Aikram! Snap, Switch, Show and Shriek

I wake before the alarm on my watch starts beeping and 6:45am flashes in indigo. Today we go to Kounougo!Our land cruiser is the last in the convoy heading to the camp; all humanitarian vehicles are marked with a “no weapons” image, yet ironically we follow a pick-up truck with a gun and several soldiers. We cross several dry riverbeds, most with herds of animals and a few with large holes where villagers are digging for water.

yakoub&g Before we enter the camp, we notice a game of futbol, the universal sport, but can’t stop since today we travel in convoy per the local authorities and due to recent insecurity in the area. Our first stop: authorization! The head of security is quite hilarious, asking me if I want him to go and find more authorizations, gather more signatures, I laugh and shake my head with relief that finally there is someone who can laugh about it all. Our first mission in the camps is to find Yakoub (Jacob), the inspector of schools in this camp – many of you have met him previously. We sign our names in the camp log and we are off in the car to find him…

…wait, arête, stop! Here he comes! Gabriel and I jump out of the car and begin our first day in Kounoungo. Children begin to gather almost instantly and not until we hurry back to the security office to meet the convoy do they separate from us. With YaKoub, we discuss the situation of the camps, which you will hear about in the video, and we begin to walk to the head Sheik’s home until I hear “Yama, Yama, Yama!” An older woman rushes towards me, arms a wavin’ in circles. She has come to tell me her sons are in Khartoum!

FatinaThe animated journey into the life of Fatina begins with this introduction. She invites us to her home. Inside the mud wall is a tent, a mud kitchen, and a small shaded area with a straw roof. We sit and meet her extended family, the daughters, the granddaughters, the nieces and nephews. Most all our women, and most all are smiling as we ask them to write their names in our small book. Today is Friday and work ends early for, hmmm, everyone (?), so we are short on time and start heading out.

Aikram! Aikram! Aikram! As Gabriel speaks with Asha, a 15 year old granddaughter of Fatina, who we will connect to a community in the States, I am surrounded by kids. A mere distraction so Gabriel has less background noise, but the highlight of my day!

shy girl Click. I take a picture. Flip to “play” mode on the digital and show the young girl. She shrieks, covers her mouth, and the crowd swallows her. Aikram! Aikram! I point to the young girl with the purple scarf piled on her head, show the picture and again a shriek. She is pushed out of the way…as I switch the camera back, Aikram! Aikram! I spot a young boy! This goes on for a while, and even when Gabriel tries to get my attention I cannot hear him. I am engulfed in the game of snap, switch, show and shriek! We finally end with a picture of them all with Gabriel and Yakoub.

My first day in a Darfuri refugee camp in Eastern Chad. The faces are so real, their laughter and games are those of the children I know back home. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow. To gather more stories, sit with more families, play with more kids. This community is also mine and yours. Together, all of us here and around the world, can strengthen community, provide a connection, give hope, and fight to bring peace to Darfur.

In Solidarity,
KTJ

Katie-Jay keeps i-ACT running on several levels. Much of her work entails coordinating partnerships with other grassroots organizations and implementing the campaigns developed by Gabriel and seeing through the details. She graduated from Portland State University with a BA in Sociology and a focus on Community Development. She has previously worked as a community organizer in Thailand, Guatemala, and with grassroots organizations across the United States.

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16 Responses to “Aikram! Snap, Switch, Show and Shriek”
  1. connie says:

    Great Video!
    What is the tempeture there at Konungo? Please ask Jacob,if conditions are any better than your last visit? Also ask them what is most needed at this moment? Are they getting enough food? How is the water situation? Last summer they were rationing…
    Wow it was so good to see there smiles again!
    Amor y Paz,Connie.
    Monterrey,Mexico.

  2. Gayle says:

    I agree with Connie – GREAT VIDEO!!!! – which will hopefully be on http://www.ned.com/ (in the Crisis in Sudan 2008 thread shortly …. if I can get the bloody code to fly without Mark or Jim’s help!!!)

    Katie – I’m so glad you are there with Gabe – having this experience with the benefit of all his experience and filtering that back to the world. You are a bright light :)

    And Gabe – you look fabulous darling!! (ha!)

    with all my love to ALL of you in the Camp,

    Gayle xxxx

  3. Zahara & Gabo says:

    Siii Great video!

    Si por favor dejanos saber como sigue la situacion en ese campamento, Connie hizo buenas preguntas.
    Y aqui seguimos con ustedes….aqui tu equipo empezaron muy temprano.
    Estoy de acuerdon Gayle te vez fabuloso mi chavo, como siempre.
    Saludos desde casita.
    Zahara

  4. Esther says:

    Gabriel,

    Watching you arrive at the camp and being greeted by Jacob reminds me of when Lost Boys see each other after a long separation — there is such joy and glad welcome…which is very different and much more gratifying than a polite handshake! :)

    Because you’ve taken the time to build friendships, we have the wonderful opportunity to witness Darfurians sort of emotionally comfortable – that may not be an accurate description – but the exchanges you videotaped are much different than watching a BBC report for example. I almost feel like I shouldn’t watch because it is so personal but I am glad that I can because the people are wonderful and it is not every day that you can (remotely) smile and laugh with them.

    Anyway, I’m just tremendously grateful that you allow us to go along with you on this journey. And if it seems appropriate, please tell your friends that I’m really sorry we haven’t been able to get them back home but we are trying and won’t give up.

    Esther

  5. teresa says:

    Great to see the familiar faces and Jacob once again and still smiling and gracious to you as always. Still hanging on to hope. I’m sure your being there reminds them that they have not been forgotten and there are people trying to do something for them. Look forward to the videos and experiences they will be sharing with us in the coming days.
    Teresa

  6. Isaac says:

    Wow KTJ and Gabriel,

    Glad you’ve made it to the camps. KTJ, it gave me butterflies seeing you sit in the airplane, and Gabriel, though we haven’t met, I feel I’m getting to know you a bit. Also glad to see the warm welcome into the camps. I’m showing everyone who I can get in the presence of a computer… “This is my cousin and she’s there RIGHT NOW….” KTJ, I’m so proud to be your cousin.

    All of my enthusiasm for you two, that you may pass it the peoples of the camps.

    Isaac

  7. Tiffany Wheeler says:

    WOW!!! I have thought more than once that this trip would is surely something I wish I was experiencing and the game of snap, switch, show, and shriek confirms it all. I am glad to see that you have turned into quite the tech guru. You paint the picture perfectly in order to make us all here in the States feel like we are there as well!

  8. Djata Grant says:

    KTJ,

    In one word, you are amazing. I so enjoy your colorful story telling and can’t wait to read tomorrow’s journal – I’m hooked!

    Being that this is your first visit to Chad, what is your overall impression of the state of the refugees you’ve met? Do you find that they still have hopes of returning to their homes to rebuild? Did you expect your experience to be any different than it has been? Broad question I know, but I am curious to find out.

    Have you been able to show the videos we shot just before your departure to the refugees? I am so anxious to connect with them. I wish I was there, so badly, to share in this “first time” experience with you and yet I am also comforted by the knowledge that when we are there for Rhythm & Hope in March, you will be a veteran and can help ease us through our own experience.

    Looking forward to hearing, watching and reading all about day 2!

    Peace and safe travels to you all,
    Djata

  9. Mimi S. says:

    Dear KTJ,
    Are you enjoying your first trip to the refugee camps? This must be a very big experience for you. And you are right, the children over there play games just as the kids here. Good Luck on your first trip!
    Peace & Love
    Mimi

  10. Kathleen Scott says:

    KTJ and Gabriel,
    Wonderful, touching video.

    I’m on a woman’s retreat in LA; first Viewing Party is in my room tonight! Tell the women their “sisters” here hold them and their children in our hearts.

    Are the women able to have women’s activities or circles where they pray or sing or laugh together? Maybe they could send us a song we could learn to sing here as we pray for them to return to their homes.

    Love,
    Ommie

    • katie-jay says:

      Greetings Ommie!

      Hope the viewing party was good! We will be collecting more and more about the women of Darfur as we go along. Mostly, their activities include doing EVERYTHING in the camps! Today we watched them make bricks to build a library and we came across the older lady who was building the latrine – she’s almost done, the wall was taller than me!!! So far we have heard only the kids singing but I will ask tomorrow when we are in Mile! Love to you!

  11. Kim Holmes says:

    Hey KTJ –

    We’re missing you in p-town, but at the same time it’s exciting and amazing to see you in action. I know the people you meet along the way will change your life in so many ways. Thank you to the whole team for helping to share these important stories – it truly adds a new dimension to the situation!

    Looking forward to seeing and learning more from the camps.

    Much love,
    Rich, Kim and Dylan

    • katie-jay says:

      Kim, Rich and, my lil guy Dylan!

      Thank you so much for your support all the way from p-town! I think about Dylan a lot while I am here since there are so many kids running around and I know so few from back home! The emotions that I see in the kids here – the smiles, the sadness, the frustration because no one understands them but their parents! – reminds me of Dylan and Miles! Please stay with us and share the videos with Dylan – or at least for as long as he can sit still!

  12. stace says:

    KTJ, you made with cry with your description of the children. How I remember those first moments when your heart is ripped wide open never to be closed again. Thank you for all you do! Fatina’s face says so much and it means so much that you are there to bare witness to her story and bring it to all the communities watching. Yes, it is all about communities and you are connecting us all.
    In Solidarity Indeed…..stace

  13. Lisa says:

    KTJ, we loved the animated interview you had with Fatina which expressively communicated so many emotions even before the translation. Thanks for adding the -behind-the-scenes description of the family tour she shared with you, as well. Maybe i-ACT can make a gallery posting to hold more of these photos and others like those you captured in “the game of snap, switch, show, and shriek!” It’s wonderful Asha will be connecting Fatina’s large extended family to a growing i-ACT family outside the refugee camp. Such communication will bring hope which builds bridges to a better future.

    Salaam,

    Lisa
    San Antonio

    • katie-jay says:

      Greetings Lisa!

      Fatina has let a permanent impression on my mind – if nothing else her waving arms and yelling and smiling as she approached me. For the first time ever when we return from i-ACT, we have set aside time for our team to put together the extra stories, to create the gallery that you are speaking about! Once we get more of these stories compiled, we will release them for you and your community to read and view. Its so hard to figure out what to post and what to write about. So many things happen in such a short period. So many moments shared. Thanks for being a part of our moments!

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