“Bonjour” Rene calls from kitchen as I wonder in for my morning café. This might be the last of the café until we reach N’Djamena. I savor the last sips of it while I pack my bags, well, I pack half a bag of my personal belongings and repack our three backpacks and one and a half roller bags of tech equipment. We make our final walk on the sandy road to the main office, nobody but security is around, they have all gone to the air strip to see off and receive those from the earlier flight. We sit for a moment, with nothing to do. I’ve almost forgotten that feeling – of just sitting, but it’s not for long as Hala and the vehicles arrive to take us.
It feels strange to be leaving Guereda and the refugees of Kounoungo and Mile. I will always hold a special place in my heart for Fatne, Asha (all three of them!), Anima, Yakoub, Adam, Raya, Mohamed, Saleh, Darsalam, and Aziza to name a few. Their stories and expressions are forever part of me, I am changed after meeting them. I am not the same as when I arrived last week.
On the flight to Abeche, I can see the road to Kounoungo. I recognize the wadi that the IMC vehicle got stuck in and the watering hole where I saw a villager slowly hopping left to right, his hands holding up the bottoms of his pants, as if to dance a greeting for the morning sun. And finally my eyes pass over Kounoungo. It looks so much bigger than when I was in Fatne’s home speaking with her family and following her granddaughter, Anima, around school.
We land in Abeche, meet up with Yousouf, weigh our bags and get on the same plane but now to Goz Beida, a new village and a new camp for i-ACT. The ride is smooth and I manage to write a little more.
There just isn’t enough time to know them… I am eager to sit and talk with more people to understand their daily lives better. Wish I could stay longer – moving between camps to facilitate more relationships. I wonder if this will become a reality in the months to come.
We land in Goz Beida and a new journey begins. We have our own car and translator, which means we get to make our own schedule. But the faces of the last four days, the refugees and the community that surrounds and supports them are embedded in my mind forever.
16 replies on “A New Part of Me”
Great video! I had only heard about Greg Lawson’s song but had not actually heard the song and the words. It’s beautiful! Look forward to visiting and learning about the new camp tomorrow.
Hey Gabe, it looked like you were actually landing that airplane in one of those shots…
Yes, I was landing the plane! Well, I was up in the co-pilot’s seat, but KTJ was too worried about me being there, so I decided to let the pilot take care of the flying. Greg’s song is pretty cool, and it makes me pretty proud when he says that I’m the co-writer, since he based it on what I said in a short little speech up in Redding. I love that community.
And also embedded in our hearts forever…no one watching this can remain the same as the day before we knew. It makes all the political candidates posturing around MLK this past Monday seem like a complete fraud. Dr King must be crying in his grave.
You are on this journey, once again, with me (wait, I think you are stuck with me, right?). Today I heard a mother who lost her husband to sickness say that she plays both roles, the mother and the father. Although most families here have far more children than we do in ours, it still reminded me of you and all that has made us stronger. I wish you were here with me to meet these women and hold their hands. Each time we have a family sign the book, I tell them my mother is also working for their freedom. i luv u.
Today’s video brought tears to my eyes. The faces! Greg’s music! There was so much pride and joy in those faces and so much love and compassion in Greg’s music. We are looking forward to talking to you Thursday night and we will be in our prayer circle with Greg and his guitar and then move on to the Sundial Bridge Friday night to pray for you and all of the people of Darfur. God bless you!
I have heard so much about your relentless efforts in Redding! I look forward to talking with you Thursday night! We have met many families here that remind Gabriel of Redding’s own family. Thank you for your continued support and action for the people of Darfur.
My brother Marv:
I am so proud to be at all associated with you and your people in Redding. You are the definition of an “upstander,” as Samantha Power calls those that are the opposite of bystanders. I’m also looking forward to speaking to you and your friends on Thursday. Peace, my friend.
You’re doin’ great.
Thanks ISAAC! Keep on writin’!
Moving on must be hard. I wonder about your reception from those in the camps. They seem so eager to see you and to share their story. This has now been going on for many of them going on 4-5 years. I am trying to imagine how they could have that level of optimism considering the world has largely abandoned them to this fate. How do they keep their spirits up? How have they not become embittered to their fate and to Western indifference? Its just so impressive to me how they have held on…waiting for action on our part…welcoming with open arms those who would share their story…a story so painful to tell. I must say…I am struggling to reach a deeper understanding…and truly look forward to your return to talk more in depth about this…but any insights you have to share on this would truly be great!
Stay safe and well!
In general our reception in the camps is welcomed. Being now in the South of Chad with Masseleit Darfurians, the welcome is even more so present. In all the camps we have been in so far, there is a feeling of permanency. I think after 5 years of living in a place, would begin to build mud or straw walls and a small fence to make my space feel more mine. With this, the refugees are losing some hope. We continue to hear that they would return today or tomorrow, if they could. They are grateful for the camps, but this is not home. They need more to survive and if they were able to settle, they would be able to make it their own. Being traditional farmers, they want to farm and would be able to produce, but they are not given any land for this, only for their tents which are now small huts. We are thanked many times over by many, many people for our efforts, and I think some realize the larger picture, like Adam. I think they hold on to hope for a better future, because that is all they can do. I wonder many of the same things you wrote to me about. I offer this small opinion: If they give up hope for a better future and to be able to return to a peaceful Darfur, then what do they have to live for day by day? They only have hope.
And we have the responsibility to acknowledge and act on it. Please continue to watch and when I return I will share more than just the videos we are posting now!
I suppose what the world is seeing of the situation in Darfur can be compared to what you view as you fly over so far above that it looks almost imaginary, the horrors too far away to witness, the people too small to appreciate or even acknowledge they exist in such deplorable conditions. Thank you for making us all open our eyes to truly “see” and feel the plight of these Darfuris, through your personal accounts of what you’re experiencing and your videotaped interactions with them in these wretched camps.
Greg Lawson’s music really added to the message of your filming, and we like the still photo shots you’ve integrated into the video, too. We hope to hear/see more!
Do any of the “villagers” express a wish to relocate to another camp in hopes of finding other family members? If so, do many do so? Are they aware of differing levels of conditions between various camps? How do the aid organizations determine equitable distribution of supplies? Are there still large numbers of inbound refugees to these camps you’re visiting? What average percentage of the camps is Chadian refugees? Do they get along with the Darfur population within the same camp?
We hope you’ll be getting to visit some more with the teachers and students, learn their deepest hopes, and tell us how we can help fulfill their dreams. Please educate us on how we can help educate them for their future.
Lisa & family
wow! u guys are doing a great job. I really like the new vid n especially seeing the faces. Those faces are now engraved in my heart especially Adams. It is great to know that the crops are growing were Adam is.
Keep up the great work!
My prayers are with you and all.
I’m glad you’re liking the videos, and I hope your school stays active in the movement to help our friends get back home.
Gabriel and Katie-Jay,
The video was amazing today. Thank you so much for speaking to Crossroads this afternoon. Your words inspired every single one of the twenty-five people in the meeting. I was able to show day three of your journey in our teacher sponsor’s next class and the response was amazing in there, as well. I cannot express how much we appreciate what you are doing.
You are constantly in our thoughts,
Hello Ginny and everyone at Crossroads:
It was great talking with you. The STF is amazing, and it makes me feel so good to be able to share what we do and have it in anyway help with the student advocacy at your schools and communities. Let’s continue working together. Working with groups like yours is what really keeps me going!