As we were leaving the little village we visited up North, we received sad news about another village, Guereda, and camp we wanted so much to go to, Kounoungo. The day before, there had been fighting between different armed groups. Then, either as a deliberate attack or from being caught in the cross fire, two refugees were killed. This is a camp that I visited last year, and it is a camp where we have friends, especially one young man. It pains me to think of the fear and uncertainty that must envelop a camp full of people that fled unimaginable horrors back home.
Refugee camps are supposed to be safe havens. While life might be far from perfect there, it is supposed to be a place where people can feel protected and maybe start to heal. That is not happening here. The humanitarian workers should not be having to risk their lives every day in their efforts to keep people alive.
I had thought that I would write this last journal entry with feelings of accomplishment and looking ahead to the start of meaningful action for Darfur. With the way the situation is going out here, it is not easy.
We did make it through 15 Days of i-ACT, interactive-activism. Please, please do not step back from this work as a community. The stories we presented are the stories that were there each and every day. Nobody set up the interviews. We would “walk the camp,” and the stories would be in front of us. I, again, hope we did justice to the people that shared so much with us. We are far from professional journalists, interviewers, cameramen, or editors, and I’m sure you could tell!
I am so sorry if I missed one of your comments, which I’m almost certain I did. With our running schedule, it was so easy to not always be 100% on our tasks.
I look forward to continuing to work next to you. Please keep commenting and send me e-mails.
When contacting our leaders, please remember to mention that GENOCIDE IS NOT NEGOTIABLE. THE INNOCENT CIVILIANS OF DARFUR (including all those beautiful children you met today) DESERVE IMMEDIATE PROTECTION FROM A ROBUST AND EFFECTIVE INTERNATIONAL PEACEKEEPING FORCE. WE CANNOT LOOK THE OTHER WAY, AS A GENOCIDE RAGES ON, BECAUSE OF DIPLOMATIC CONSIDERATIONS. STOP THE GENOCIDE NOW!
Paz, Peace, Salaam, Gabriel
Gabriel’s replies to comments
Hi Tere: :) Yes, the pictures do say it all. Well, we made it safely up North. We are for sure more aware of the security issues in this area. It was not exactly comfortable having an armed escort to the camp, but I guess it eliminates the threat of bandids. It does add the danger of having rebels wanting to attack military personel. We made it back OK to our homebase with UNHCR. We fly out of this little village tomorrow morning.
Hi Pam: I’m so sorry that we were not able to get to Ahmat. We have met a wonderful person that will see him and will deliver the package to him. She also volunteered to get a message from Ahmat and e-mail it back to us and the HRW Student Task Force. We really tried to get to his camp, but there was just not any transportation at this time, with his area being right in the middle of great uncertainty and volatility. We kept asking until the last minute if we there had been any changes, with maybe a flight being added, but it did not happen. :( I really wanted to see Ahmat and have him see the HRW STF From America with Love video. I am sending a DVD of it to him, so he will get to see it. I know that we will continue our friendship and relationship with him. We have to work so hard so that there is peace and stability in both Darfur and Chad.
Hello N.E: Yes, everyone we meet at the camps is so welcoming and hospitable. It is really like coming home to family. Thank you for your note.
Hola Noemi! Today I met a girl that had a name similar to yours, Naima. She was also very pretty like you and so, so bright and inquisitive, like you also :) I’m getting closer to coming home. Thank you for writing to me, Stacey, and the people we meet every day. I’m always thinking of you! hugs, papi
Hey Michael! Yeah, my Spanish has not helped me too much out here, but I have to show them that I also speak another language :) There are so many languages out here! Thanks Maco!
Thanks Mimi Schiff! You are so right. We have to believe that our voices, united, will make a difference. For those that do not believe that what we are doing is effective, ask them to please give us more ideas for acting, but doing nothing cannot be the answer. Thank you for being willing to stand up. Those five days at Camp Darfur was about community, and it was a privilege to be there with you.
Hola mi Zahara: Si mi chava, para mi tambien fue sentimientos encontrados al ver a Nourasham y a sus ninos. Me siento triste al pensar que ahi estan y ahora sin el papa. No quiero que sigan ahi y que yo tenga que regresar despues, sin que nada cambie o las cosas se pongan todavia peor. Espero que otra gente me ayude a mandarlos a casa, a un Darfur en paz. Nos vemos pronto mi Zaharita. un beso, g.
Hello Kristina Katsova! Thank you for your kind words, and Happy New Year to you!
Dear Lisa Goldner: YOU are amazing! You are the model for what we were hoping i-ACT will promote, interactive activism. Thank you and your family for all that you are doing. I also hope so, so much that the next time we meet Nourasham she and the kids will be back in a peaceful and restored Darfur. Thank you for helping her to get there.
Lisa, the Franciscan Benediction is so inspiring. Thank you so much for everything, really! The prayer of Elie Wiesel is…wow! Salaam, Salaam, Salaam.
Hi Rach! I am so glad that the video was able to share some of what we were experiencing in spending time with Nourasham and her family (and her neighbors!). It felt like family. Big hugs to you and all the family. Your two wonderful sons will have to come to Africa with me some day (you and big David can come also). love, g.
Hello Albert Yu: Thank you for your note. We also think it’s important for people to be able to shift perspectives and allow ourselves to see through other eyes. We are a lot more alike than many think!
Hello Stacey’s Mom: Thank you so much! You are another great example of an i-ACTivist. Thank you for contacting our legislators and for going out there and getting the word out. We need many like you!
Hello again Mimi Schiff: Thank you for your concern. We’ve stayed relatively safe, and we’re just about ready to head back home. Thank you for allowing us to share all of this, heart to heart :)
Lisa Goldner: It has been such a pleasure to read your posts every day. We have to meet someday, so we can give you a big hug. Maybe we can bring Camp Darfur to your home town in Texas some day soon.
Hey Alexi! Thanks! It sure has been pretty hectic during these 15 days of video because we have to do it all in one day, the visiting of the camp, video recording, downloading the video, editing, uploading, blogging, answering comments. But, very much worth it. I’ll look at all the videos, once I get home, and see how many editing mistakes I did! :)
Hi Gina: Yes, the smiles and tenderness in the children was just the best. I saw so many little faces! Big hug to you and the kids. Thanks!
Hey Anonymous: It’s always funny answering to “Anonymous.” It sounds like this last A knows me, so Happy New Year to you too!
Hola Connie: Wow, Playa del Carmen sounds pretty nice. I wouldn’t mind that kind of sand right about now :) Don’t feel guilty. Enjoy your vacaction, and then come to DC with me for some direct action at the Sudanese Embassy. We just cannot allow business as usual for a genocidal governement.
Hey Rachel: Yeah, those two kids, the singers/dancers, were amazing. They just kept on going! We did not ask them to sing. It was so nice. About refugees moving to camps in better or safer areas, it is not possible. They are registered and placed in a camp depending on when and where they arrived, and they would not be allowed to move to another one. The walking from one to another would not be safe either. This last camp was so cold! And the children, some of them, had too little clothing for even summer. It was not easy to see.
Hola mi familia! Un abrazo a todos/todas. Que bueno que le gusto el canto a Gabo :) Hay tantos ninitos como el! Ya regreso pronto. Gracias por dejarme venir Zahara, Mimi, Gabo, e Irais!
Hello Rene Rivera: Thank you for your note to Stace. She appreciates so much the support we have been receiving from so many. She has many great friends.
Hola Tony G: There are NGOs that bring the solar cookers to camps. We briefly met some women that work making them, but we did not see any families that were actually using them. I think that it is great to find ways for women to stay safe in their daily lives. It is also so important to do all that we can to get protection to Darfur, so that the women, girls, and the entire families do not have to change some of their basic ways of lives, especially one as important as how they cook.
Hi Phyllis! Yes, my wife is Zahara, my daughter Noemi-we call Mimi (10yrs), and my son lil Gabriel-we call Gabo (almost 4). You know, the thing is that if I did not have a family, I probably would not have found it in me to come out here and help people to connect with our extended family from Darfur. Being a father makes me who I am right now. All of my family has been so involved in our campaigns, so they understand that it is important for us to be out here. I do miss them a lot, though.
Hello Marv! Thank you for all the work you do. That’s great to hear about the TV station doing another story on our trip. I look forward to coming up to your community to deliver the drawings the children of Darfur created for the children of Redding.
Markus C: Gracias a tu por tu compania. Si, Esteici, como la llaman aqui, es un angel. Un abrazo.
Hello Daniele and Rafa! Thank you for following us on this trip, and to Gelson also! We are doing this for the people of Darfur, because of the terrible ongoing crisis, but we are also doing it for Rafa and Gabo. The world we leave them has to be better than the one in which we now allow genocide to happen, again and again. Hugs to all the family. g
Meron, my friend: I do remember the beginning of that 100 tag team fast. I did not really know you then, and I was so impressed at how you chose your birthday for a day of fasting. Then, a year later, all the way from Canada, you came to the first Camp Darfur to spend some days in a tent, during the coldest days that I remembered for LA. Thank for always being there! Let’s start thinking about your coming birthday :)
Thanks for the definition of a hero. I really, really do not feel like one. I feel like I’m just putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, if that makes any sense.
Hola Mom: Yo tambien contento de que pronto voy a casa con todos ustedes. Yo, despues de ver tanto sufrimiento que ha durado tanto tiempo, tampoco he perdido las esperanzas. Tenemos que pensar en lo que SI podemos hacer para ayudar y no dejarnos paralizar por lo duro de la tarea. Gracias Mom!