Hello to Everyone,
Wow, it’s been so hard to get to Abeche! Last night was very chaotic with a lot of difficult decisions. Ali found a car and driver to get all three of us to Abeche. It is a 15 to 17 hour drive through very barren desert and most NGO’s stop for the night on the way as it is not so safe to travel at night, especially lately. I know that we’d all prefer to fly ( yes, even me!) for safety reasons but we haven’t been able to get a flight out and we want to get to the camps ASAP. We all went and looked at the car to see if we thought it would make it and Gabriel and I had to laugh as neither of us know much about cars! We all got in, put our seat belts on and drove around in a circle. We asked for some time to think because such a big decision felt very rushed to us. Gabriel had to do an interview and Ali and I sat and talked about what to do. Ali had never said a word about being worried about driving out there to eastern Chad. He’d been evacuated from a camp ten days earlier yet he was not only willing but anxious to go back with us. The driver needed an answer because the gas stations would close by 8pm and we would have to leave by 5am to make the most of day time travel. I asked Ali if he felt it was safe and he said that he could not make that decision for Gabriel and me. Time was running out to decide. I ran to ask Gabriel what we should do and we both felt that it was all too rushed. It just didn’t feel right with so little time to gather information and we’d be no good to the people of Darfur if something happened to us or the equipment on the way out there. I told Ali that we would spend all day Friday trying to secure seats on the Saturday World Food Program plane and if we failed, we’d drive out Sat. at 5am to be in the camps by Sunday. He said. ” Good. It is better that we try to fly. I would prefer to fly, not drive.” I was struck, for the first time, by the fact that he WAS worried for his safety but would have gone willingly and without a word had we decided to go in that moment. I’m not sure if his dedication was to Gabriel, the refugees or his word but I respected him so much in that instant. Ali, is indeed a brave young man.
Staying in N’djamena turned out to be a blessing as we got to meet up with Dr. Ashis Brahma, who’d helped to open a lot of eyes to Darfur on his 60 Minutes interview. He really spoke from his heart about the situation and people really listened. We met up with him on his way out of one of the most dangerous camps along the border where he’d been one of the last aid workers left after the evacuations. He is obviously very moved by the dignity and beauty of the Darfurian people and it was inspiring to hear him speak of them. It was interesting to learn that all three of us had similar reasons for being drawn to the plight of the refugees and it felt comforting to sit and talk about our journeys to this point. I felt so grateful to be in the company of Gabriel and Ashis who have led so many with their examples of bravery and commitment to humanity. I thought a lot today about how there is a difference between eastern and western medicine that must so often be bridged but that art, by its very nature, is universal. I began to dream of aiding in the healing process of the Darfurian people through theater and storytelling. Ashis mentioned how after three years in the camps people have a great need to express themselves creatively and to partake in entertainment. My mind started working over time about how, as a teacher and artist, I might aid in that process. So much to think about…. but for now our focus MUST be on their protection and safety! I truly hope that the images and words of the Darfurian people inspire the world to take action. I hope one day we can come to experience and record creative expressions that come from the joy of knowing they are safe and home as much as art is now needed to help heal and save their lives.
Yet for now, the creative impulse for these resilient people must be survival and ours, as a movement, must be to wake up the world and Stop The Genocide Now.
Tomorrow we go to the airport at the crack of dawn and do EVERYTHING we can to get on that plane and into those camps! If not we drive……..
Peace & Blessings, Stacey