i-ACT Day Sixteen

7:56 PM Commenting back

Dear Shelley (MSMC):
You sent this comment a while back,
Hello from MSMC!
I was finally able to upload the videos that I could not before. It was a much speedier proccess!
I am in awe. The footage is incredible. My heart goes out to the thousands of children at each camp. They are so full of love and life it brings tears to my eyes.
I am in charge of donation drives at the college and am wondering if I set up a drive for school supplies for the children in the camps, would it be beneficial? Is there any way we could get the supplies there?
Or is there anything else we can do here, would raising money be a better idea? I just want to do so much more for the children, they deserve so much more. Thank you so much for this footage, I am praying that it opens up a lot more minds and hearts…
Be Well,

Shelley (MSMC-Pam’s Class)
and I somehow missed it, so here’s some catching up. Chad, I am told by all NGO people, is one of, if not the most, complicated and logistically difficult country to work in. Even their own supplies, items and equipment that they need to work and live, get caught in red tape for up to months. I’m not sure I’m going to have an adequate answer for you on this one. I believe that it would be difficult to get any small shipment of supplies to a school in a camp, and the cost to accomplish this might be too high to be worth the effort. I will ask some of the smaller NGOs, the ones that are more flexible, if they would have a way to receive and distribute. We will be going to Abeche tomorrow, and I can ask there. Chris, who has a great deal of experience with humanitarian aid, including logistics of distribution, says that sometimes supplies donations that are not part of regular channels end up being more of a headache for the NGOs. I’ll tell you my personal opinion and preference, when it comes to where to focus my energy. I think we need to be the voice for the people we’ve been visiting. That’s what they ask us. They tell us to tell the world, to tell the people in power to take action, now! They are pleading for security now, peace now, and a return to their home. Of course, they still need to be able to live a dignified life while they are in the camps. They need more and better food; they need more school supplies; they need more schools! Well Shelley, all of this probably does not answer your question, about a donation drive. I promise to look more into it in the next days. Abeche is where the NGO’s have their bases, so I’ll ask around. Thank you for wanting to make a difference.

Hey David V!
Chris has been doing the editing, with the exception of one day. Let me tell you what a normal day might look for us.

-Wake up before 6am, with Akaye’s radio blasting at all the volume its little speaker can handle (and Akaye is in a tent next to ours).
-Breakfast, a few almonds and dry fruit with some water.
-Head out to the camp, onboard our workhorse with asthma (Toyota Landcruiser) driven by our trusted driver, Bechara.
-At the camp, we video record and talk with refugees and aid workers
-Back on the road, by miracle avoiding getting stuck in the sand, towards home base.
-Lunch, rice and chicken; water.
-I download the clips we’ll be using for that day’s video, and this is done real-time.
-Chris edits from those clips.
-I write for blog, as I’m doing right now.
-We compress and save the video file and pass it on to the pc for uploading.
-We set up the satellite modem and shoot up the video.
-Dinner, tuna and bread and some more almonds.
-To sleep on a cot in our UNHCR tent, under a beautiful African sky, at between 1 and 2am.

It never ever goes exactly like that, but it usually includes those elements, plus quite a few more that pop up each day.

Hello Niny:
Wow! You watched day 1 through 13 on one sitting. I can’t wait till I get back and can go over all of it. I haven’t had the time to look back too much, except for the recording of day 12, when I was prompted to reflect. Thanks, and we are staying safe.

Hey Tere:
You ask: How do the refugees end up in the different camps? Can the families select where they want to go or are they assigned by the UNHCR?
Refugees have been assigned camps depending on the time they showed up at the border and on the location of where they arrived. They cannot select where they go. Many families have relatives, even siblings, in different camps. The Red Cross has a reunification program, for minors to be reunified with parents, but it’s a little more complicated than that. When the villages were attacked in Darfur, people would run in every which direction. This left families fragmented all over the place, and it is just not easy to get them back together. Oh, we visited a young girl today, whom you’ll meet soon. She is 14 and is taking care of her siblings because her mother is visiting a son in another camp. She has been gone for 41 days! The girl’s father died in Darfur. The girl’s name is Farha.

Rachel:
Another complicated situation, security. There are different types of attacks, by different groups or individuals. This is my understanding, based on the information we’ve gathered and on my interpretation of that situation. There are some attacks where it is local population becoming aggressive, verbally and sometimes with sticks, towards the women and girls that go out to collect wood; this is directly associated to the strain on the natural resources of the area. The other type of attack, and the more serious one, seems to be coming from a more organized group of military or ex-military thugs that are taking advantage of the lawlessness in the area and vulnerability of the refugees. The refugees at camp Oure Cassoni are living in fear. They have been prohibited from leaving the camp, something they greatly resent. Even with the violence, women were risking going out at night to collect wood and grass. This camp is right on the border with Darfur, and refugees were used to crossing over, finding resources to supplement the basics they received in the camp. They now feel prisoners in the camp. The camp itself is very much in the desert, with all of the wood that might have been there having been used up long ago. The refugees say that what they are receiving in wood at the camp is just not enough. There is also no grass to feed the donkeys. We spoke with the gendarmes in charge of security at the camp, and they told us that the refugees are lying. It would have to be a very well organized, massive feat of lying because pretty much all of the refugees we spoke with expressed their desperation regarding the security issue. We’ll continue to talk about this. We reported our “findings” to the local UNHCR, and we promised the refugees that we would share their stories with UNHCR in Abeche and with you, every one of YOU, and the world.

Francis from MSMC:
Yes, Darfurians have been living with fear for a long time now. You know, my heart has started beating a little faster now and then, when hearing yelling and gunshots at night or when feeling just a bit lost close to the border. Last night, laying here inside this tent and hearing some commotion outside the walls of this compound, I started to think about how the children must feel at the camp, when the night falls and, as we have been told, security disappears even inside of the camp. I am so amazed at their resilience! The girl I was telling Teresa about just above, she lost her father to the violence in Darfur and is now taking care of her siblings alone, while mother is away at another camp. She goes to school, plays volleyball, tells stories with her friends, and smiles, while living in a camp that’s overflowing with fear.

Sonia Rosales, also from MSMC:
Thank you and thanks to Francis for bringing you over to i-ACT; please keep the chain going, and you bring someone else.

Anel Mora:
Thanks for the wishes. I’m glad you made it over to our website, and I hope you catch up by seeing all of the videos. Anel, please tell your friends, family, and anyone you come across. Tell them to find out more about the people of Darfur and what they are going through. Tell them to act, even if just doing the simple actions being called for each of the 21 days of i-ACT. It really does not take long, and look at the children they would be helping!

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 16: Dec 5, 2005 · Tags: , , ,

Comments

4 Responses to “i-ACT Day Sixteen”
  1. teresa says:

    Hi Gabe,
    It’s so sad to hear about the refugees in camp Ourecassoni having to live in fear again after being forced to flee their homes in search for safe haven. And it’s hard to understand why these people cannot be given the security they need. But I can see also how the local Chadians blame the refugees for their own misfortunes and hardships such as blaming them for bringing camels with disease. Why do these Chadians choose to live in such difficult terrain rather than migrating closer to larger villages with more means?
    Look forward to meeting Farha tomorrow.
    Teresa

  2. pam says:

    Gabriel and Chris,

    There just aren’t enough hours in the day for you over there in Chad! That is quite a schedule you have been keeping!

    Reading your responses today was a sobering education about security issues. Sometimes the videos seem so bright and cheerful and the people so beautiful, it is hard to realize how precarious their existence is.

    Are the people you meet comfortable telling you about their fears for their safety, or about what happened to them in Darfur and why they fled to Chad?

    You have seen so much and worked so hard to share it with us. We are eternally grateful!

    Stay safe! Peace for all,
    Pam

  3. CynthiaG says:

    Gabriel,

    As your journey draws to a close I have to say that I think it has only just begun. I think you are transformed from when we first “met” on omidyar.net.

    Your journey has inspired me and has broken my heart. Nick Kristoff said something in his column the other day about man’s inhumanity to man being living proof against the theory of intelligent design. Your travels and your work with Chris have brought home with burning clarity just how cruel man can be. I have to say, though, that the fact that you went at all, the fact that you took a burning desire to help and turned it into something so real and so powerful, dashes the pessimism in the previous statement and replaces it with a hope for a brighter tomorrow for everyone.

    As we tend to say on o.net “You SO rock!”

    Traveling mercies on your way home!
    Cynthia

  4. Susan Megy says:

    Gabriel and Chris….you guys ROCK (OK, I just read Cythias post and realized that I’m repeating her sentiments, but it’s SO VERY true).

    I was finally able to catch up on the clips that I’d missed over the past few days. It’s utterly amazing. We are all so thankful to have you there, keeping us informed, being the voice for the dispossessed, the amazing people, who have suffered more than I can ever imagine.

    I’ve only been on omidyar.net since June, but it has been truly inspiring to watch your passion evolve since then.

    Safe travels to you as you journey back home.

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