are there Torch Relays to bring light to China’s involvement and the falsehood of the Olympic slogan of dreams. There should be protests during the Olympics. A disgrace and shame on those that are allowing this mockery to take place. Shame on those whose eyes don’t see another’s soul and right to be.
    Infinite love and gratitude,
    Mimi Schiff

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