YL’s journal (day 5)

Dear friends and family,

I apologize for the short report today — we have an early start tomorrow morning to catch the kids as they go to school, so I should get some sleep to be as present as possible :)

yl and ali - good job!Today, we found four kids who we will be profiling over the next few days. We recorded them introducing themselves. They also showed us around their homes and let us meet their families. Tomorrow, we will visit them at school. We are trying to capture in pictures, video and words all these aspects of their lives, so that students in the US can come close to meeting them in person. We hope to also do the same in the other direction. This is all on the belief that through these, friendships can blossom. And through those, many good things will transpire for both sides. When you have a good friend in Chad who deeply wants to further his or her education but has no access to a secondary (high) school, there will be an urge to help. Likewise, as your good friend in the US learns more about the challenges you face and the way you respond to them, that is bound to bring a very positive perspective on life.

kids at hutsThe same as in 2007, I was very moved by the way the kids (and adults too, but there are just so many kids!) treated us. They would crowd around as we did our interviews, ask our names as we walked from place to place, wave good-bye as we left for the day. I’m a nobody, but entering the car today, so many kids wanted to shake my hand that for a moment I felt like a VIP :) I feel a strong sense of community here; it seems that the notions of stranger vs. friend are a little less carved out that in some other societies I’ve been in. I remember chatting with a friend living in San Jose not long back, who remarked that he sometimes felt very lonely despite living close to many people. I think there is a lot that we in the West and West-influenced world can learn from other societies.

One thing I felt today was that the situation of the refugees here brings out two polar opposites. On one hand, you have a living tribute to some of the best things about humanity — that despite the large hurdles of survival here that seem present at every corner, the refugees have managed to continue living and smiling. In no small part thanks to the heroic efforts of the humanitarian workers. assadick 8 yers 2On the other hand, there is no mistaking the fact that while they will almost always find a way to live and smile, the refugees continue to experience a reality that should make the rest of us immediately feel outraged and ashamed. That they are almost entirely dependent on food aid, despite being some of the world’s toughest and most skilled farmers. That from leading very dignified lives in Darfur, their kids now go around in tattered clothes, and on bare feet. To those looking for the motivation to continue advocating, continue raising awareness, continue expressing outrage to the highest levels of power — look no further but to know the day-to-day life of the refugees, and then ask yourself the question: if these were my children, my father, my mother, my friend, what would I do?

Thank you all who have followed our journey so far. We will continue working hard to bring you, in ways beyond this website as well, the faces and voices of the people on the ground.

Yuen-Lin

James Thacher

James is i-ACT’s web and graphic designer and main video editor. As a full-time staff member, he also does a little bit of everything to keep all the projects running.

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Category: Day 5: March 28 · Tags: , , ,

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7 Responses to “YL’s journal (day 5)”
  1. Dear Yuen-Lin,

    I so appreciate your writing, as well as Katie-Jay’s and Gabriel’s. I wish I could tell them that they give me strength in my daily life. I wish I could tell them I want for them what they want for themselves… freedom to go home, an education and the respect from others that is their right. Since the Rwandan genocide I sponsor a sister each year through http://www.WomenforWomen.org and I get to write to my sister there. And recently I wrote a song for all my Rwandan sisters. Here are the lyrics:

    Our Shared Breath

    Oh, sister divine, I feel your spirit,
    I am inspired by strength in your life’s response.
    We find a bond in the hope we ride,
    forever true to Our Shared Breath.

    And in honor of our brothers:

    Oh, brother divine, I feel your spirit,
    I am inspired by strength in your life’s response.
    We find a bond in the hope we ride,
    forever true to Our Shared Breath.

    I offer this for the Darfuri people, too – also our family members.

    If ever appropriate, pass on to the mothers and the substitute mothers, the fathers and substitute fathers and the children that they give us strength. How could it be otherwise? On a daily basis, I only have to think of them and their many things to overcome every minute of the day and night and my problems get into their proper place. I draw strength from their spirit to keep on going.

    If appropriate, please tell them we are thinking of them and we will continue to reach our leaders so that our governments will finally rise to the needs of our Darfuri brothers and sisters.

    Our love is with you,

    Sandra

  2. Joanne Leslie says:

    Dear Gabriel, Katie-Jay and Yuen-Lin,

    I have followed all the previous I-ACTs but this one seems especially powerful to me. Maybe it is because I was with Gabriel protesting outside the Westwood federal building just a couple of weeks ago, and now to see images of all of you in Chad and at the camps brings it all so close. I feel such shame and frustration that the US and the international community have been big on words and little on action in the past 6 years with the result that the situation for the Darfuris is worse not better. Please tell the families you talk with, especially the mothers, that we haven’t forgotten them, we pray for them, and we are trying to pressure our leaders to take more action. I will join you in the sunrise to sunset fast tomorrow.
    Traveling mercies, Joanne

    • Gabriel says:

      Dear Joanne:
      You have been with us from day one on trip one, back in 2005. I also feel the shame and frustration at coming out here knowing that things are getting worse for the people of Darfur! So, so many people are going to die, and I know that all those leaders that have talked big will also have very good sounding excuses of why they could not do more than send bags of food, when the perpetrator allowed them. Today, I told Adef’s wife, Achta, the message you sent. They are so grateful when they hear of people like you and so many others that care. Thank you, Joanne, for always being supportive. I love every opportunity we get to talk, even if it most of the times involved sad subjects. It gives me energy and hope, when I see that others “get it,” and that maybe I’m not all crazy. I’ll be feeling your vibes with us, as we fast together and we walk the camp.

      Gabriel

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Dear Joanne,
      We will share your actions and prays with the people we meet in the camps. It means so much to them to know that there are people working for them. We should all feel ashamed that we have not cried loud enough to our leaders. I just hope that we can increase our commitment and actions so that they hear us, now. Thank you for fasting in solidarity with not only the field team, but with the Darfuris.

      peace, ktj

  3. SoniaK says:

    YL –
    I feel compelled to comment on your post today: you *ARE* a VIP. In fact, you are a VVVVIP !!! These people need to see that ‘ordinary’ people have taken the time to go way out of their way to let them know that the actions of our governments do not reflect the spirit of their citizenry. The handshake with a person from the outside world is something that those kids will cherish for months, if not years. It is a breeze of hope that can make all the difference. Good work, Team!! You must never let yourselves feel down by thinking that what you are doing seems like ‘a drop in the bucket’. You have to think of your work as that which you were able to do. And seen from the perspective of little kids, and the grownups–you are rays of hope–a very precious commodity for survival! Bless you, each and all.

  4. Jess says:

    in response to your day 5 video

    Was wondering, is there a way to donate clothes to an organization to give over the darfur camps? I work for a hotel and we get a lot of things left in lost and found that we typically end up throwing away. It’d be good if we could give them where they are needed instead…kind of shameful cause the clothes are used but at least they’d be clean and better than what the kids there have right now.

    • Katie-Jay says:

      Hi Jess,

      You know, I have never been asked this question before. Typically when we ask UNHCR and other agencies about sending physical things to the camps, they ask us to send the money instead. This way then they can purchase things nearby (usually in Libya or another regional economy) and overall it costs less. A container shipment usually runs organizations about $20,000, but if they purchase locally then they are getting exactly what they know the refugees will wear, and helping the local economy. This isn’t to say that people haven’t done it before. I would have to look around. Crocs donated a ton of sandals, and paid for them to get shipped to Darfur. I happy to report that many of the kids we saw this trip were wearing them, and I think many would have had no shoes if not for them.

      Let me look around and if I don’t get back to you in a timely manner, please feel free to email me again!

      peace, ktj

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