i-ACT team and Mia Farrow explore Camp Oure Cassoni together

The day began on the edges of the camp in Zone C where many homes have been swallowed by the sand. Traditionally, the people of Northern Darfur have built mud homes, so upon moving here and because there are not enough tents and sheeting, the refugees here began using the sand, and water left over from washing and cleaning, for building sand walls. Unfortunately, within a year or two, the harsh wind, and rain melt the sides of the structures away as the restless desert takes back its resources.

Children surrounded Mia quickly as she walked the dunes, singing “You are my Sunshine” and “The Ants Going Marching,” which the kids just loved, especially when they got to march alongside Mia while grasping both hands.

On our walk to the school Makka invited us into her home and told us about her sheeting. Her home had three layers of roofing, all tattered. The first was a canvas tent given to her upon her arrival 4 yours ago, she then tried to use the harsh, brittle, itchy blankets they received here in the camps, and finally a plastic piece of sheeting covered the top layer. It, too, was tattered by the harsh environment. It is not that the International NGOs do not want to provide more for their friends in the camps, it is that there is no money for UNHCR, WFP, and other implementing agencies. They want more for our friends, too.

Makka’s story is one very similar to many who live in the camp. Her husband was killed in the village that she fled from. So was her daughter, and her husband. The Janjaweed have striped away her family, all but her four grandkids, who she is left to look after, 2 from her daughters, and 2 more she has taken in and made her own. Her monthly food rations do not stretch for the month, and even then the there are no vegetables or meat. This month will be the first in several they will receive salt.

Makka and several other women gather to see us off. They are very close to the edge of the earth, where the other homes have been swallowed. I wonder how long they will be able to stay here before they have to move and rebuild in another part of the camp, and begin their life over again.

As the afternoon sun blazes high, Mia spends some time with Mohamed, the gentlemen who outlined the four requests by Darfuris for their future. This time he also speaks of the importance of development in Darfur: schools, clinics, centers, and help rebuilding their villages. We visit the clinic briefly and speak to the head midwife in charge, Zahara. Seven days a week she helps deliver at least 6 babies a day.

We conclude our day by playing with the children of Darfur for a few minutes. They love the camera. Flipping over the viewing screen so they can see themselves results in giggling, and hiding behind one of their sisters or brothers. Their smiles will always remain with the whole team.

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 “i-ACT team and Mia Farrow explore Camp Oure Cassoni together”
  1. soniak says:

    Hi, Katie-J,
    Thanks for the love you are spreading among the children and others you encounter!! What a great thing that you were finally able to make it back into the camps.

    Please be sure to take one picture of Mia (with or without hat) holding a child, but with nothing else in the background (try to shoot it vertical). The harsh sunlight is rough, try to get her in the shade (yeah, right, what shade?) or with a slight pop of the flash to even out sun’s glare. After looking at all the great photos I felt I wanted to see something very classic like that in there. And, while you’re at it, pls ask her to come to D.C. in Nov. You and Gabriel will be at the Gathering of Tents, right?

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hi Sonia!
      We are so excited to be back in the camps, listening to the voices of refugees and spreading it throughout the world. I have uploaded more of Mia for Day 7, it’s hard to get a shot with no one around since the kids just love the attention.

      If we get a chance we will talk to Mia about Tents of Hope now, or after the Darfur Olympics trip once she is back in the States and thinking of events there!

      Here in Chad we are 8 hours ahead of the West Coast, our home, and 5 hours ahead of you in NC!

      best, ktj

  2. soniak says:

    K-J,

    Can you tell us what the time difference is?

  3. marv steinberg says:

    So happy to learn that you are back in the camps. I hope you will be able to get to Camp Ko on this trip. I marvel at how you and Gabriel continue to bring hope to the people of Darfur. And of course, I am amazed at the commitment of Mia Farrow. Looking forward to talking to you tomorrow (Thursday) night. Thoughts and prayers are with you and Gabriel. Marv

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hi Marv!
      Looking forward to speaking with you Thursday night! Working with Mia has been great! I think that all of us, you and I bring them hope – it is your messages and courage of activism in Redding that we bring to the people here!

      Best, KTJ

  4. carole says:

    dear katie and gabriel,

    please mention to mia that i left her a message yesterday re: our mutual disability of PPS. my admiration for her grows geometrically.

    i am following the nbc olympics news online and there is a big fuss going on constantly about darfur. i don’t think it can be squelched. yay! and lopez qualified and will carry the flag for american track team friday but he is a team darfur member. there are protesters up in trees posting signs, not just about darfur. all peaceful and nicely arrested.

    god in heaven, how i wish i were there with yall.wheelchairs and sand? eh.

    all my love,
    carole

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Thank you Carole, for keeping us updated on what is happening in China, and the courage of our Team Darfur athletes! It was in Doonesbury too! You spirit is here with us, and that is what we pass on to the people of Darfur!

      peace, ktj

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