Day 14 from Gabriel

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.

Paz, Gabriel

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.

Gabriel co-founded Stop Genocide Now in 2005, which gave birth to i-ACT in 2009.

He became involved in the situation in Darfur out of a sense of personal responsibility. He believes the power of community and compassion, combined with personal empowerment, can bring about meaningful change.

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Category: Day 14: Jan 3, 2007 · Tags: , , ,

Comments

22 Responses to “Day 14 from Gabriel”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Gabriel and Stace,

    It is really hard to see the children not wearing the appropriate clothes in the cold weather. I just want to wrap a blanket around them and give them a big warm hug. So please do give them a BIG hug for me and tell them that we love them and pray for them.

    They are so beautiful and talented…loved the songs and dance…

    Not knowing what will happen to your children is the most painful and hopeless feeling. It’s hard to understand until you experience it and there are not words to explain it. BUT IT’S SOMETHING THAT NO MOTHER OR FATHER SHOULD HAVE TO EXPERIENCE…EVER…EVER.
    Thanks for taking a little bit of hope and love to these families. It does help them to feel loved and accepted.

    Hmmm, so it’s probably just too far for them to walk to get to a better and safer camp(as far as better and safer can be) . How long would it take them to get to the other camps? Are those the families that we see at the other camps or do they come from a different area of Darfur?

    Please stay safe…

    Love,

    Rachel V

  2. Anonymous says:

    That’s nice that they have people looking out for you just like how you and Stacey are looking out for the people affected by the genocide

  3. Zahara , Noemi, Gabriel & Irais says:

    Hola Gabe y Stacey,

    Como toda una familia estamos aqui viendo el video # 14 y estamos de acuerdo con Rachel V. que dificil es ver a los ninos, y asus familias sentintiendo tanto frio, que dificil la situacion para ellos.
    Bueno, nuestro hijo no entiende lo que esta pasando alla, pero disfruto del canto y del baile de los ninos al igual que Mimi.
    Un monton de abrazos para los dos.
    Zahara, Mimi, Gabo & Irais

  4. marv says:

    Dear gabriel and stacey,
    Channel 7 in Redding carried another story about your trip Monday night. Picked up footage from Day 8–did a good job–and publicized our walk. We are moving forward with our “I Stand for Darfur” walk to our congressman’s office Friday, 1/12. Keep up your wonderful work. Marv

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dear Gabriel,

    Thank you for all you’ve exposed on your long, dangerous journey through these refugee camps, from the smiles to the tears you’ve shared, and the hope amid the despair.

    We want you to depart your Darfuri “family,” knowing you’ve helped to console them as they continue to hold on till adequate help is provided. You will garner much more needed action with the audiovisual stories you are bringing home. These need to be reaching global audiences. Everyone needs to face these refugees at least in this capacity, and be compelled to take action to quash this genocide.

    I thought this prayer would speak to you as you enter your final day in the region. I know you and Stacey have already been “blessed” with these feelings.

    A Franciscan Benediction

    May God bless you with DISCOMFORT…
    At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
    So that you may live deep within your heart.
    May God bless you with ANGER…
    At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
    So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
    May God bless you with TEARS…
    To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, starvation and war
    So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
    And to turn their pain into JOY.
    And may God bless you with enough FOOLISHNESS…
    To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
    So that you can DO what others claim cannot be done.
    Amen.

    Take care and travel safely home.

    Salaam,

    Lisa Goldner
    Texas

  6. Markus C. says:

    Querido
    muchísimas gracias por todo su idealismo, su protección y su compañerismo por Stacey.
    Ella no necesita saber, pero te envidio por estos quince días con ella.
    Ella es un ángel de verdad.
    Con un embrazo cordial
    Markus C.

  7. Daniele says:

    Hi Gabriel,
    estamos aqui siguiendo tus videos,
    y orando por todos ustedes.

    Daniele e Rafa

  8. Meron says:

    Dear Sweet Gabriel,

    These pages and videos have been a daily stop for me. Each day as I watch and read I’m reminded of your quiet, gentle nature; your compassion, heart and selfless commitment, and it makes me smile.

    What an honour it is to be able to count you friend. You are a very hard act to follow but when I grow up I want to be just like you.

    Come home safe.

    XoX
    Meron

    PS: A tag team hunger strike for Darfur in 2005, recreating a refugee camp at the end of LAX runway in 2006 ~ I can’t wait to hear what wild and crazy stunt you have planned for us this year on my birthday ; )

  9. noemi stauring says:

    Hijito Gabriel,

    Aun cuando he oido la historia en estos videos, me conmovio de nuevo al relatar tu historia en el periodico, no puede evitar las lagrimas.
    Las personas que nos estamos enterando en esta ocasion por medio de ustedes no hemos perdido las esperanzas. Dios permita pronto se pueda hacer algo y que su sacrificios sean fructuosos.
    Contenta de pronto podernos ver.
    Mom

  10. Meron says:

    Just found this definition of hero:

    Selfless people who work against all odds in order to create a safe and prosperous future.

    You definitely are a hero!!!

    : )

  11. teresa says:

    Hi Gabe and Stace,
    While watching today’s video I wondered about the same things Rachel mentions, why don’t these refugees move to areas where the weather is not as harsh?
    Why is it so difficult to get something as simple as blankets to these people that would make their lives so much more bearable?
    Yet again, we see the children smile and sing and how proud they looked after their little song and dance. Makes you want to smile and cry at the same time.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Dear Gabriel and Stacey,

    Just wanted you both to know that I’m dedicating my next article to the remarkable people you’ve introduced us to through i-ACT. It will take the form of an open letter to President Bush.

    Your unconditional love, compassion and dedication are an inspiration to us all. Thank you for being who you are.

    Peace,
    John Morlino

  13. Kristina says:

    THIS 14th video was really specail and sweet because it reminds me of how my parents look after me just like u guys look after the children and parents in Darfur. The childrens’ songs were wonderful!!

    looking forward for the 15th video!!
    HOPE U GUYS MAKE A SAFE TRIP BACK!

  14. Marilyn says:

    I just can’t imagine what that woman has been through…to have been one of the earliest refugees and have been in the camp all that time. As I watched the people in this video, I couldn’t help but think how hopeless it must feel to rise each morning, after having spent a freezing night, and think…this is it. This is our life and there’s no hope of change anytime soon. And yet, time and time again in the 14 days of videos, we saw such humanity in their smiles and glimmers of hope in their eyes. I will continue to try to spread the word among bloggers, because I think we carry great potential as so-called citizen journalists…and in my day gig, I will see what we can do to get our school involved. THANK YOU for all that you’ve done the last two weeks. Will look forward to day 15 video.

  15. Nick Kaufman says:

    Dear Gabriel,

    As I watch these videos I am filled with sadness. It makes me sad when I listen to the story of a refugee who lost a loved one or more. It makes me sad when I hear about the poor living conditions within the camps. When I see the children however, I feel happy that at least they are safe for the time being. It gives the sense that all is not lost.

    I wish that our government could act decisively on this crisis. I wish that this could end very soon. Lets hope that this crisis does end at by the end of this year.

    Sincerely,

    Nick Kaufman

  16. Anonymous says:

    Dear Gabriel and Stacey,

    From the video, I could imagine how dangerous the area you were in could be.

    The children’s songs were really amazing and sweet.

    -Yasmin A.

  17. Mariela V. says:

    Hi Gabriel I’m from Los Angeles,California. I go to Palisades High you came last year and brough some tents to show the past genocides it really touched me and when my art teacher gave us a chance to commentyou and find out about this website i felt i could really do something. I am very happy to know that there are people out there that care more than just about themselves. This is so sad and such a horrible thing going on. How can there be people out there that would do such things especially a president to his own people that is just not having a heart. We also did a project on the human rights we all have in any country and it just seemed that we as a country aren’t doing enough to keep those given rights especially in this situation. well thanks for being brave enough to go out there for all of us and do a great deed God Bless and take care!!!!!!

  18. ANQ says:

    i enjoyed being able to view your journey, thank you for everything. i am still hoping and praying for the many children and families who have been affected by the present situation. tahny you so much. i am impressed.

  19. cindy ibarra says:

    i just wanted to say that i think is great what your doing theres a lot of people that didn’t now what was going on but now thanks too you more students at palisades charter high school are a wear of what was going on and making them going to help out thank you and be strong

  20. alan kim says:

    Dear Gabriel,
    It is very hard to watch as children are not wearing appropriate clothes in the cold. It is hard to just sit and watch as they suffer for no crimes that they have commited, while we have all the nessesities and more.

    Thank you,
    Alan

  21. anne says:

    Thanks, Thanks, Thanks

  22. Lady_Lara says:

    Dear Gabriel and Stacey,

    I encountered your guy’s web site by reading the newsletter from STAND.org, and when I saw that they had videos I sat down and watched them all at once and I could not stop watching. Because I am part of the Model United Nations club in my high school I am very well informed of the crisis that Darfur is facing. I read on the web site that you guys travel and visit schools, so I was wondering if there is any way you could come to my high school in Alexandria Virginia and do a presentation for the students. Many people in my school are aware of the genocide and are interested to learn more. being a survivor of the Bosnian genocide I have a deep interest in genocide. Thank you for doing all of your work. I enjoyed every second of the film, and what really touched me were the children and how they are so beautiful, so lively and so talented. I really hope that you guys can came to my school and share your experiences with many students here. Again, Thank you so much and I wish you all the best.

    Sincerely,
    Aida

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