Old Friends, New Friends

Jim our pilot from Air Serv.JPG The airport is quiet and calm when we enter. I’m worried about our weight, and also Bouba, who will be taking tomorrow’s flight with one of our bags. Two bags pass through and the other three, plus our two backpacks sit in the corner. A friendly face approaches, Jim! Our pilot from i-ACT4 has helped reserve some cargo space for us and our bags pass through. We are greeted by Lauren, an i-ACT follower and our pilot who Gabriel met on a previous trip, at the plane.

Once out of Abeche, rising above the cloud line you can see the drastic difference a little rain can make on such a desolate place. What was once a dry desert with green shrubs and trees lining dry wadis is now dotted with parcels of green grass connecting trees from one wadi to the shrubs lining its’ estuaries. Light reflects off the puddles left in the wadis where recently, but for perhaps only several hours, water flowed. As we head more NE, almost as quickly as green appeared, it is gone and sand has once again consumed the landscape.

Villa Sudan kitty.JPG Our driver is waiting to take us to UNHCR in Bahai, and we follow the convoy led by the gendarme. Audrey greets us at the office with a hug. The last time we saw our friend Audrey we were huddled in the kitchen of Le Meridien in N’Djamena. It’s nice to see her at work in her element. We quickly drop our stuff and head for permits and signatures, and what basically amounts to running around to various offices only to return to the 1st security office and have them write down our license plate and passport numbers. We make the 45 minute drive across the desert to Camp Oure Cassoni, only a wadi separates it from Darfur, Sudan. The camp is so close to the border that both the Chadian government and UNHCR has been trying to move it ever since refugees began to settle.

one solar cooker.JPGThe sun burns intensely upon us as we walk from a dirt soccer field into an area with wide winding paths, uneven ground and, of course, smiling and singing children of Darfur. A few are playing with the soccer ball, a few have metal wheels that they twirl in circles as they run, many simply play with dirty plastic bags that litter the camp. From where I am standing I can see only three green shrubs, maybe one could qualify as a tree. I see many, many tattered tents covering clay walled structures made of sand and water. A nearby water station has fifty or so empty water jugs sprawled about indicating that this tap must be dry.

With kids following, we turn one corner to find four solar cookers in use outside of what appears to be a place where women can gather together and spend their time weaving mats and baskets, knitting and embroidering their scarves. This is the first set of solar cookers we have ever come across in our years coming to the camps. We will return with Bouba to see how the project is going. If any place needs such cookers, it would be here. I recall seeing no firewood near the camp on our drive in, only small compounds of local Chadians.

girl with charms.JPG We stay only briefly at the camp today, stopping at one last place for a birds-eye view of the camp. An estimated 27,000 refugees are registered, their camp, their village of 5 years has lots of space, almost as far as one can see towards the border, lots of sand, but not enough water, or food for its entire population. I am eager to hear the stories of our new friends we met today, and play with the children in the coming days. New friends, with a similar story to those I have met, but one that always shakes me and forces myself to ask, how has the world not done more to bring peace our friends lives?

peace, 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.

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7 Responses to “Old Friends, New Friends”
  1. carole says:

    this is so great, so glad you got in this time. KT, please don’t forget to try and find the medical personnel, if any, and give them my email, so i can put entries onto the blog. i read french, english, german and spanish and will completely protect all info about patients.

    many kisses and hugs to the people there. we will help you; we are helping you. whatever it takes, we will do it. i promise.

    hug your children and pray.

    peace and love and infinite gratitude to you all,
    carole

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hey Carole!
      We did pass the medical facilities and we will try to get in to see how things are going and try to get any reports from them they are wiling to share!
      Thanks for following us once again! Lots of hugs from you to them will be given! I have already attached myself to a few young kids I hope to see again tomorrow!

      peace, ktj

  2. Tim Nonn says:

    Hi Gabriel & KTJ,

    Thanks for bringing us back to the camps again! It was wonderful to see all the children following you around. Do the people in the camps know there are many people around the world that are trying to help? What questions do they ask you? I always make the mistake of underestimating children and young people. But I have seen again and again that they have so much to teach us adults!

    Tim

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hi Tim!
      It feels so great to be back here again, even though this is a new camp for me and Gabriel hasn’t been here since 2005, it feels very comfortable. Many say they know that American’s care and they know that we have been taking action. We try to explain how many people care and are working for them, but it’s hard for them to feel it since they are in the same situation as last year, and the year before that. We will continue to try to share with them all the love of the community around the world.
      peace, ktj

  3. Rachel Andres says:

    Thanks for the photos of the Solar cookers. As you know we are just now embarking on Oure Cassoni so we are excited that you will be there as the manafacturing and training begins. (our other projects are Iridimi and Touloum if you to either of those camps this trip.)

    Derk Rijks (Founder of the Solar Cooker Project) asked me to send along the information on Tchad Solaire and the Solar Cooker Project to you.

    “Look for Marie Rose, Djim or Patallet. The live in the houses next to the Sous-Prefet. In the camp they will be in the field somewhere on the 25 training sites. We are starting manufacture in the course of the next week, hope it will be in time for you to see, and at that time they will be in the workshop. In the workshop they may know where the team has gone in the camp, but they are mostly moving from one block to an other.

    Really look forward to meeting you there next week. Derk”

    Thank you for all you are doing to show the world what is happening in Darfur.
    Stay safe and take care.
    Rachel Andres
    Director of the Jewish World Watch Solar Cooker Project

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hi Rachel!
      Check out today’s posting which includes an update on the JWW projects in camp Oure Cassoni. I am not sure if we will run into the solar cooker project. Food distribution begins tomorrow and the camp might get a little crazy. But we will keep an eye out for Derk and others from the project!
      Best, KTJ

  4. Marty Fromer says:

    Greetings KTJ-

    I_ACT 6 carries a hea

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