Edge of the Earth

tent conditions in Oure Cassoni.JPGI’m sitting in UNHCR’s Bahai compound, little moth like bugs repeatedly bounce themselves from the fluorescent light, and even larger ones are brave enough to fly towards our computers. I’ve been thinking now for hours about what to write. What journey to take you through as you consume my words, and hopefully, retain a sense of what life in this refugee camp that is situated on the border between Darfur and Chad feels like. For some reason, I can’t collect my thoughts this evening so I think I will give you a few bits and pieces.

The theme of that day: The Edge of the Earth. Camp Oure Cassoni really does lie on the edge of the earth, with nothing but sand beyond it’s fragile and penetrable boundaries. In the furthest zone, we find ruins of homes, structures that look similar to those in the camp. These are the homes of those refugees whose life, yet again, has been swallowed by something out of their control. Sand collects itself in the corners between walls of a home would be and the fence that the mother has built for a sense of protection and privacy. It piles itself up, almost reaching the top of the wall. Families that moved here originally were relocated to the other side of the camp, the other side of the desert, still on the out skirts of this makeshift community.

Oure Cassoni.JPGEach time we travel to and from the camp, someone points out Le Frontier du Sudan. In the thick of the tress, somewhere between bushes, and just across the wadi, you can touch the sand of Sudan. Before today it was just a faraway image, one that you could see from the Edge of the Earth. On the way home we take a closer road to the border than usual, and staying inside Chad. Lush would not be the right word for the landscape around the wadi, but the trees and shrubs were much greener, and birds nests were far more plenty than in the dead, bare bone trees closer to the camp.

The same round huts with walls made of a clay like substance and long wooden beams that supported layers of dried grass roofs are scattered on either side of the wadi. The Zaghawa people, like most African tribes, are split by an artificial border that has now traumatized their people. And they still live in terror, both the 27,000 Zaghawa who are living in Camp Oure Cassoni, and those Zaghawa who were settled on the Chadian side of the wadi that sustains their life. Just since July, there has been three bombing raids in the thicket that divides the two countries. One which took place while President Omar al-Bashir paid a token visit to Darfur.

We pass a pile of sticks laid in the shape of a silo, and our driver points out, “C’est la maison,” it’s a home. A deserted home. This place has been forgotten by humanity. We have not done enough to remind people of our moral responsibility to preserve human life and culture. We need to be doing more to raise awareness. Mia repeated a line a few times today that rings true to Darfur, “With knowledge comes responsibility,” and what have we as the international community done to take responsibility for what we know is happening?

Just a few bits and pieces,
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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2 Responses to “Edge of the Earth”
  1. Diane Gandee Sorbi says:

    Hi Katie-Jay,

    You are doing an excellent job of conveying the conditions in the camps, and the amazing spirit of the people living there. I’m glad you and Gabriel made it there safely this time. The contrasts between the Darfuri athletes and those in Beijing are striking, and yet with so little, the children still find a way to enjoy themselves. I am following the daily actions as best I can, and I recently joined the forum. It really is hard to believe that after several years, nothing has improved. I’m so glad you and Gabriel can tell their story.

    Take Care,
    Diane

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Greetings Diane!
      Thank you for continued support for not only i-ACT but for remaining with the hearts of our friends in the camps. Please share the Athlete Profiles with friends over the next few weeks as the Olympics come up in conversation. Perhaps have a few copies on hand to give to them to spread the word – this is one action that is easy and simple to do, direct to the hearts and voices of the refugees.
      Thank you for listening to their story.
      peace, ktj

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