Peace for Darfur

Day 10

The inhumanity and imbalance in the world tugs at my soul, tugs so hard I can feel it in my chest. As I organize pictures and transfer names from my notebook to their iPhoto thumbnail, it spreads from my chest down into my stomach and then up through my throat and settles behind my eyes. I am waiting for it all to come forward, for the tears from my anger to flow down my cheeks and neck. But they don’t, they sit on the lining of my eyelids and dissolve, then gather and dissolve again. But the pain is still there.

When I walk the camps and sit with the people, the pain isn’t there. I am present with their words as they take me to the minute they fled their village, then through the night to the border town where they might stay for months before hopping a lorry to a camp.

Each one has their own story that shows in their eyes. The hardest ones to look at are the oldest women. They fix their headscarves, wrapping the excess around their neck to hold it in place. When we prepare for a picture, we almost always look up and smile. Not here. Only the kids smile for the camera here. The oldest women close their mouths and look down. They stare down at the sand, almost as if they are staring into a future that is only the sand that holds them up at that moment.

Even at the moment of feeling their despair the pain is absent from my chest. I show them the picture on the camera and they smile, and laugh, as the kids always do. I want their suffering to end. I don’t want them to look hopeless and depressed as so many do. I don’t want another women to tell me they do nothing in their day that brings them joy. I want to take everyone’s picture and give them a Polaroid to hold close to their heart as they patiently wait for help to rebuild their future.

I know I can’t reach everyone. But I so desperately want to try. Maybe the pain in my chest will go away if I at least try. So many women approach me. They show me their broken and twisted hands, their sores, their homes and the little food they have to eat. In the camps I sometimes feel overwhelmed. There isn’t even a moment to reflect at all. Kids are always holding your hands and following you from house to tent to tree to mountain. In the drive to our home, laughter fills the time as we retrace our days steps and sarcastic comments flow from our mouths.

Only when I retreat to my room in the guesthouse and begin to download photos and footage from the day, do my true emotions surface. Right now at this moment is when the anger and sadness creep into my chest and settle behind my eyes. I can think of a million ‘why’ questions that have no answers. I also think of a hundred promises that we as humanity have made.

I reread my journal entry.

How depressing… yet true.

I don’t want to leave you with this taste of the camps. Do I delete and start over? Instead I will leave you with a few glimpses of my day that bring me laughter and tears of joy even as I write this:

Guisma and Aljafis turn up everywhere. How do they find us so quickly?

Today, men of the village began to build Fatna a home. Jeremiah and Josh commissioned a group of them to work on it. The wind and rain will not leak through her new walls. When we saw her today, she only smiled, and smiled, and smiled.

I got to drive the car today! And I didn’t get us stuck in a wadi!

When the day was nearing an end, I left my bag, cameras and work intentions in the car and raced up the hill. I must have had 50 kids following me. Up the hill, down the hill. To the other side of Camp Farchana. Through the narrow winding paths. Women smiling, pointing, laughing. Break time. Then head, shoulders, knees and toes. Then I point and they copy, “This way? That way? That way? This way! Go!” We are off again through a new set of small alleys, a donkey, a dead end – ahh turn around. They dodge left, I fake left and turn right! Ahh! The main road! Up and down and back again. Each time we stop we throw our hands above our heads and jump up and down. AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Regardless of the pain that surfaces, the joy and laughter is ever present. Their resiliency is amazing and motivating. Their hopes are equally as important as mine and yours. And because you are reading this and watching their stories, they are not alone. They thank every single one of you for listening and taking action. I thank you.

Salam, 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.

Comments

comments

Comments

27 Responses to “Peace for Darfur”
  1. You are doing great, lovely!!!

    Now – follow Gabe and go kiss J & J for organising things for Fatna please – they are Princes!!!

    You really are doing GREAT!

    G. xxxxx

  2. Kathleen Scott says:

    Hi Ninnie,

    It gives me great joy to follow you and the children up and down the hills and in and out of the alleys as you run. Children know love is free, the trials of life sometimes give adults amnesia.

    We all have amnesia here in the States where things are easy and we don’t want to be traumatized with other peoples problems (except on tv or at the movies when we are soothed by popcorn and the knowledge it will end soon).We push so many truths away we are no longer really free or at peace inside, on some level deep down we know things are not right with the world and we are not doing our part.

    You have the courage to be yourself, so you will always be free… free to teach others how to love each other by being in community. There is nothing more important.

    I am in awe of you,
    love,
    Ommi

  3. Diane Koosed says:

    To the entire i-ACT team —

    YOU ARE MY HEROES! I don’t know what else to say!

    Katie-Jay, your mom puts it into words so well when she says “You have the courage to be yourself, so you will always be free… free to teach others how to love each other by being in community. There is nothing more important.” (Thanks to your mom for being so articulate!)

    And I, too, am in awe of you. and of the whole team behind you and by your side.

    Diane from Portland

    • Katie-Jay says:

      My sister activist in Portland Diane!
      I cannot wait to return and share the many stories of those I have met out here with our community in Portland! Uniting two communities – the thought itself is inspiring!

      Salaam! ktj

  4. Parkers says:

    KTJ,
    As I walk up the hill to your grandmothers house, knee deep in snow, I am thinking of you running up the hills in Africa, with the smiling children. I’ve emailed this site to many of my friends, church groups and other lists in hopes of furthering your cause and awareness. May God keep you safe in your journeys,

    Uncle Dave and Aunt Silla

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Uncle Dave and Aunt Sila!
      I can’t even imagine the cold of snow right now. Chad is a perfect temperature this time of year, not too hot, not too cold, just the perfect amount of wind! Thank you for spreading the word and sharing the stories of my friends out here. It is this action, by people like you and me, that will stop this violence.

  5. kc or Caleb k says:

    DEAR KTJ!!!!! I read your article it made me laugh at the car part i understand how you can get so confused. one of my freinds thinks what you are is just wrong and you should leave that country alone. I am from Ackerman middle school Tony crawford (mr. Crawford to me)is my geo teacher i believe you came to my school and called the whitehouse.

    from KC or caleb kropp

    • Rachel says:

      Dear KC,

      I would be interested to know why your friend thinks that trying to save lives is wrong? Can you ask your friend for me?

      Thanks,

      Rachel

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Dear Caleb,
      Thank you for your comment! What I doing here in Chad is supporting those who were forced to cross the border from Sudan. I, and refugees themselves, just want to return to Darfur, leave Chad behind them and begin to rebuild their lives. I wish I didn’t have to make this journey, and someday I won’t have to because there will be peace in Darfur.

  6. Taylor B U.S. says:

    Hello, I am a fellow Ackerman Middle School. I was wondering what, and how you eat? Have you had to run for cover, like the planes were flying overhead? Me and my classmates were wondering. We also hope you make back to Portland safe!

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hi Taylor!
      Good questions! We brought some food with us, mostly what we would eat if we were backpacking in the mountains if Oregon. Cliff bars, ready made meals that you add water too, and nuts. We haven’t had to run for cover here, but our last night in Abeche, the rebels from Chad and the Chadian army were preparing for a confrontation. Here in Chad, the skies have a few humanitarian flights a day and the French have a few helicopters they use then fighting gets bad. But overall, I am not in too much danger! Thanks for looking out!

  7. Traci Hill says:

    KTJ,
    You are an inspiration. Brenda forwarded this site to me and I have watched some videos and read your entries. Your words of their hopes being as important as mine and yours will always be with me.
    Peace, safe travels, love, open hearts and new possibilities. Thank you for being you and for always working to make a difference.
    xo
    Traci

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Ohhh My Sista Traci!!!!
      Great to hear from you! I am so glad that Brenda past on the site to you! We are now in the capital about to make our way back to the US. We will be returning in March with Macy Gray to do concerts of Rhythm and Hope with and for the refugees! Stay connected sister!
      Peace and Love, KTJ

  8. Austin Leeson says:

    Dear KTJ,
    I’m a 7th grade student from Ackerman middle school and i was wondering how hard it is to watch all these families and kids struggle through this huge disaster they are putting faced upon. You are really making a difference by being there and taking the time to get to know certain families and individuals. It’s really brave and a strong thing to do. I have questions about how the lifestyle is there for you now such as what do you sleep on, how many meals do you eat a day, and do you get to bathe and clean yourself like you normally would back at home? I hope you have a safe stay there.

    -Austin Leeson

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hey Austin!
      Good questions! We sleep in UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) compounds/guesthouses. So we sleep on small beds, sometimes with a sheet but usually a blanket also. We usually eat a granola bar for breakfast or if we are with friends who work at UNHCR maybe an egg with a piece of bread. In the evening if we eat at the compound its rice and a stew, if not we eat the backpacking food we brought from home. Overall, there is not much out here, inside the camps or in surrounding towns. Thanks for watching and for your words of encouragement. It makes me so proud to have connected with Ackerman!

  9. Lisa Goldner says:

    KTJ, although not many have your tenacity to bring an end to this genocide, I think we all share the intense sadness, frustration, and anger that can well up at any moment. The downcast eyes you’ve witnessed, the hands you’ve held, and smiles you’ve shared, all evoke a range of emotions, and your efforts in the camps (and also at home), remind us we are called to act on the behalf of those who can’t.

    Please pass our kudos to J & J for stepping in and acting on behalf of Fatna, who as a widow in such a society, does not have the power (YET) to garner the attention required to meet her many needs. What an improved interim environment this will be for her family!

    This is mainly about the endurance of those who must suffer through in Darfur, but also about the endurance of those who are called to help. Thanks for the inspirtation you and all your fellow i-ACT team members bring us!

    Take some deep breaths, sleep well, and head into Gaga Camp with renewed spirit and more energy for the kids who are bound to tackle and chase you around. Take care.

    Adieu – paix,

    Lisa
    San Antonio

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Greetings Lisa!
      I feel like I have gotten to know you so well through this journey! We have had more chances to communicate than when I was in San Antonio early this year! Your commitment to following our journey helps get me going in the morning! Your follow-up to my journals are powerful and though provoking! Together we can change the face of genocide!!!

  10. Carmen White says:

    I have come to this site accidentally but I think it was not by accident actually….I am nearly sixty years old and I have thought all my life that in adult struggles it is always the children who end up suffering. They are also our salvation and the future of our world….we must try together to end their pain and ours….

    I will reflect on what I have read today and keep in touch…thank you for the good work you are doing ….every small move begins a larger movement…..butterfly wings and all that….I am still not sure about God, Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah or any of that but if we are made in the image of some supreme being…well we must try to fulfill our potential together and create something wonderful instead of scrabbling down in the mire…You are uplifting my soul and others…Thank you…I will help in whatever way I can…

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Greetings Carmen and Welcome to the SGN community!
      Thank you for your beautiful words! The children are the hope for our future and only with their strength and wisdom that is passed down from people like yourself will we be able to change the world. I think a lot about whether a higher power exists and my thoughts are constantly shifted to the need for faith. Although I have never been in such a harsh situation as those I am witnessing on this trip, I know that it is their faith – in themselves, in the international community, in their community in the camps – that keeps them alive each day. Please stay connected with us! Sign up on our mailing list on the left hand side of the screen! We send out email blasts every two or three weeks, unless we are in the camps and then we let you know when new videos are posted! Together, we can change this world.

    • Gabriel says:

      Dear Carmen:
      I am glad that you found us by mistake and were moved by what you saw. Please stay with us and let us know how we can all work together on helping the people of Darfur.

  11. Isaac says:

    Way to feel it KTJ… I feel so proud…

    I finally got through to the white house the other day, and the lady said she would pass the message on, and that someone else had called about darfur that day. And I went to church… we’ll see how it pans out. Small steps here. It just snowed 2 feet.
    Much Love,
    Isaac

    “Full Effort is Full Success.” -Ghandi

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Isaac! Can’t wait to see how church pans out! Haah! Again, it reminds me of the great conversation we had with my PDX family last month! Thanks for your continued effort at the white house! Urgency and persistence is what we need the most!!!!

  12. Hello Katie, My name is Cameron Roske from Ackerman middle school. In Tony Crawfords 5th period class we have been thinking of some school Supplies for the kids there. We wanted to know want what they need so we can get those iteams. Tomarrow in class we will check up on the post so please post back thanks

    Sinceraly, Cameron Roske

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Greetings Cameron!
      Thanks for asking! I think right now the best thing to do about supplies is begin brainstorming how to raise funds for the schools – this would include money for text books, etc. Also, we need a lot of permanent markers for the kids to use to draw on our Tents of Hope, and then they get to keep the pens! So beginning to collect these would also be important! Hope this helps and reaches your class in time! These last few days have been a little mix of chaos and we haven’t been able to set up our satellite modem to connect to the internet!

  13. KTJ,

    Ok thanks ill pass the word to Tony and the class Please be safe on your way home and Contact us when you get back to Oregon thanks.

    Cameron Roske

Leave A Comment



c