As Josh would say, TIA Baby.

It looks like this morning that rebels passed Goz Beida, and are on their way to N’Djamena, its even confirmed on the French-speaking African news station – the one we also watched during the coup attempt in February. There are no convoys leaving Abeche anytime soon, MINURCAT and EUFOR have suspended all transports to the camps that are reachable by car. But, we are on the manifest for an 11am flight to Goz Beida!Youssouf, exhausted from the work he did with us yesterday, comes to pick us up and drive the kilometer to the airport. It is busy, with flights preparing to leave for N’Djamena as well as to the South. We see a large military aircraft take off. With help from a familiar porter, we carry the luggage up the stairs, only to be turned away quickly.

3pm. Appolinaire and the other man who holds the manifest tell us, “3pm you fly out.” We aren’t sure of the details, but Youssouf drops us back off at the fitness center. As Josh might have said, TIA baby. Hours pass by, and we receive a phone call from Youssouf.

Bouba in camp Djabal There is major fighting and banditry in Goz Beida, and he will check on our flight. We quickly call our Bouba, and he is unusually serious. There is fighting very close to where he is staying with friends. He can hear gunshots and confirms that rebels and government soldiers are clashing in the streets. I am worried about our Bouba. His wife is 8 months pregnant, due next month. He is so gentle, kind, and has a great sense of humor – or at least he always laughs at my jokes and responds with “no problem.” For now we stay safe in Abeche – Gabriel is riding the bike in the fitness center and Scott and Colin are playing a game of chess. But Bouba is surrounded by violence.

I am also worried about our friends in the camps. Quite different from many of the other camps, Djabal is only about 15 minutes from the center of Goz Beida and houses 15,785 refugees, and an hour of so away from another camp, Goz Amer, which houses another 20,424. Additionally, there are approximately 15 Internally Displaced People’s camps that are serviced by NGOs based out of Goz Beida and KoKo, another small nearby town.

Thousands of innocent civilians from Darfur and Chad are caught in the middle of this fighting. Gabriel mentioned yesterday in his journal that we must address the issues in the entire region, not just Darfur – however large and daunting the task seems. We need to spread the story of those who are most affected, and demand action by media, our leaders, and world leaders. Because if we don’t, the following friends, and thousands more will be the victims, perhaps today or tomorrow:

Selma Selma: Many of you might remember Selma from last January’s video in Camp Djabal. You can still view her video here Day 7. Many children in the United States are excited when June approaches because this is the time their summer break begins – 3 months of no homework, teachers, or rules about running in the halls. But for Selma, this June is the last month of schooling offered in her refugee camp; there is no level higher than 6th grade. She asks us to help make a difference in her life and her education. She wants desperately to continue learning. Selma is the only girl in her class of 20, because many are either married at a young age or are required to help keep their household together, either by helping their mother or, because of this violence, they are the head of the household. She hopes that in the future the women of Darfur will come together, united for a stronger Darfur.

Hassan Hessein & Family Hassan and Hessein: These twin brothers, whose laugh spreads quickly and without a pause for a breath, love to play with their younger sister Guisma. Unfortunately, they cannot play with their younger brother who died on the dangerous journey across the desert. Achta, their mother, carried him on her back while he struggled to survive diarrhea, an ailment that we consider more an annoyance than deadly. Their family who was once eight is now seven, living in a small mud hut about ten feet by nine among 15,000 other refugees. Food is always an issue in the camps, and has become increasingly worse. Their father Adef has to travel North, on a dangerous road to farm a same plot of land to have enough to feed everyone. On the day we met them, it was after noon and they had only drank tea.

Ali Ali: Ali is a great soccer player: swift, fearless, and an accurate shot on goal. In this way, he is like many children of the world who play futbol, except that he does it barefoot. Unlike so many of our children though, the early years of his life have been mostly war and targeted violence against him and his people. Government soldiers who bomb villagers from Sudanese planes they have painted white to imply they are humanitarians have killed his family members. Militiamen have raped his aunts and sisters of Darfur. But he is lucky that he survived and made it safely to camp Djabal in E. Chad. But he has not escaped the violence that the international community has allowed to spread throughout the region. Ali, and his friends and family, are now caught in the middle of violence, their lives threatened by gunfire, their future unknown.

Genie Genie: Genie is Oumar’s mother, who we met on Day 6 of January’s i-ACT4 trip; you can listen to her words and look into her deep eyes, here. Genie lost her husband last year in the camp, after fleeing the destruction of her home. But unlike us who are able to create the time and space to mourn and reflect for our loved ones, Genie needs to be strong for her five children and survive. Her oldest son, Oumar, has a desperately sad look in his eyes most of the time; and Ateib, age 9, draws pictures of armed men with bullets strung around their necks. They don’t have enough food, so many times, Genie collects firewood to sell in town while also attending to the washing, feeding, and caring for her children. Her story is that of the 62,555 mothers and grandmothers living in Chad, and the thousands more in Darfur, who continue to live with great violence today.

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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6 Responses to “As Josh would say, TIA Baby.”
  1. Allison DePasquale says:

    Hi Katie-Jay!

    First, I would like to thank you so much for the work that you are doing. It is so refreshing to watch the daily videos as they are a reminder for why we can’t give up in this long fight to end the genocide. I can’t even imagine what it is like to be there but thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us.

    I am currently interning as the media coordinator for the Tents of Hope campaign. As you may know, there is an event planned in November where many of the tents will be brought to D.C. and put on display at the National Mall in order to raise awareness for Darfur. There is going to be a concert, celebrities, etc. As of now, we are starting to create stories to send to media outlets so that we build publicity before the event. I was thinking it would be a great idea if we could do a story about your Day 4 when your team found the suitcase containing the panels from the elementary school in Petaluma, CA. This would be a great connection that would help bring attention to both i-ACT and Tents of Hope, as well as demonstrate the collective activism that exists to end the genocide. If/When the story goes out, is there anyway to contact you and your team for interviews with the media while you are still in Chad?

    Let me know what you think!

    Thanks so much,
    Allison DePasquale

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hey Allison!
      Thanks for your commitment to Darfur and its great to hear that you are working with Tim and the Tents of Hope community. We can most definitely speak to the media from out there. I believe that Cory Preston, our Director of Communications, is going to get in contact with you about this. Due to the security situation currently in Chad, and the fact that we couldn’t make it to the camps this trip (the first time ever since we have been coming here since 2005), we are going to try to depart early. We are, however, planning to come back for another partnership activity in August with Dream for Darfur: Darfur Olympics. We can also do interviews then. So if Cory hasn’t been in touch email him at cory@stopgenocidenow.org and he can work with you on setting something up!

      Peace, KTJ

  2. Lisa Goldner says:

    Courageous KTJ, thank you continuing to personalize the images we have on the lives of these refugees. Each person has his or her own story, and yet, they share so much of the same horror. Keep making this personal because they all deserve to be known and have their stories told. Those, in the international community who would rather turn away, need to see the faces of these refugees and hear their voices amplified through i-ACTivists. Be safe, and stay strong — your work means so much to those endangered there, and to all of us safe at home.

    Peace,
    Lisa

  3. Jeremiah says:

    Okay, I said I was homesick for the “Dragon”…….not so much anymore. I got back from a camping trip and I was excited to watch a few days from the camps and then found all of this out. I can’t believe this is happening again. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you and all the people in the area. How long can all of this go on?

    Please let me know if you need anything or if there is anything I can do. Keep up the amazing work.

    Jeremiah

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Miah! We can’t believe that this is happening again! BUT the situation is different in that all is quiet in Abeche – can you imagine spending more than a day and half here…. The town looks more or less the same, but we got to experience a sand storm – that’s new!! We didn’t make it to one camp, not one. And we are trying to get out of the country sooner than Sunday when we had previously booked our tickets. As you know, the only way out is through the capital… so we go. Did you see that we got those panels back! Haha! And now Bouba has them in Goz Beida where the ANT rebels and the government military went at it. We hope to see him tomorrow before we depart for N’D. Gert will not be happy to see us, to say the least. He was already nervous when he saw us before. Oh, and what is left of our luggage? They saved us 20 blanks cd/dvds! But things are okay for now. We are sitting tight, waiting.

      BTW, the new saying is “This is Chad.”

      Hugs to you, Jess, and Boston! KTJ

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