Family is Family, No Matter Where You Are

Happy Holidays Everyone,

Today I sat on a aged straw mat that represents everything in the world to the people I am getting to know. It represents their history, daily activities, dignity and measure of the world’s concern for them. They are tattered and torn but the women we met offer us a seat on them without a second thought. We sat for a long time with many generations of women today and talked about life in the camps, back in Sudan and as a family. It was an awkward start because it is difficult to connect at first with the language barrier and the delay translation causes. However, pretty soon they moved closer and we were in a tight circle. A circle of strong beautiful women who survived losing husbands, parents, siblings and children together. Women who came to this place they did not know and forged a new life with what little they had. Women who protected their young girls by forbidding them to venture out to gather fire wood because it is very dangerous and young girls who protected their elder women by going anyway. Women who made me proud to be female and reminded me of my own female friends and family back home. It was just like sitting around my mother’s kitchen table with my cousins and two best friends from home. There was an exact instant where one of the women made the conscious decision to tell her story. She looked me straight in the eye and for a few moments no translation was necessary. I saw her go back in time to the violence in Darfur, the memory was still so fresh. I felt her present and constant desperation for more food for her children here in the camp. I listened to her and watched her story in her eyes and, for the first time since being here, had a very difficult time holding my emotion. The other women began to open up and share their unthinkable experiences with the Janjaweed and loss of loved ones. That circle felt filled with feelings, connection and bonding that goes beyond borders or countries. It was every woman or girl that has ever felt the sweet comfort and secret language that exists between all women and girls. I began to think how tragic it was that our conversation was centered on violence, death, hunger and painful memories instead of life, love, work, children and dreams. I longed for the day when we will go to Darfur and sit in celebration of protection, peace and homecoming. I dreamt of powerful women all over the world sitting on the ground together to unite in creating actions and strategies for waking the world up to the plight of the Darfurian people. To use our mother energy to nurture and guide the world in her quest to mature into a way of life based on compassion.

We met Mustafa, 25, almost immediately upon arriving today. I was struck by his gentleness right away. Everything about him resonated with a kindness. I wondered how difficult it must have been for him to escape Sudan being blind. Yet, after spending only a short time with him I realized that he’d probably managed better than many others. He is a young man of determination, clarity and courage. His 19 year old brother is a great help to him here in the camp and I wondered what crossing the border must have been like for this dynamic duo. They obviously love and trust each other deeply. Imagine being terrorized, displaced, blind and without the proper nutrition, environment or supplies to learn yet he’s learned English in 3 months! He took us to his home where he and his brother live, his sister’s home and that of their mother’s. When we arrived at his mother’s tent we immediately saw his niece, Mouna who is VERY ill with cholera. She’s been sick and sleeping for three weeks with hardly any intake of food. There we were, sitting with a little girl who’s sickness is probably preventable, and unable to help in any way. She was so beautiful and weak and her lack of energy to sit up was heart breaking. Many from the camp came to sit with us as we talked with this family and there was a sense of reverence and quiet. It felt as if all were holding their own private vigil. Even the children who are usually very excited to see visitors and filled with noise were quiet as they sat surrounding Mouna. I watched her sleep as Mustafa asked us , “When do you think we will go back to Sudan, within two or three years?” I wanted to scream, “No, two or three years may be too late! We all want you to go home now!” The children are so dirty and basically wearing clothes that hang off of them as flies buzz around their precious little bodies, the adults are losing strength even as they cling to hope, everyone is hungry and frightened. We do not have two or three years to make this
happen. I felt useless as he asked us for answers that we cannot provide. We just kept repeating that many people were working to help them and we hoped they would go home soon. I kept thinking, who am I? He is asking me to answer the most important question in his life and I’m just some girl from Philadelphia. I wondered why our world leaders are not here sitting on these mats?I wondered how much more the people who’ve been working to stop this genocide for much longer than me would have to do to get our governments attention?The words “work and hope” felt hollow although I KNOW they are not. He would smile and say “Yes, we hope so too.” I again had a moment when I almost couldn’t hold it together. I felt the hope, which everyone dedicated to ending this genocide feels, slipping away.

Then it happened again. I looked around at the normally boisterous children kneeling peacefully around a sick and sleeping little girls bed (dirty and worn mat actually). I looked at Ali’s, our brilliant interpreter’s, face filled with concern and the driver, Yusef, straining to see how little Mouna was doing. I saw Gabriel’s heart sink and then rise again in an even deeper commitment ( if that is possible!) when he realized how close in age Mouna is to his son. I saw two dirt covered two year old boys with rags for clothes clasp hands and giggle together. I saw Mustaf’s teacher watch him speak of what they’d lived through in Darfur with such pride on his face. I looked at the people surrounding me on this dusty desert ground and felt the slow return of this movements strongest ally…hope. The team got into the care to leave as countless children ran after us waving and shouting, “Salam!” and I suddenly remembered it is indeed Christmas. A good day to hope again……

Stacey

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Category: Day 6: Dec 26, 2006 · Tags: , , ,

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14 Responses to “Family is Family, No Matter Where You Are”
  1. hamlet says:

    Stacey & Gabriel,

    First I want to thank you for your efforts, Love, and respect for the people of darfur. A year ago I learnt of the attrocities being committed in darfur and it changed my life. My spirit was in constant turmoil until your videos of the laughing children, from the bottom of my heart and soul thank you for their laughter. Please continue to tell the people of Darfur that we do love them and pray for peace. I will continue to watch and pray for you both. Your courage is anything but regular. Blessed are the peace makers for they are the children of God.
    Missy

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sabah il Kheer,

    Keff Stacey and Gabriel? I know you are so emotionally torn over the conditions you’re witnessing and the personal stories the refugees are sharing. Thank you for what you’ve personally sacrificed to bring their stories to us. It is inspiring and humbling to see their perseverance and graciousness in the face of all they’ve endured. We will pass on the devastating accounts of brave Musafa and frail little Mouna and their fellow refugees. We will be sending more letters to our congressional leaders and President Bush, today, to draw attention to the declining conditions in the refugee areas and demand concrete action from our nation to end the genocide and foster peace for the Sudanese. May your good works be blessed soon, and our prayers answered.

    Salaam,

    Lisa Goldner & family
    San Antonio, Texas

  3. Phyllis H says:

    Hello, Gabriel and Stacey! Please send greetings of appreciation to interpreter Ali, driver Yusef, the blind Mustafa, the mother and son of the bracelet, and the cholera-stricken Mouna. Their individual stories definitely put a human face on the mass tragedy that is Darfur.

    I’ve sent a donation, and emailed U. S. Senators Boxer and Feinstein, and U. S. Representative Jane Harmon. I’ve sent them all your url and urged them to follow your journey.
    Thank you for movitating us to act upon your challenges!

    Stay safe, Phyllis

  4. Kelly Landaverde says:

    Bless you Gabriel, God is going to be with you all the time. Because what you’re doing. You’re doing a good deed and God will recompense you somehow for that. God Bless you

  5. Mom says:

    Hello Charlie..
    Once again, an amazing piece of video (kudos to your crew at home).. All I can keep thinking is
    “what a beautiful people these
    Darfurians are” — inside and out!!
    I pray each day for you, Gabriel
    and all the Musafa’s and Mouna’s you encounter daily. Viewing these
    images of “real” life each day makes it impossible to any longer
    take for granted even the smallest
    things we are blessed with daily.

    Day 6… seems like 6 weeks to me
    and it must seem like 6 years to all those displaced citizens. Will
    get word out to legislators and to
    anyone else I can get to listen…
    Keep up the good fight… know that
    you’re being there DOES make a
    difference and remember that those
    of us here, who can only make the
    journey through you and Gabriel, are forever indebted to you for
    going where we can not and for say-
    ing to our family in Darfur…”you
    do matter, they can kill your body
    but not your spirit and we will
    continue to stand with you until you are safe and free!”

    None of us alone is as strong as all of us together!

    Salaam!

    With love, Mom

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have just found this website yesterday. I am showing my friends and taking action. You are brave, and are doing a great thing. God bless you.

  7. Markus C. says:

    Dearest Stacey
    our best wishes and thoughts from Fuessen!
    We keep trying to stay informed about what you do! So sad we cannot watch the films.
    I believe you will not be the same when you return after all you have seen. Feel us with you. Share the blessing that you are to this world with the people who need ist so desperately.
    With deepest respect and love to you
    Markus C.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Stacey, we were just found out where you are and about the website. You are an amazing person… your spirit and love are immeasurable. Thank you for doing what so many of us can only think about. My heart goes out to the children and the people of Darfur. We will do what we can to help. We love you and wish you a safe return home. Let’s phope that next year will awaken the world to consciousness and action to help bring these atrocities to an end.
    Nina and Mark

  9. teresa says:

    Dear Stacey and Gabe,
    Your words are as powerful as the videos.
    Stacey, thank you for sharing your experience about the woman of Darfur. I had been wondering how they would relate to you as a woman from America and it seems that their was that woman-to-woman bond and they were comfortable sharing their stories with you.
    Their strength is to be admired and we can only pray that better days will come soon and we will do whatever is in our power to accomplish that.
    Take care.

  10. Markus C. says:

    Dearest Stacey
    Love, light and stardust to you!
    What you live and do to this world is true Christmas.
    To know you, is the greatest gift in my life.
    Please let us know, if there is anything we can do for you!
    Please tell the people you meet, we care for them!
    Peace, peace, peace to you
    Markus C.

  11. Mom says:

    Hey Stace… Today’s video (12/27)
    makes me want to say “shame on any
    of us who have ever complained of
    overcrowded schools”… these kids
    all seem so eager to learn!

    Your interview with the women makes
    me think of my “TB’s”… and how
    universal the bonding of women is..
    although not much else, they have
    the comfort of each other!!

    I know you haven’t posted anything
    yet for today (12/27) and I didn’t
    hear anything from you yesterday so
    I just needed to post more here to
    “stay connected”!! Marco and
    Mariano called from Italy on
    Christmas to see if I had heard from you and to send their love!

    It’s so interesting how fasinated
    and intriqued the people you meet
    are with the camera… if only we
    could all be that open and true!

    I miss you terribly but am pleased
    to see you looking well on the
    videos and so “at home” among your
    family there!! Stay well and safe..love to Gabriel, Ali, Yusef!!

    Salaam! With love, Mom

  12. Marilyn says:

    You closed your post by mentioning hope. And what strikes me whenever I see video of those in Darfur is that despite the terrible pain and anguish one sees in their eyes, they don’t seem bitter. And then I think how incredibly bitter Americans can become over the tiniest, slightest thing. Those in the Darfur camps have lost nearly EVERYTHING…and much of what they’ve lost is intangible…yet still they welcome you with smiles and open arms. It really makes one think about the true meaning of SPIRIT. Be well, Stacey.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Stacey

    Don’t let up on what you’re doing. It is too important. I can see how sad things can get through the day 6 video but stay strong because you are doing a great job.

    Jacob

  14. Sylvia G. says:

    stay safe, be careful, but please dont give up. what you’re doing is way too important and out of all of those who say they want to leave a mark on the world, few take action and really try to do so. we all need you!

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