58 Days of i-ACT completed, and yet the work is just beginning.

G’s Journal—day 12 (and 11 and 10)

I’m again writing from up in the air, flying over the Chadian desert on our way back to N’Djamena. Day 12 is the last day of our fourth i-ACT, but it is not the end of our “interactive-activism.” We have to see it with the energy of beginners. These last few days, KTJ and I have been talking a lot about how to do more and be more effective at what we do, about how we can share the urgency that we feel out in the camps. The end of our current “mission,” as our days out here are called by all workers, is the beginning or continuing of our mission to help the displaced people of Darfur return to a stronger, peaceful, and full life in their homeland.

On the personal side, I do not feel as if I completed my mission for this trip. Overall, the journey has been amazing and very productive. We have connected and reconnected with so many wonderful people that are now a part of a larger community that reaches across continents. Our small i-ACT team, both on the ground and back home, has accomplished so much. It is small in scale but huge, rich, and deep in so many human values. We are now all determined to make a true difference in changing the way the world responds to genocide. Driving yesterday from Gaga to Abeche, though, I felt an empty feeling in me.

This might seem childish, and I know this trip is not about me, but I really wanted to see Leila and her family. Leila’s face has been in my mind since the end of my last trip out here. She has helped me to stay focused when going out to dozens of communities around the US to talk about Darfur. They did not allow us to go in to Gaga this time. The gendarmes told us angrily that we needed yet another stamp and signature from an official in a tiny little village a few kilometers away. We did not find this official, since he was out looking for some stolen cows. There was just no way to get in, so we drove away.

When we got closer to Abeche, we saw heavy military presence guarding the way in to town. They were definitely getting ready for serious activity. At UNHCR, they told us that the rebels were just a few kilometers away, and it was suspected that they were preparing to attack. All missions to the camps were being cancelled, so we were lucky to be back in Abeche and with a flight the next day. If we had stayed in Gaga, we could have been stuck in the middle of trouble. I’m not a big believer in that random “things happen for a reason,” but sometimes being lucky is not bad.

We did get very lucky in getting most of our mission completed, with Gaga being the only camp we could not get in to. That means that I did not get to see little Leila. My Gabo had spent weeks drawing and coloring pictures to send as a gift to Leila and her friends. He also gave me his favorite little car and a dinosaur to give to her. I’m going to hold on to those, so I can bring them with me on the next i-ACT, this coming spring.

I have Leila’s picture on my phone, and that will stay there until I see her again. I would love it if I could not only be bringing gifts for Leila in the spring but also good news. Wouldn’t it be nice if Leila’s friends from around the world had stood up together allowed her to return home?

I will get to Gaga next time, and I’m going to work a little harder in between on finding more friends for Leila.

Paz,
g

Gabriel co-founded Stop Genocide Now in 2005, which gave birth to i-ACT in 2009.

He became involved in the situation in Darfur out of a sense of personal responsibility. He believes the power of community and compassion, combined with personal empowerment, can bring about meaningful change.

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Category: Day 12: Jan 30, 2008 · Tags: , , ,

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14 Responses to “58 Days of i-ACT completed, and yet the work is just beginning.”
  1. Pam B says:

    Gabriel and KTJ,
    Checking in with you was the first urgent action of my day and Gabe’s message is wrenching and beautiful at the same time. We wait for your safe return and to work with you to protect our friends you have introduced us to these many trips.
    To say “thank you” seems so feeble….
    But thank you in its fullest intent,
    Pam

  2. teresa says:

    I was glad to read that you were all on your way to N’Djamena because Charles mentioned to me that on Aljazeera they were reporting last night great instability with the rebels trying to attack the camps in eastern Chad and that the UN was stepping up their presence to the max. I hope the UN will keep our friends at the camps safe.
    I’m sure the mission will never seem to be accomplished until there is peace in the region and the refugees can go back home. This was a great journey for all of us that followed and I’m sure we all feel more committed to doing whatever we can to make a difference. Beautiful video, Macy’s words were so perfect… “try say goodbye and I choke… try to walk away and I stumble…”.
    Be safe and see you home soon.
    Teresa

  3. Lisa Goldner says:

    Dear Gabriel,

    We’re so happy to hear you are all continuing along safely despite the increased tension that’s mounting as you ready for your final departure. Blast the bureaucratic paperwork hurdles they put in your way, and shame on those cows for wandering off at such a critical time, creating a final roadblock in your passage to Gaga! Gabo and Leila and all the others who hoped you’d reunite will fully understand it not being possible this time. We all want you to put safety first in your travel which is tenuous even on the best of days during this genocide. Thank you for helping all of us see the lives of those who are in peril a bit more clearly, and encouraging us to continue to fight for them.

    God bless you,

    Lisa
    San Antonio

  4. Dearest Gabriel,

    I so sorry that you didn’t get to see the little shiny one & give her Gabo’s gifts.

    That’s all from me right now sweetie – can’t stop sobbing.

    love and hugs – really big ones darlin’ – from G. xxxxx

  5. Daniel says:

    Great work, guys. I missed out on the i-ACT challenge this time – sorry! But you’re doing a lot. Don’t get down, Gabriel – you did your best in finding her, and we all hope you get to reunite soon.

  6. Rachel says:

    I couldn’t get myself to write until now… I was so sad to hear that you guys were not allowed into Gaga, but it was probably the best thing. I too have been hearing about a lot of instability, so I’m glad you’re out… I hope all our friends will be safe and I’m sure little Leila is feeling so much love because we are all thinking about her. It’s so beautiful how she touched so many of us. Your little Gabo also saw that special something she has… I’m sure he’s already putting other toys aside for Leila for you to take on your next trip.

    See you soon,

    Rachel

  7. Amy says:

    If you need someone with excellent French skills to try to charm the gendarmes next time around, maybe I could tag along on the Spring iAct “mission.” Merde!

    Though you may not have been able to see Leila, you met so many new people and spread their humanity across the globe and into our hearts. We miss you terribly, and cherish the moments you have allowed us to share with your Darfuri friends.

    Safe travels home, Amy

  8. Amanda Goldner says:

    Hey guys!

    Sorry you couldn’t make it to Gaga camp! I wish those cows hadn’t gotten lost :D. Hope y’all catch your plane, and safe travels home!

    Salaam, Amanda

  9. Jeff Goldner says:

    Hey Gabriel,

    First of all, congratulations on getting the majority of your mission completed, and good luck on your way home.

    I’ve joined a new independent newspaper at UTSA, and would love to write an article on your efforts, the situation, and how others can help. You have my email, so please contact me whenever you can, and I can do an interview.

    Again, congratulations and good luck.

    =Jeff

  10. Lisa Goldner says:

    Just had to add that I’ve viewed Day 12 video over and over . . . each image evokes so much feeling, but Mansur’s designed t-shirt donned by his own family really choked me up most of all! What a wonderful token of friendship and support, and it will bring them some solace as they await Mansur’s safe return to them. Can more of the childrens’ drawings be printed and marketed for fundraising, and similarly presented on return to the camps? ~ Lisa

  11. gina says:

    Hello Gabe and KTJ:

    Our family and I believe the rest of the world involved perceives your efforts, along with the entire i-ACT team, as GREAT! No matter big or small, any contribution to Stop Genocide Now, is the right thing to do! Thank you to you both for taking the lead. See you back home.

    JC, Gina, Alexi, Andrez and Brandon

  12. gerri miller says:

    Gabriel,
    I thank you for all that you have done and continue to do. Please know that you are in our hearts and prayers. Return safely. Gerri

    • Hello Gabriel my name is Cameron roske and im am from Ackerman Middle School. Im in Mr Crawfords 5th period class, we have been making a project to send some needed things To the Refugese in Chad as katie may have told you she came to our school for Camp Darfur. So I had a few questions for you. We want to know some Priority things the Kids and Adults in Chad need. We also are trying to make this a big project so we have been Interviewed by A reporter for the canby harald so we can get the Community and The rest of the school to help us on this plan of ours. So when you guys get the chance can you give us a list of things you think that we should get? Thanks and have a Safe trip home.

      Cameron Roske

  13. nelis de garcia says:

    QUERIDO GABRIEL:
    HE ESTADO AL PENDIENTE CON CANY DE LO QUE HAS ESTADO HACIENDO, TE DESEO DE TODO CORAZON QUE TODA ESTA ENTREGA INCONDICIONAL AL SERVICIO DE LOS MAS NECESITADOS EL SEÑOR TE LO MULTIPLIQUE AL CIENTO POR UNO. ESTAS EN MIS ORACIONES Y LE PIDO AL SEÑOR QUE TE SIGA COLMANDO DE SALUD Y TE DE LO QUE MAS NECESITES PARA PODER AYUDAR AL MAS POBRE DE ESTA TIERRA.
    ! ANIMO ! TE NECESITAMOS TODOS COMO VOCERO DE ESTAS PERSONAS QUE TANTO SUFREN.

    CUIDATE MUCHO Y QUE JESUS Y MARIA TE ACOMPAÑEN A CADA INSTANTE.
    UN FUERTE ABRAZO,
    NELIS

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