13 January 2008
We just landed in Europe, after the first big jump, with a few more jumps ahead of us before we get to the refugee camps in Eastern Chad. Everything is so expensive here at the Paris airport! My diet-soda, one of my last ones before being diet-soda-less for three weeks in Chad, was about five dollars! Well worth it, though.
I was telling KTJ that, when planning and even executing i-ACT1 back in 2005, we were not looking beyond that one trip to the camps. I could never have imagined that more than two years later I’d be at this same airport, on my way for i-ACT4. I could never have imagined that the crisis in Darfur would still be getting worse, and that Chad, the neighbor that took in hundreds of thousands of refugees in danger, would now have its own growing number of displaced people. Violence and instability is the norm in the region.
We’re going back to see our friends in the camps. This time, though, we are not coming alone. We are bringing communities from all over the US that want to build more than symbolic relationships with the families in the camps. We have commitments from high school students, church groups, citywide coalitions, actors, and even NBA players. They all want to be a part of changing how the world has responded to genocide and mass atrocities. We’re going to make it personal.
My son, Gabo (short for Gabriel in Spanish; like Gabe, but cooler), has given me some of his most valued possessions to give as gifts to some of the kids in the camps he knows by name. For Leila, he picked the top one, Lightning McQueen, a little toy car and a character from the movie “Cars,” which I’ve seen at least 25 times. He also sent a train and some dinosaurs for Mansur and Aljafis. He asked me if I could just bring Leila back home with me. With the whole drama of the French aid workers trying to smuggle kids out of Chad, I think my four-year old son is going to have to wait until he can visit Leila in a peaceful Darfur.
Hang in there with us, as we start this fourth i-ACT. Let us know what you think; ask us questions; suggest actions; be a part of this community. I can assure you that it is a mutually beneficial relationship. I go in to this thinking that I could help the survivors. I’m finding out that I have grown in ways that would never have happened if I had not met my Darfuri friends.