Day 8: July 17, 2007

Gabriel’s Day 8 Journal

Flying, North of Abeche

Hello Friends y Familia:

You all make me feel supported and loved. I look forward to reading your comments everyday, and I check as often as possible. Each leg of this trip takes me physically farther and farther from what I know and feel as home. I also end up in places that are less predictable and harder to get out of, in case of danger. Being connected to you, though, knowing that you are there, gives me strength and lifts my spirits.

As I am flying north, through the little window of this single-engine plane, I can see a large refugee camp, a city of tents. I know that many thousands of human beings live there. In the desert that surrounds it, the camp looks small and as if it is ready to be swallowed by the sand. Where does each person living in that camp, many for four years, find the strength and energy to stay standing?

As connected as I feel to you, they must feel abandoned by the world. They cling to their home, which is now more of a mirage than a reality, through their songs and the little bit of culture they have been able to carry across the border.

Gabriel in the crowd of curious onlookersAfter visiting Leila’s tent-home, we walked around the camp for about an hour. It was hot, with the middle of the day sun shining on us. Leila did not stay home. She grabbed my hand, and her older sister grabbed her hand, and we made a little chain as we walked. After a few minutes, when we stopped to change tapes on our video recorder, I looked down, so I could smile with Leila; I know that she’ll be smiling! She was, but she also put her hands up, in the universal sign for “pick me up!”

I carried Leila for what felt to my arms like a long time. I was tired. Then I saw young girls carrying their almost-the-same-size-as-they-are brothers and sisters, without even breaking a sweat. I felt a bit on the wimp side. It also felt so good to carry Leila. She put her little arm around my neck and rested her head on my shoulder. Leila was just being a child, looking for comfort with someone that, I hope, made her feel comfortable.

For me, on the other hand, it was so much more. I wish so much it was that easy to bring comfort to all of the children we have been meeting and to all of the children that are still inside of Darfur, suffering through conditions we do not even want to think about. Leila did not have any sandals on, and the sand was burning hot, and the rocks were sharp. I asked Ali to go to the market and get some little sandals for her, but I had to tell him to do it quietly and take them to the mother in the tent. There were just too many children without shoes. Do you want to know what feeling really powerless feels like?

But Leila never stopped smiling, so I have to find the power to do more.


ps. I miss my family, my Gabo & my Mimi & my Z. Hugs.

ps. #2- I’m sorry about not being able to answer everything on time, but I will catch up. The three of us here keep going until we crash. It becomes something of a relay crashing thing :) We travel, meet with all kinds of officials and representatives from agencies, besides our daily i-ACT work at the camps and then on the computers. But it would not be i-ACT if it was not interactive, so Connie has been great at getting back to everyone. Please write back if there was a question that we missed, and I do promise to catch up with all of the comments directed to me. We do try to address your questions and thoughts on the videos also.

12 replies on “Gabriel’s Day 8 Journal”

Dear Gabriel, Connie, and Yuen-Lin,

Leila is beautiful!!! She represents what is innocent and full of love. When I saw Gabriel carrying Leila, I was thinking how great that must have felt. In my heart and spirit I sent a big hug and prayer full of love to all those children. Then I started thinking about their mothers and fathers who must feel so helpless. I know that as a mother, the first thought that comes to my mind when I open my eyes are my two boys. I say a prayer for God to protect my children and then I continue thinking about what I can do to improve their lives. We as parents worry about everything. I’m so glad that Gabriel bought Leila little sandles and how hard it must have been not being able to buy every single child something to protect their little feet from the hot sand. Leila’s smiles also help me find strength to do more…

Thanks for bringing the message home. You guys are great!


Beautiful footage!

Gabe – don’t worry about answering posts right now – I know i-ACT is interactive but it doesn’t seem to me that you guys have had more than 20 hours sleep for the whole week.

Take care and love to all of you.

Gayle xxx

Gabriel, I always marvel at your descriptive and heartfelt writing. Together with the video it is transporting. The heat and your team’s fatigue do not come through. Instead you bring us with you in our easy chairs, and we thank you for the connections you are making.

Meanwhile, some of the STF students worked with Joanna in the last days of the school year to produce this posting on YouTube. I thought you might like to see it. (One student references Camp Darfur and means to say “we helped with Camp Darfur.”

Thinking of you all,
Pam B

Leila’s smile could light a room. His goodness shines through you. Thank you all for being a lamp in a dark place.

God bless


Nosotros tambien te echamos de menos y mucho, nos haces falta aqui pero no sentimos tan orgulloso de lo que estas haciendo. Me dio tanta ternura ver a Leila en tus brazos, eres el gran PAPA.

Hi Papi,
I was so happy when I saw all the beautiful children with you in the video but I was also sad thinking if anything was going to change.I am glad that you are doing this.It means alot me and everybody else too.
ps.I miss you too.hugs to you too.

You are all doing a fantastic job. Your journal is so discriptive, it’s almost like being there. You shouldn’t worry about answering comments, you are busy with more important things, plus you need to rest.. There will be time for comments later. Be safe, take care of yourself.

I cried today as I watched the video. It’s just too hard to see so many faces with dreams. But I take a deep breathe and try to remember that I can fight for their freedom. As I sit at home with my roommates, in a house where everyone is healthy, with their own big room and a garden with food outside.

It rained today and I thought of the three of you with the heat beating down, wishing for cool weather but for the river beds not too become full.

Today I listened to NPR as they talked about how numbing numbers can be, with a pyschologist speaking about giving money to two people verses one….and they asked people to call in and talk about why us activist stay connected, how we overcome the lack of connection with a number that could be as large as 500,000. And I thought of the three of you. That is how we make sure we are not overwhelmed by the numbers. Juma. and Leila. and the rest of the smiling faces.

much peace and rest in your hearts, ktj

Hola Gabe,
Que padre trabajo estan haciendo medio mucho gusto ver a Leila tan contenta contigo. Que bonito es ver a gente como ustedes tratando de ayudar a otros con tanto carino.Cuidate mucho y saludos a todos.

Hello Gabriel and Team,

I’m just now catching up on your trip and am so glad that you continue to provide us with the opportunity to feel connected with these people who have been forgotten/ignored/abandoned in the course of war and ethnic cleansing. Language barriers be damned: you are speaking the language of humanity, and we are so grateful that you share your fluency with us…

Take care, Amy

Hi, Gabriel!

The video footage interspersed with still shots of the refugees was even more powerful. You have helped all of us “carry” Leila and these others in our hearts. The faces and determined spirit of these refugees must spur all of us in our actions.

Recent BBC news reported a huge underground lake the size of Lake Erie has been found in Darfur. If only they can get the government cooperation needed to drill about 1,000 proposed wells, they can reduce the hardship caused by drought and desertification. Does news like this reach the camps?



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