The View from the top of the Hill

g’s journal for day 4

We stood at the top of the hill that holds one of the water towers at Camp Mile. On all of one side of the hill you can see nothing but camp, tent tops and mud structures. On the other side is the yellow desert with a few speckles of green, from the few thorny shrubs and trees. The desert side is so beautiful. I’ve always liked the desert. Growing up in Monterrey, Mexico, I got to see and walk around areas similar to the ones I see out here in Eastern Chad. Looking at the camp side, though, is not something I’m used to.

It’s hard to grasp what it must be like for a whole society to be uprooted and then placed in an area that is not ready for them and cannot sustain them. They are alive because of the aid that comes in to this desert.

G Mohamed and Saleh Two young brothers that we met earlier come up the hill. They stop short of where we are, and Saleh starts throwing rocks. I quickly join him. We had started our day hearing stories and talking about education, mostly heavy stuff, but now the fun began. Saleh and Mohamed walked us around camp, giving us a guided tour. They even took over the cameras. As we walked, a few kids started joining the procession, and then more, and then more, until we had a huge crowd of little ones. We did some hand walking. For some reason, a too large of a percentage of the boys in Mile can switch from walking on their feet to walking on their hands, with little difference in their efficiency.

KTJ had kids follow her in walking across a log and climbing a tree. She then played “chase the kids,” and they loved it, laughing and screaming during their getaways. We had fun. Saleh and Mohamed are so bright. They are both learning English and want to continue their education as far as they can take it. When we come back in a future trip, they want us to bring a soccer ball so we can play with them.

From the top of the hill it is hard to wrap your mind around what Darfur is all about. At the bottom of the hill, running around playing with kids, it is very clear.

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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12 Responses to “The View from the top of the Hill”
  1. Rachel says:

    Hi Gabriel,

    This also reminds me of growing up in Monterrey, Mexico and watching you walk on your hands to what seemed to me forever. It looked so easy, but I was never able to do it. This game seems to be something they do at many of the camps. Is there not ONE soccer ball at this camp? Are the girls playing any games, like volly-ball, as we’ve seen in your past trips? It just seems like there is less and less to do.

    Stay strong,

    Rachel

  2. missy says:

    Gabriel,

    Blessed are you. To watch you do hand stands with the children of Darfur was just the best thing for me to see. I have watched you every yr go into Darfur and just love these people. You are my hero Gabriel. Even though we do not know each other Know that you have continued to inspire me ever yr to try to do my part for those suffering in Darfur and the entire world. Thank you for all that you are.

    Missy

    • Gabriel says:

      Hi Missy!

      Thank you for your post. And, thank you for following us from the very first i-ACT! I had a blast playing with the children. There is no way I can “hang” with most of them on the hand walking thing, but I hold my own! They do like to play, and they need to play. OK, as I’m out there I’ll know that you are watching, as you have been from the beginning!

  3. Consuelo says:

    GABRIEL MIJO QUERIDO me causa una emocion de alegria al verlos tratando en su mejor forma de llevar alguna mejoria a las personas de Darfur y supongo que como yo todos los que podemos verlo nos invade una enorme tristeza y queremos con el alma hacer algo para poder aliviarles la necesidad inminente por lo que ruego a DIOS nuestro PADRE mueva a SU humanidad para salvar a los menos afortunados que viven soportando dificilmente su existir confiemos en los grandes corazones de los mas poderosos y que pronto NUESTROS SEMEJANTES RECIBAN AYUDA EFICAZ cuidense mucho y continuen en lo maximo como hasta ahora TU muy querida mama deseandoles EXITO ROTUNDO

  4. teresa says:

    Hi KTJ & Gabe,
    We hear the same heartbreaking stories year after year from the woman at the camps, having to expose themselves to rape and other dangers while walking “5 hours” to get firewood to cook for their families. Why can’t UNHCR or the African Union or somebody just go cut tons of firewood for these women and stock them up for a few weeks and repeat the process??? You would think that with the right manpower and a truck to haul it back it wouldn’t take too much effort or time. It’s so hard to comprehend that these woman have to risk their lives and nothing can be done to help them. But then again, I know, easier said then done when we’re talking about helping the refugees or “villagers” as KTJ prefers to says.

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hola Teresa!

      The situation of firewood in the camps is a hard one. Not only is it scarce but the refugees are competing for wood with the villagers who live, sometimes, only kilometers away. If UNHCR or other camp managers were able to find enough wood, I am sure they would do just that. It’s a strange thing when you see a firewood “store” in the market – it’s a highly priced commodity around here in an almost desert landscape. The security situation in the camps, regardless of the firewood, is awful as well. UNHCR has asked us to consider looking at this project as one we fundraise for. For there are so many things, Teresa, the short videos don’t even begin to provide a full picture, which to me is hard to wrap my head around being on the ground here. So many times it’s the status quo on one side and on the other its begging for change. The two don’t complement each other very well. But we press on, and we won’t stop until change occurs!

    • Gabriel says:

      Hi Tere:

      Yeah, we do keep hearing the horrible stories of rape and the problem of firewood. In some of the camps, there are reports of different type of cookers being used to keep the women from going out; we have not been out to those camps. UNHCR and others do try to truck in some wood, but there is just not enough around, and it is too many people, and it is an ongoing need. There is no easy solution, but them going home has to be the start, and then, with them, the world should come together and find long-term plans for dealing with the problem of scarce resources.

  5. Irais says:

    Hola gabe & KTJ

    Que triste es oir y ver en las condiciones que viven las mujeres y los ninos. Esperemos que muy pronto se solucione este problema , para que todos los refugiados tengan una vida normal otra vez llena de paz.
    Hoy Mimi y yo al leer tu journal y vimos que Saleh and Mohamed te pidieron una pelota de soccer, para cuando vuelvas a ir, vamos a empezar a horar para que podamos comprar mas que una para ellos.

    con mucho carino,
    Todos en casita, Stauring-Vazquez

    PS: Gabo te manda un besoteeee y un abrazooooo muy fuerte con el los da! :)

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hola Irais y Mimi!

      Today we played soccer in the sand – not beach sand but dirt road sand! It was Gabe and I and two other really good little guys – thank god they were on our team since the other team had over 20 players! We were able to find a real futbol in Abeche and brought it out with us, but I wish were could have brought more! It was so much fun to play today. The youth here will be grateful for any support the two of you bring!

    • Gabriel says:

      Hola Irais y Mimi y Gabo y Zahara y Daniel:

      No se si se podia oir, pero cuando voy bajando la loma con Saleh y Mohamed, los dos hermanos, vamos platicando de Ronaldo y Kaka y otros grandes del futbol. Tambien a mi me pone triste saber que estos ninos aqui estan atrapados con tan pocas oportunidades para jugar y sonar. Ahi con Mimi, podemos pensar en que va a ir a la universidad y ser una escritora. Con Gabo, podemos sonar en verlo jugar futbol y, yo en particular, que va a ser un gran luchador a favor de derechos humanos. Aqui, los ninos siguen sonando, pero luego paran al llegar a la adolecencia porque no ven que sus suenos se puedan hacer realidad. Si, la siguiente vez que venga tengo que traer muchas pelotas.

  6. Lisa says:

    Hola, Gabriel!

    I bet Gabo and Mimi are now practicing walking on their hands so they can be as good as you and Saleh and Mohamed! From KTJ’s assessment, I guess you’ll have to work on your rock throwing!

    Seems children will find ways to play despite whatever limitations are imposed, and I’m glad you got to share your sense of playfulness with theirs. It would be so wonderful to get a shipment of simple balls, jump ropes, and such into these camps to help them find a bit more enjoyment in their hard lives. To some that may seem frivolous when basic needs like food, water, shelter, and medicine are of prime concern, and educational supplies are so scant; however, the mental health of these traumatized youngsters is of concern, too, and something to foster recreation and respite would certainly be beneficial.

    We’re getting the press releases distributed and letters to editors, etc., out, and promoting i-ACT 4 in as many ways we can think of. We even put the flyers of “Meet Leila” in the cover jacket of tons of library books dealing with Africa and genocide. BTW, I saw lots of mention of SGN at ned.com and i-ACT posted in SaveDarfur.org events area. We need you posted in Times Square and on Vegas marquees! Shame George Clooney had to return to the States, as your paths might have crossed in one of the camps.

    Hope your arms aren’t too sore for you to get some sleep! ; D

    Buenas noches,

    Lisa
    San Antonio

    • Gabriel says:

      Lisa!

      Again, thank you for doing so much. You and your family are true heroes. I completely agree with you, playing is not something to think of as an “extra” or non-essential. It is part of what forms who you become and allows you to dream and explore. Let’s work together to find ways to help these children play.

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