There is an amazing full moon outside. We’re in a small village in north-eastern Chad, close to the Darfur border. It is very cold here, and it is windy, and there is sand everywhere. As I stepped off of the plane and in to this, I thought about the children in the camps that are in this area and what their freezing nights must be like in their tents.
It is also an area of heightened volatility. Aid agencies have pulled out all but essential personnel. Some agencies have pulled out completely. I am so in awe and grateful of the brave people that decide to stay and continue to provide enough for the refugees to live on.
We visited the Prefectur (spelling?), or local high official, to inform him of our mission. He received us in this very large room with a very impressive rug that covered just about all of its floor. The man had a very serene presence, especially for someone that is in the middle of so much instability and danger. He warmly welcomed us and wished us well on our visit. He told us that we had to have a lot of courage to come to this area at this time. I think we would have wished to hear something else (like, things are stable and getting better), and, as we have been doing through out, we have use humor to keep us in the moment and focused. As we got in the car to leave the compound, Stacey and I look at each other, thinking the same thing, and say: “If the Prefectour is telling us that we’re brave…!!!” We laugh because we really do not feel courageous or different from what we are back home, so being in these situations just has an interesting effect on us.
The local UNHCR officer, Hala, has been so, so nice. She has made it comfortable for us here at their compound, and she stops by to make sure we’re OK. She is normally stationed in another village serving other camps, but my friend Emmanuel, whom we were to meet here, had to leave on a family emergency, so Hala is filling in for some days.
To the HRW Student Task Force, I am so, so sorry that we will not be able to reach Ahmat this time, not in person anyway. We will get to him the wonderful package that you sent and will get a communication back from him. We tried to find a way to get to his camp, but security in that area did not permit it. There were no flights we could take, and driving is just not doable, since there has been so much happening in that area.
Thank you to all for coming with us on this journey. We will do one extra day of posting, Day 15, so please stop by again. We will also look at how we, all of us, can work together, as a family trying to help family, to help make things right in Darfur.
Gabriel’s replies to comments
Hello Tim: Happy New Year to you! Yes, this has to be the year that all the people of Darfur go back home. We have to start with renewed energy our efforts to stop this genocide. Thank you, my good friend.
Hello Marilyn: Yes, it is very windy. During the day, the temperature has been pleasant, around 70 degrees. As soon as the sun goes down, the temerature drops quite a bit, getting cold at night. Living in a camp, you are breathing in sand all the time. The newly-arrived refugees are very exposed to the elements, since they do not have a tent. They try to build some barriers, as protection from wind, from straw and sticks. For the registration process, I’m told by Ali that they go through a screening process, during which UNHCR wants to make sure that they are refugees. They list each refugee and their relation in the family. They ask them a series of questions before they are given a ration card, which gives them access to the food and aid. They also have to be registered with the camp security. They are then given a tent and settled in a “block” (the camp is divided in to blocks). This process can take a few days to over two weeks, depending on many factors. As a rule, I would say that nothing is simple.
Hi Tere: The days have just been flying by. About the new arriving refugees, you can just see the trauma and confusion in their faces. They are really not different than us. What would it be like for us to be sitting in our living rooms, sharing moments with our family, and then be brutally forced out of our homes and cities, with no idea of when or if we would ever get back or have a future at all. They do still have a positive view of what American can do. They do have hope.
Hi Emily: Thanks for your note.
Hey JC! Yes, it has been great to share this trip and the hard work with Stacey. She has been having to expose herself to so much, physically and emotionally.
Hello Darin: Thank you so much for that note of encouragement. You are so, so right. We are one. It is a global community, and we have to act responsibly as one. Thank you, and thank you for lending your friend Stacey for this, as they say here in Chad, mission.
Dear Julia: Thank you for the bracelets! The women and girls that have received them like them so much.
Dear Stacey’s Mom: I am completely with you, when you say that it is good to see the anger in the young man, that it is good to see any emotion, where it would have been so easy to give up. Thank you so much for your company all these days. It is only a few more before your daughter is back home. Much love. g
Hi Susan! Thank you for your note. I look forward to hear your thoughts, as you catch up with the daily videos. Hug!
Hello Diana: The children in the camp classroom, the ones that were watching the Redding children, were so well behaved. They were also very in to the watching of the video, and they just loved getting the letters and drawings. They also took very seriously the task of drawing a picture for the Redding children. We have to continue to create bridges, so that children grow up together, not apart.
Hi Christine: Yes, the resilience of the people we meet is beyond our comprehension. What is so sad is that so many of them are being lost. So many other people–women, men and children just like the ones we have been meeting–have been killed. As we heard from the new arrivals, this is happening right now!
Hey JC! Thanks. It is so hard to edit down from the hours of video–stories and images–that we collect to the minutes that we then bounce off a satellite to you. I’m always worried that we might not “get it right.” There is not too much time to get stuck on that, though, since we have to get the next day up! It’s definitely a marathon of activity, but it has flown by, and we’re just about at Day 14. Yep, it was incredible news from Connie :) I was starting to think of names :)
Thank you Julia.
Hola Mom: Si, como me gustaria que mas y mas gente conectara con la gente que estamos presentando en nuestros videos. Al ver a una verdadera persona, no nadamas numeros y estadistica, es mas facil que motive a alguien a actuar. No puede seguir esto asi. Lo que me hace mas triste es que esta gente que estamos conociendo es la que, comparadas con otra que todavia esta adentro de Darfur, es la afortunada. Gracias Mom. Hoy pudimos descansar un poco y ya falta muy poco para que regresemos. Un abrazo a ti y a toda la familia. g
Hi Athina: Thank you for the well-wishes, and I hope that we, all of us, have an impact on this expanding crisis soon, very soon.
Hello Reina! Thank you and everyone from Venice High for coming with us on this journey. Let’s work together to stop this genocide!
Hello Jousuke: Thank you for your kind words, and keep up the good work at Pali High. I look forward to being back there soon!
Hi Jacob: Thanks for watching Day 1, and I hope you make it through the other days. I’m not sure when you posted this, but I’m glad you’ll be following us.
Dear David W: Thank you. It might not be the easy way, but I do believe that connecting person-to-person has so much power and potential to create change. All that I have done since starting to work on this issue has been, in a way, about personal relationships. It is very much about family and expanding our definition of who belongs in our circle. Our circle is our globe, earth.