Suffering

Day 9

Her eyes are deeper than I imagined from the pictures and the video. Her pain more apparent with every word she speaks. She becomes solemn as she describes the day she left. The day her husband and 60 others from her village were killed. She walked 20 days with her 7 children with no food, no water, nothing. Attacks from above and bullets from the surrounding area chased her across the border. They walked at night, stopping only to make a small fire to warm up from the harsh chill before moving on at day break. We talk with her for more than hour, she barely cracks a smile. Her memories lie secured behind her eyes, the emotion surfacing as she repeats, “I am suffering, I am suffering.”

Fatna is one of the most courageous women I have ever met in my entire life. Her youngest son, only two months at the time of the attack in Darfur, has only known life in a refugee camp, and one without a father. Five years and five days is how long Fatna has struggled to survive in Camp Farchana. Her tent, equally as old as her stay, stands limply in near the kitchen area. I can see where the water leaks through and I ask her if she can show me inside.

Fatna in tent 2 Two small beds made of sticks one with a small patch of the tent as the primary cushion, the other with one blanket. Eight people sleep inside this tent. Her hands guide me around the tent showing the water damage and where a few of her children sleep on the sand when it’s not raining.

There are no programs for women and neighbors are just that, neighbors, Fatna explains. She doesn’t feel the community, she is alone with her kids.

Early in the morning we met several men working together to build a friend’s house. The proud new house owner, who previously was sleeping seven to his tent, smiled as we chatted with the men. They have meetings and who ever needs a home, they all work together to build it. Barn raising! A great way to support community. But these meetings are between men. And Fatna’s husband is dead.

KTJ and Fatna We do not receive the same support as we did when we arrived here, Fatna begins to go into more detail of her life. They lack food, they haven’t been given soap in three months and they don’t have any clothes. Mansur and Darsalam are examples of this, they returned to Darfur in search of necessities they could not get here and to visit family. The people of Farchana are suffering.

We return to Fatna’s after a short break and a run to see the local authorities. This time we distribute the small canvass tiles for children to draw on as part of Tents of Hope. Fatna’s eyes light up as we give her a painted canvass to contribute to. I remember now that only when she introduced her kids earlier this morning did she smile. She has a beautifully strong smile. One that commands respect but also shows a little of her vulnerability, her experience over the last 5 years.

She begged, “Please if you can do the last thing that is needed to bring peace to Darfur. I want to return home.”

From Farchana, 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

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Comments

21 Responses to “Suffering”
  1. Tiffany Wheeler says:

    Hey KTJ

    Wow this was a deep day for sure. My heart sunk when I heard the news about Mansur. How long has he been there? Who do these kids travel with when they go back in, do you know? I so badly wanted to see him this trip and watch him get one of his own shirts. I wanted to see if Fatna is getting connected to a family here in the US. Its amazing how attached I am to her eyes and the story she has. What a very strong powerful woman.

  2. Amanda Goldner says:

    Wow. Fatma carried 7 kids all the way from Darfur? I wonder how she managed…

    God bless you all!

    – Amanda Goldner

  3. Megan says:

    Hi KTJ!

    The emotion behind Fatna’s eyes, the emotion which lies behind all of their eyes!! As soon as I saw the still shots I had to capture them in a composite with you and Gabe. I posted it on ned.com under the “Crisis in Sudan – 2008” thread as I couldn’t figure out how to share it with you here. I’ve really been touched by the amount of inspiration ya’ll are able to communicate with your web logs on this trip, as always. You can tell how much it means to all of our friends there. Thank you so much for keeping the light shining on (and in!) this troubled region.

    Pax!

    Megan
    San Antonio, TX

  4. teresa says:

    So heartbreaking to hear the pleas for help from America while America still does not take action. Yes, America does stand for the right things and yes americans are compassionate but we need to continue to pressure our goverment so action will be taken. We need to move the hearts of the powers to be that can make things happen.
    I was sad to hear that Manur and Darsalam where not there, we can only wish them a safe trip and hope to see them next time. What did the others say about the t-shrits?
    Teresa

  5. Rachel says:

    Hey!

    Darn, We (Michael and family) are so sad that Mansur was not there. We couldn’t wait to see the reaction on his face when he saw his own drawing on his T-Shirt. Next time…

    Again, I’m just speechless about Fatma’s situation. As a mother, I truly admire her. It’s difficult enough raising my two sons here in the U.S.A. having all the comforts this country has to offer…She has nothing… She is amazing. What she does have plenty of is LOVE, love for her children and love for her people. I know that she gets her strength to go on from her children. She keeps on going because she wishes for a better life for them and will fight no matter what obstacles to accomplish this… Fatma is in my heart and will stay with me forever…

    Can’t wait to see Leila (I hope)…

    Take care,

    Rachel and family (including Max)

  6. Ashlei says:

    I was wondering if you could ask anyone in darfur what they think of americans?? And if they know that hundreds of us try to help?

    Ashlei manning

    Portland, Oregon

  7. Kanchan says:

    Hey Gabriel and KTJ,

    I’ve heard the stories of the people who leave the camps and return home, but i have always been unable to understand why they would risk their lives to do so.
    The video from today made me finally realize how homesick all of these people must be. I cannot imagine being trapped in that camp and unable to return to the life you once lived.
    Please tell them that they can continue to look to America for hope, and that many of us here will not cease to fight for them until the peace in their lives is restored.

    Kanchan

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Greetings Kanchan!
      Thank you for your support for the refugees. Its hard for many us to relate to horrors of genocide, and it’s repercussions on the lives of thousands. Being here and speaking with them, I understand more and more the decisions they faced in coming to Chad. I will be continue to pass on your hope and support.

  8. Kathleen Scott says:

    My heart goes out to Fatma, no…breaks for Fatma. And for Mansur. Love to you, your Ommi

  9. Selina Coleman says:

    Hi KTJ and Gabriel,
    I am so inspired by the work that you two are doing and I wish was there with you. I am writing from Atlanta, GA where I work at an elementary school and I have a group of students that are passionate about helping the people in Darfur. We have been working for the past 3 years to spread awareness and raise funds. I will be showing the students your videos this week at our weekly meeting to help them get a better understanding of life in a refugee camp and what the people of Darfur have been going through. Gabriel, we talked a little over email about trying to form some kind of penpal program between the kids in Darfur and my students here. We are very much still interested in that so if it is a possibility, we would love to pursue it. Can you tell me a little more about the Tents of Hope and how my students may be able to get involved? We are currently planning a Dinner for Darfur which will include a silent auction and a play that the students have written themselves. Tell the people of Darfur that we are working hard for them. I atteded a rally here in Atlanta that had a great turn out. I got to meet Adam Sterling who spoke highly of you guys and the work you are doing. Thanks again for all you are doing and I pray that your return safely and I continue to pray daily for the people of Darfur.

    Take care,
    Selina

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Greetings Selina!
      The world needs more teachers like yourself, raising the next generation of leaders and global citizens. The Tents of Hope project is open to everyone who wants to get involved. I will send along your note to Tiffany who is coordinating the project and she can follow up with you! I would love to hear the reaction of your students to the videos.

      Peace, KTJ

  10. Hi Katie-J,

    It’s 5:30pm in Melbourne (Monday 28th Jan)

    It was only a couple of days ago that I was telling darling Meron not to apologise for being angry – that if ever there was a situation that rightly evoked feelings of anger, this is it.
    (and then you and Gabe wrote in understanding and agreement)

    Well – I’ve been giving myself the same advice over and over and over again today – trying to settle a bit but it’s not really working …. I am so angry about this bloody madness going on for so long.

    Angry that FATNA doesn’t have anything close to what she needs – particularly given some of the programs running in other Camps.

    It just feels like “unfair” has been taken to a new – and utterly unbearable – level.

    Sweetie – thank you for the message from yesterday, thank you for spending the time you did with FATNA and – if only for a short time – making her feels cared about and heard and thank YOU for your poignant, detailed and beautiful entries.

    Your days are SO long and the effort you are putting in with the journal is very, very appreciated …. it is above and beyond the call of duty, everyone would understand if you didn’t post and all of us are very grateful for your stamina.

    with the very best wishes, thoughts and imaginings – as always,

    Gayle xxx

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Greetings Gayle!
      Your words reach me all the way in Chad. Thank you so much for following us and the stories of the strongest of women like Fatna. If we all put all of our energy that boils up inside when we get angry towards change, then it will happen!

  11. Ooooops…. there’s a PS!!

    Give Gabe a big hug from me, will you! (ta)

    And tell J & J their work is great as are their vids and posts. Terrific indeed :)

    G. xxxxx

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Gayle!
      Fatna was so excited when I we saw her on the last day. She was waiting for the new roof but had moved her things back in the little home and she just kept smiling! It was fantastic! We do have a great team!

  12. Matt Hodges says:

    Katie-Jay (Little Sister),

    I haven’t been able to keep up with you on your mission as much as I would like, but when I see you are doing and how you are impacting these people I feel a connection that makes me so proud of you and so much closer to something that is so far away.

    On a NoPo note my new job is as different as I expected but I am working on being the best I can be in a new (on all levels) environment. I am the only guy in my office, which offers a level of insight that I wasn’t given before but also adds to my learning curve…more to come on the new job front as it offers itself.

    We are so proud of you and know this will make a difference so keep the faith and keep doing what you are doing.

    All our love,

    Matt (Big Bro) Hodges

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Yo Bro!
      Thanks for your note! I just sent a little note to all some sisters back home. For some reason this trip I have needed a little booster from PDX, so it was great to see that you posted! Thank you so much, a small note means so much to me from way out here.

      Congrats on the job! You are a sharp learner and I sure you will do great! And you will learn more about women! Ahha!

      All my love, your lil sis!

  13. Yuen-Lin says:

    Dear KTJ,

    Throughout this trip I think you’ve been an absolutely excellent representative of the people you met, really bringing us to a deeper understanding of their perspective through your speech and writing. You’ve raised the bar of what we are able to convey to everyone participating from here, and I’m sure to the people there as well. The value of this can’t be overstated. Thank you :)

    YL

    • Katie-Jay says:

      YL!
      Thank you so much for your support and all you do! I took a special picture of a bug on the macbook just for you! There was not too many, but a few special ones!

      Here’s to continued action until we don’t have to fight any longer!!!!

  14. Ashley Straley says:

    KTJ,

    This is such an eye opening story. The first time I read this, I had to sit back and just think. I couldn’t even think of any words or anything at that moment besides just the plain silence and deep thought of this woman. There are so many aspects of the things that go on there in the camps that I haven’t ever really thought of. I never thought that because she was left without a husband that the men in the community wouldn’t help her and her children as much as others.

    I heard recently, that several men from the village are coming together with some help and building her a new tent. It is things that this that I can start to fully understand what making a direct difference really is. Being in the states and going to school, I find myself caught between, directly and indirectly helping the people of Darfur. What is that people like myself can do? How can I help directly the people of Darfur from here?

    I want to thank you and your team for first of all provoking these thoughts and ideas now that I have. Secondly thank you, and I mean sincerely thank you for what you are doing, each time I read the new blog it takes me closer and closer, it starts the fire beneath my thoughts. I appreciate you. Stay safe!

    Sincerely,
    Ashley Straley

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Dear Ashley,
      With every story I do the same thing, sit back and really try to think about it all. Try to breath it in and ask myself, what more can I be doing. I think the most important thing is to continue to talk about it. And talk about it through their voice. Once people know the stories, as you do now, they will act. We all need to step up our action and I think one person can do that in two ways. First, start with what you know and where you are – how can you get that community involved? People who know you the best and who have a personal relationship with you will come and listen. Many of our action items that we have listed over the past 12 days can give you ideas about what you want the group of people to do for an action item. The second thing is putting pressure on our leaders – hard pressure: phone calls, letters, emails, faxes, petitions – demanding that they step up their activism. No more broken promises. We at SGN are working on postcards that can be mailed to your leader, once we get these we will be sending them out for people to use in their activism. Stay connected to us and we will support you in our efforts!
      In Solidarity, KTJ

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