I’ve been looking for ways for us, through Stop Genocide Now (SGN), to get some direct assistance to some of the children and families we’ve met at the refugee camps. Some of you have asked, including Shelley from MSMC and Ray from O.net, and it was one my goals for the trip to connect with an organization on the ground that could directly distribute needed materials to some of the people fleeing the genocide. I think I found the way. The new person in charge of coordinating activities at the camps for CCF, Asa, very much believes it can be done. We are making a list of the things that are needed the most for the refugees. We are thinking that SGN could focus on one camp to start with, camp Kounoungo. We could fundraise and/or gather materials and work to really make a difference there, using the Child-Friendly Centers as a focus point for distribution. CCF would make sure that what is contributed through SGN would go directly to the needs we specify, and we would get reports of how things are going. I like the idea of being flexible and quick to respond to immediate needs as they arise, and it’s going to take a lot of work. People died last winter because there were not enough blankets; the same might happen this winter, and it might be too late to do something. Shelley asked about school materials. It is definitely one of the things that are greatly needed. For this, money contributions would probably be the best, and then CCF would work through already established contacts to get the best prices for this region, given the transportation challenges. For other things, such as learning toys that cannot be found in the region, we could collect and send, knowing that the great cost to get it over here would be outweighed by the benefit to the children. Play therapy is so much needed for so many of the children that have gone through intense trauma. I’ll work more on the details, but I trust Asa, who will be working out of Abeche and just signed a one year contract. Now, I still very much believe that advocacy through education and awareness that leads to concrete pressure and action is the key to changing the course of the crisis. We need to create a wave of pressure to stop the atrocities and help get these people back to a peaceful home. So, I will also ask that you help us to raise funds for this purpose. We would not have been able to produce i-ACT if it was not for the generous help of so many volunteers and donors. Please help SGN on these two fronts at the same time. OK, I will give you more details soon. Thank you to all for wanting to help.
Ps. I’m in complete darkness out here, except for the pc and the moon. Electricity went out in Abeche about an hour ago.
Hello friends, familia:
You are all familia, and we now have extended family out here in Chad and Darfur. I’ve been telling the people I meet in the camps of all the wonderful people “back home” that care about what is happening in Darfur, and that we all share their wish for a return to a peaceful home. Thank you so much for staying with i-ACT and becoming actively involved. Let’s keep it up! Stop Genocide Now and i-ACT will continue full-force, working to create awareness that leads to action. You are now a part of this movement.
We will be posting more material gathered during the 21 days of i-ACT, including what the children of Kounoungo recorded themselves with disposable cameras. We will also be packaging and making the material available for everyone to use, so that we can make more and more NOISE. I need your voice and your help.
I know that you will be asked to contact the President for Day 21’s call to action. Here is my letter to him, which I wrote while at Oure Cassoni. Please pass it on.
Dear President Bush:
Farha is a fourteen year old girl refugee who lost her father when her village was attacked during the ongoing genocidal campaign in Darfur, Sudan. She lives in Refugee Camp Oure Cassoni, on the Chad-Darfur border, along with another 30,000 Darfurians. Farha is in charge of taking care of her younger siblings, since her mother went looking for a son that became separated during the attack. Her mother has been gone for forty one days; they have not heard from her. Farha and the other refugees at Oure Cassoni live in constant fear because of the lack of security in the camp and surroundings. Thanks to donor nations, like the United States, they receive food and water to survive. They also receive assistance from non-governmental organizations. I strongly believe that the United States can do a lot better, and it would not allow its own children to live in such conditions.
Through this letter, and the 21 days of videos we have been collecting as a part of Stop Genocide Now’s project, i-ACT, I am passing on Farha and her people’s desperate plea for help. They want to return home. They want to return to a peaceful Darfur. Please use your leadership in doing all that it takes to insure immediate security for the people of Darfur.
As the nation that appropriately declared the crisis in Darfur genocide, we must now embrace the responsibility to act. I know that the many wonderful people that that have been participating in i-ACT would agree.
Stop Genocide Now
At Refugee Camp Oure Cassoni, on the Chad-Darfur border
Sunday in Abeche
It’s a quiet Sunday morning in Abeche. I have not heard anything new about the situation here in Chad, and no news is good news; I think. Bechara is washing the Toyota Land Cruiser, so that Mansour, the owner, can take it. We won’t need a car anymore. The next leg of the journey is by plane, to N’Djamena.
I didn’t tell you about our exciting flight from Bahai to Abeche. It was our “closest call” of the whole trip! The pilots were trainees, with a trainer sitting behind them, in the passenger’s section, nervously gesturing and pointing at instruments they should be adjusting all during the flight. Every now and then, the trainer would look back at us and give us a wide-eyed look with a half smile.
The landing in Abeche was the kicker. The small two engine plane did a sharp turn that then became a sharp dive for the runway. The trainer stood up and leaned half of his body into the cockpit, pulling at levers to the right position. As the plane got close to the runway, the pilot pulled the nose of the plane up, and we bounced on the ground. When we bounced back down, the plane was going sideways, skidding at an angle to the runway. I thought it was a sure crash. The trainer put his head down, turning it to the side, away from the cockpit, as if not to look at what was coming. He is a blond man with very light skin, which turned almost blood-red in those few but long seconds. The plane then straightened and finished bouncing to a finally smooth run. The young trainer looked back at us, with the red on his face having turned to dead-white, and said, “I don’t think it would have killed us.”
When the plane stopped, he hurried to the back, opened the door, jumped out of the plane, and briskly walked far away from it. He lit a cigarette and paced back and forth, kicking sand on the field and puffing smoke.
I’m looking forward to our flight to N’Djamena this coming Tuesday :-)