Up in the air, feeling down

i-ACT7 Day 0I am looking at the flight tracker on the little screen almost right over my head. The little plane on the screen has just left behind the Mediterranean waters and is now over the African continent. It happened so fast, this leaving my comfortable world to be here, a bit closer to the camps.

The week leading up to this was a blur. A week ago, we were on a conference call with Darfur movement leaders from around the country. So many of us felt that we had to do more! Darfur has been an emergency for six years, but now all those words we’ve been using to describe the horrors have become an understatement. After the arrest warrant for Bashir came out on March 4th, aid organizations have been kicked out of many internally displaced camps, leaving people that were already in dire conditions with starvation, thirst, and disease as their most probable future. The dying has started in some of these camps.

OUTRAGE Rally for Darfur 2From that call, a group of us from LA decided to take it to the streets, and we stayed there for a week. KTJ and I set up one of our Camp Darfur tents at the Federal Building on busy Wilshire Blvd. We painted DARFUR in loud red letters. We were there for six days, with a big rally at the end. From there, the next day we went out to Orange County and set up that same tent on a home’s rooftop. President Obama’s helicopters flew right above it. The next day, we headed out to the NBC studios and set up the tent just a few steps from where Obama drove by. We hope that the big red DARFUR sunk in to the president’s conscience. Other cities have also participated in emergency actions: Boston, New York, San Francisco, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and more. But, of course, we know that one, two, three, or more actions will not do the job in creating the political will needed to see action for Darfur.

Setting up for Obama HelicoptersWe need help. We need people around the country being loud about Darfur. Talk about it at your diner table. Bring it up at work. Ask your faith leaders to mention the suffering during weekly services. Engage your leaders, at home and in Washington. Are we going to be OK with the consequences, if the nightmare scenarios come through, and hundreds of thousands begin to die? And, did we do enough?

So many mixed feelings flow through me, being en-route to the camps. I always get sad, leaving my kids for these extended periods of time. I miss them right away. They definitely shape everything I do out here because I think of them, when I see the Darfuri children.

It took me some time to write this, since I see the little plane on the screen being a lot closer to N’Djamena. Our friend Bouba will be there to receive us. We’re not sure we have a room, where we usually say, but nothing seems to be certain out here in Chad, and it becomes less certain as we head East.

Paz, g

Gabriel co-founded Stop Genocide Now in 2005, which gave birth to i-ACT in 2009.

He became involved in the situation in Darfur out of a sense of personal responsibility. He believes the power of community and compassion, combined with personal empowerment, can bring about meaningful change.

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Category: Day 0: Preparations · Tags: , ,

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17 Responses to “Up in the air, feeling down”
  1. Diane Koosed says:

    Katie-Jay and Gabriel —
    We are “with you,” here in Portland. A small (at the moment) but steady presence. Federal Building, Pioneer Courthouse Square, 39th Ave. You can’t imagine how much it helps me, when I read your messages, to hang in there and stick with it in the face of so many people not seeming to care. I get it, I get it — it’s our job to make them? help them? care! Thank you; I’ll be following closely.

    • Katie-Jay says:

      I was sooo excited to see all the different locations that you all will be standing with the Darfur people! It is needed to be physically present and mentally strong as we work for peace in Darfur. Your commitment is very needed! Keep on pressuring!

      peace, ktj

  2. Gabriel says:

    Dear Diane:
    Thank you! We can definitely feel your presence, and we will share this with the people in the camps. It does get lonely at times, when deciding to act and express the urgency of what is happening on the ground. People do not live without water! Even with the dire situation for the people of Darfur, it is just easy for life to get in the way of those that do care or would care, if they allowed themselves the time to know and then took the risk which comes with knowing–feeling the responsibility to act. Big hug to you, Diane.

    Peace, Gabriel

  3. Dear Gabriel, Katie-Jay and Yuen-Lin,

    What you are doing is so very important. Important to those who see they aren’t forgotten. Important for me to have the ability to say to others: “You can hear what the Darfuri brothers and sisters are saying right now. And you can do something to help us ‘Change the World’.”

    I keep remembering things our new President said during the campaign. For example, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for”. We know we are right in our outrage about this neglected human disaster. We know we are the ones who have kept this message going when our government has failed at it. And we STILL need a President to have the political will to find a way to end the genocide. We can’t do it without him. I keep wondering what the Darfuri people have to do to get “our” attention.

    You and Katie-Jay and Yuen-Lin, are there for us to let the people there know we haven’t forgotten them, although they have to feel so abandoned. I cannot imagine how their sustain themselves. We are given love to give it – and you are doing THE giving – showing us what we all should rise to.

    All the money in the world can’t buy our honor back if our government continues on this chartless path regarding this “stain on our souls” as Barack called the genoide in the SDC video.

    I think you know I am with you with my heart and mind.

    Hugs all around,

    Sandra

    • Gabriel says:

      Sandra,
      Thank you for not only talking about Darfur but for also acting and doing all that you can to help. As we hear from the experts, the solutions to what is happening in Darfur are out there. What is missing is the political will. We must push for that. We’ll be in touch!

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Thank you so much for all your support and action for Darfur. There are so many people sympathetic but you are one who really takes action and works for the change needed! We will give all you love and hugs to the people we meet in the camps!

      peace, ktj

  4. Lisa Goldner says:

    Dear Gabriel, KTJ, & Yuen-Lin,

    With this seventh trip, you must feel more confident in your planning, but at the same time when familiar hurdles are faced, the feeling of dejavue is not welcome. I can only imagine the trepidation you feel as you enter the camps, not knowing for certain who from past trips will be there, surviving, and all of you wanting so much to offer hope and solace. You will not be delivering the answers they want and deserve, but you do offer compassion and hope – so important for all.

    Sending you prayers for and end to the suffering and peace for all those waiting.

    Blessings,

    Lisa

    • Gabriel says:

      Hello Lisa:
      Yes, so many mixed feelings and so many memories each time we come out. It’s sad that we never come with good news, except that there are many out there that care about the people of Darfur and are acting on this. Thanks for being one of them.

  5. Sra. Burks says:

    Hola de Redding, California!
    My students and I have been tracking your journey.
    May God bless you for all your efforts to help His people of Darfur.
    You are amazing and so inspirational to us all!
    Be safe!

    • Gabriel says:

      Hola! Como estan todos en Redding? Thank you for getting your students involved! We should be visiting with refugees soon. See you from the camp!

  6. rachel from redding says:

    hello just wanted to say keep up with the good work:) it was an eye opening experince when you visited my school i never really knew what was going on in the world, now im more appreciative of my surroundings. well the bells about to ring. god bless you :)

    • Gabriel says:

      Hello Rachel:
      It was great coming to your school, and we’re always inspired by how much young people can do to bring change, even when adults fail. Please get others involved!

  7. Kodiak O'Ravez says:

    hola! im in Mrs. Burk’s spanish one class saying hello and just want you to know you are doing a great job!!! and have a question… when your down there do you ever think about how much you have? and how lucky you are to have the life you have and all the freedom that your rights uphold? im sure tou do but i just wanted to know your thoughts.

    • Gabriel says:

      Hello Kodiak:
      Yes, every day and multiple times a day I think about how fortunate I was to be born in a part of the world where we have too much. Even though this is now my 7th trip to this region, I still cannot get over the inequality that exists. For most of the refugees it is also a shock to be living off of hand-outs. They lived from their work and ingenuity, and now they have been forced to stand in lines and receive rations. They want to go back to their way of living. Thanks for asking and please keep following our journey.

  8. k¿peguin says:

    hey you SUCK!!

  9. Emily says:

    Thank you for helping out Darfur with every inch of your heart! You guys are the type of people I look up to and want to be like everyday! You have been such a positive inspiration to the students at Enterprise High School! Good luck with your current project! We hope you return safely!

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