Day 7: Dec 27, 2006

The view from the hill

Blog, 12/27/06 7:52am, Eastern Chad

Not far from the refugee camp school, there is a pretty little hill that just calls to be climbed. After a couple of ours of looking in at school activities, I asked Stace and Ali if they wanted to walk to the top of the hill. I thought it would be good exercise, but I also wondered what was on the other side.

We started walking, making a few stops to say hi to children, not all of them go to school, and to look at the always beautiful sight of bright colors gathered and moving, as women collected water for the day at a water station.

The walk ended up being shorter than I thought and wished, and the climb up the hill would not exactly qualify as a work out, but it was very enjoyable. The big payoff was what revealed itself, as I made it to the top and saw what was on the other side, a beautiful desert scene, vast and clear, so clear that it does not seem real. Living in LA, the air is thick and dirty, so I never get to see so far and so clear.

Sitting at the top of our little hill, we could see nature at its most beautiful on one side, and the results of man being at its most ugly.

The children of Darfur love to study! They want books; they want notepads; they want pencils; and, more than anything, they want to go back home to keep learning in Darfur. They never separate one from the other. They want to be teachers, but they want to teach in a peaceful Darfur. They want to be traders, but they want to trade in a peaceful Darfur. They want to be world-travelers, but they want to travel from a peaceful Darfur.

Before going back down the hill to the school, we saw in the distance, a woman walking in the desert back to the refugee camp. She was carrying a large load of firewood, balanced perfectly on her head. I could not help but think of the beautiful girls sitting in the classroom of the camp school. If there is no peace in Darfur, they will have to continue to risk rape and death to go out collecting firewood. If there is no peace in Darfur, what can they hope for? Will they stop dreaming?


16 replies on “The view from the hill”

Gabriel and Stace,

Today I am in New Orleans where I saw the devasted neighborhoods of Lakeview and the Lower Ninth Ward. I came here to see my sister for the holidays where she lives in a neighborood which stood above the flood line.

People from many places are here now working and helping the city, though it is not enough.

The residents who have returned to their homes (only a fraction in the worst hit neigborhood) are doing their bast to help themselves.

In Darfur and eastern Chad it is a crime scene not a disaster scene. Here in New Orleans the original trauma lasted for the duaration of the storm. In Darfur the trauma is intentional and it continues to this day.

Thank you for making the lives of Darfur survivors more visible and personal. We need to more to help survivors of the genocide in Darfur to help themselves.

One day they will be able to return to their homes, but first the killing and destruction must be halted. Jim Fussell

Hola Gabe and Stacy,Everyday I wake up anxious to watch the new video that you send to us.And watching I appreciate the experience of compassion I feel for them,It is overwhelming though ,to know that the situation is so,so desperate,seeing those more than 200 students in that awful classroom makes me very mad.
I’ve sent the letters to our representatives,I’ve been with you on several occasions at Camp Darfur,I’ve donated and told almost every person,friends and strangers about this genocide.
But how can we STOP this genocide now!!!!!What you are doing to bring this cisis to us is a great opportunity for all of wathcing to think and come up with more ideas and plans of action and I invite everyone who is watching to brainstorm and lets do even more to bring more attention to the plight of the Darfurians.Amor yPaz.Connie

Buenas tardes/masa alkhair, Gabriel!

Thank you for climbing that hill and bringing everything in the refugee camp into better view for us all. So many don’t want to see what really surrounds these victims. As you focused on the woman carrying her firewood bundle, I couldn’t help but wonder if she would travel home safely.

We will continue to relay to everyone we can, what you’ve disclosed of the continuing hardships of the Darfurians. Brave, compassionate actions like yours and Stacey’s will help keep their dreams alive until they are made real with a safe return to their homeland.

La paz sea contigo/Salaam,

Lisa Goldner
San Antonio, TX

Gabriel…. thanks for the view from the hill! That lone figure
of a woman carrying her bundle to
“do her part” was so riveting.. and
showed the vastness (not only of
the land but of the problem) and brought home once more the need to
spread the word – the truth of what
is happening NOW, on our watch!!

Stay well and know you and these
beautiful, strong, proud people
are in our daily prayers.

Sahaam! With love, Stacey’s Mom

Dear Gabriel,
As I go through my day you and Stacey and your journey are in my heart and mind. I find myself feeling more than blessed to be part of this journey.

With this also comes a profound sadness that the children of Darfur are still living in refugee camps.

I see these children, their love of learning and their hope for a future. I see them and want to yell at the world to open it’s eyes and ears. To look and listen to the songs and voices of the children. How can anyone turn their back on children?
Thank you and Stacey for this opportunity, for this voyage from which I will not return the same.
Peace and love
Mimi Schiff


Thank you for helping make the truth about darfur become more and more evident. You are spreading the word and puting strong images in people’s minds…thank you. I was very impressed with the children’s desire for learning and their curiosity.Hopefully many will learn from your videos and act.

Justin A.

Dear Gabriel and Stace,

What beautiful images you bring home to us. I truly hope that these images will touch the heart of the world as they have touched me. I truly hope and pray that these children will have the opportunity to become teachers, traders or world travelers. I know that their mothers and fathers are praying for the same.

I also want to be positive like Jim Fussell says in his comment… that they will return to their homes…


Rachel and Family

Gabriel y Stace,

Gracias a Dios que siguen trayendo la realidad desde Africa a todas las personas que estamos esperando su coneccion. Es deplorable la tremenda situaciacn por la que los hacen pasar sus perseguidores.
Es increible que los forcen ha vivir asi en tanta miseria pero aun asi tratando con ese entuciasmo de querer aprender, Dios permita y se mejore pronto la situacion para ellos, que los que podemos hacer una ayuda pronto los aliviane y termine la espera de volver a Darfur.
Amor y paz para todos

Hi Gabe and Stacey,
These precious children, happy, smiling, singing, anxious to learn. If these children have the opportunity to build a new Darfur what a wonderful place it will be.

Gabe, a few questions that come to mind when I watch the videos:
Do you have the numbers of how many children there are in Abeche? How many men and how many woman? What percentage of the children are orphaned? Do all orphaned children get taken in by other families or is there an orphanage? So many children and I assume adults as well, malnurished and sick, what is their survival rate?

Hi, Gabriel and Stacey, thank you for the colorful images of the girls’ headscarves that contrasted with the boys’ dusty, grey shirts. The girls smiled so beatifically while the boys seemed less healthy. And I could hear the coughs, coughs, coughs in the background, as you said, indicating a respiratory contagion.

I returned home last night to look at five days’ worth of the LA Times today. I’ll let you know what the newspapers have reported about Darfur.

By the way, the advanced technology that allows you to video, send back, and post blogs is just amazing. Did you bring your own generators? Are you beaming images off a satellite?

Stay safe, Phyllis

Dear Gabriel and Stacey,

It was unbelieveable seeing 235 children in one classroom. I think in other places of the world people take an education for granted. They don’t see what other people in different parts of the world go through to learn. It was very sweet hearing the children sing together.

-Yasmin A.


The day 7 video has shown me even more of the culture over there. I can also see that your presence is helping these people. Be safe. You’re doing wonderfully.


I love these videos you have made for the whole world to view. i am gettin a sense of their culture with every video you make and am just grateful that i can watch you and all you experience. i am a student at palisades high and watching those 235 kids at school in one classroom, still with the hunger to learn, even with all that is going on. is remarkable.
And here in the US we complain about 40 kids to a classroom.

wishig you the best of luck.

Dear Gabriel,
How badly the conditions are for the school is very disturbing. I hope that they get a better working condition than they already do. But i couldnt help when you focused on that woman carrying the firewood across the dessert by herself. Would she be ok? And why is she doing it alone?


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