Day 7: Jan 25, 2008

12 students, 3 text books, 1 chalkboard

Day 7

Only one day left in Djabal. I will be in Chad for a total of almost three weeks and its just not enough time with so many travel days. We met Adef and Achta’s family, as well as Oumar’s yesterday and today we go to school. But there is so much more to see. So many more people to listen to and bring their stories forward for the world to hear. How will we begin our day?

IMG_3446 Ahh, the routine stop at the gendarme (local authorities), how we begin every day, why would I think differently? Hahaha! It’s a smooth five minutes with only Bouba having to get out of our car.

In the ride to the camp, Gabriel and I brainstorm. Return to the families we met yesterday and share with them a short slide show. Meet the Level 6 class and see what comes of it. Walk the camp, meet the people, our brainstorm ends where it ends everyday, be real, listen, share messages of hope and don’t forget the mic!

Only 12 students sit on the dusty mat learning Arabic in the brick classroom with two large windows that allow for the natural light to guide their studies. One girl, Selma, eleven boys, three textbooks, one chalkboard. Twelve stories of hope and determination that ride on their education. Without our help to build a Level 7, then Level 8, and so, these twelve students will go nowhere with their education. Caught between two worlds – Chadian and Sudanese, if they take one test it won’t be recognized by the other.IMG_2192

Bouba and I move from one student to the next collecting their names, desires and reflections from a video of Auburndale High School in Florida. Each one asks us to help them. They have asked the camp hosts, they have asked UNICEF, they have begged for more resources and teacher trainings, and a building to complete their primary school. They have received nothing.

My own determination to connect these students with your communities in order to begin rebuilding a stronger Darfur solidifies further with each students’ words. We have the capacity and the power to help make this dream a reality, but we must not forget what we can do in our own daily lives to ensure that they leave this in-between state and return to Darfur. “Today or tomorrow, I would like to return home.” In this situation, our voice is really their voice.

Selma hopes for the women of Darfur to be united. To mobilize and gain power within their community. Are these not the hopes we have for depressed communities in the United States? The communities of Djabal, Kounoungo, Mile, Gaga, Farchana, Oure Cassoni and the other camps are our community.

Educate. Activate. Empower.

Together, we can change the world.

In Solidarity, KTJ

26 replies on “12 students, 3 text books, 1 chalkboard”

Without question!!! :)

I sense that you are feeling very strong today …. your writing is even tighter, more urgent and more inspiring that usual ……. and your “usual” is pretty impressive, my dear!!!

The video is fantastic!

hugs and love from me :)

Greetings Gayle!
Thank you for all your continued words of inspiration and support. It is notes from people like yourself that keep me going out here with long days and short nights.

An extra bit ……… for Gabe.


Where is your post? It’s midnight here and I have a 12+ hour day of work ahead of me so I’m going to dump stuff in Katie-J’s spot and hit the sack.

The video is fab …. even if you scared small children in it. (HA! I KNEW there HAD to be a kid in Chad who didn’t instantly fall in love with you – but one in 4 years isn’t a bad strike rate!!!!)

Every kid in the States, here, the UK, Canada, New Zealand…… etc. needs to look long and hard at this video – not just for the obvious reason but to be reminded (or even awakened for the first time) that the education they access daily is ached for by kids elsewhere.

It was great to see Josh and Jacob arrive …. I’m so glad for them. (bloody paperwork!)

later alligator :)

Hello Gayle:

Yes, I do get behind on my journal and answering comments. We’ve been good with the videos this time, though. Thanks for the company, even when I don’t have stuff posted on time. It’s a crazy schedule out here, and there have been a couple of days when I just crash or did not have time at all to write.

Gabriel Stauring …. I WAS JOKING!!!! (should have put a smiley after it!!!)

I think it is a mammoth effort that you journal every day and respond to any of us … no-one would mind if you didn’t. (it’s not like you are spending you days lying on a deck chair relaxing!!!)

G. xxxxx

Thanks for introducing us to Selma. My prayers are for the women to unite and find their power! They are beautiful and an example of grace for us all. Love you, Ommi

I instantly connected with Selma. While most girls her age are getting married, finding work and abandoning their dreams for future education she is fighting to hang on and continues to support her family! She is one of my heroes.

Good morning!

Seems your mornings are always packed with vital logistical things to do, thoughtful reflections on your previous days, and just how much you can squeeze into another precious day in the camps. Thanks for allowing your energy to motivate us! The people in today’s video continue to call us to act, their smiles consumed me. I hope we can help enable Selma’s dream for higher education, unity and empowerment to come true.

Why so few students in this Level 6 class? Seems past schoolrooms were always so packed. Can you explain some of the major differences in the Chadian and Sundanese curriculum and accreditation requirements? Is integration of the two possible, or waivers approved for a certain time period, considering the dire educational circumstances? Can’t some of the administrative requirements be relaxed to allow for these students to progress in their education? If only all students could have their passion for learning!

“Welcome!” to Josh and Jeremiah who have probably had their fill of permit pushing!



Greetings Lisa!
Thanks for all the questions. Some of which I just don’t have answers to, as I have limited time talking to the best sources possible, the refugees and the agencies in the camps. There are not any real administrative obstacles – the biggest obstacles are resources for supplies, teachers for secondary education and the building. Many students drop out because there is no point in continuing if there is no secondary school. Many girls get married or have to find work to support the rest of the family. Finding teachers for secondary school is also a very big obstacle. It best to find them within the community, but there is a lack of training. We can’t take away primary school teachers, most whom are only teachers because they past primary school themselves but have no formal training. The salaries, if and when we find them, needs to be increased, as of right now its only about $50 a month, a little less than that actually. Above all of this, its hard to find the agency who can provide this level of attention to schooling. Education is the least funded initiative through UNHCR who usually provides basic needs: food, shelter, water, and the communication and protection for other agencies running programs. The minute that the security situation gets at all bad, everyone, but UNHCR pulls out. We saw this in the difference in the number of NGO’s in Kounoungo and Mile compared to Djabal who had several more. It’s a complicated situation out here, but in no way is it insurmountable – and I will continue to work and spread your voice through the rest of my days here!

You can only imagine where education will takes these kids, with that eagerness to learn to enrich themselves so they can better their lives and those of their people. Let’s hope their dreams come true and Darfur will be secured a bright future.

I am right next to you in supporting their future dreams. For me, education is a basic human right, especially in a world where so many decisions are made by those in power, those who are educated by a certain system. Together, we can help these dreams come true.

Education… Can we send paper, books, and pencils with you next time you go? KTJ, you and Darfur have been in my dreams these past few nights, please tell them that their words and faces are reaching us… and thank them for their amazing patience.
Yesterday I called most of my state representatives, today the rest, and by golly, I think I’m going to church on sunday.
Much Love to ya’ll,

Wow Isaac!
I am impressed! Your action is exactly why we do i-ACT! And church even! That reminds me of the great conversation we had with Tiffany, Cory, Mike, and Lola before I left for California in early January! Small gifts for the camps is great – but we will be also figuring out a way for people to donate the money so UNHCR can buy these items in bulk! More to come!!!!

I see Selma as such a leader. I hope we can help her dreams come true to get more education. Can you imagine what her accomplishments could be? She is so brave to even say that the women should unite to gain more power in the community. In her culture, that’s not something you’ll hear a young girl say. How do the young boys in her classroom view her? Wow! it was so inspiring for me to meet Selma today… thanks guys.


Hola Rachel!
I instantly was drawn to Selma when we entered the classroom. Its strange to walk the camps and see almost no men around with all the women working to run their families and their lives then to enter a classroom and see only one girl. Selma’s words captured my heart. When Gabriel and I were discussing what to put up for today’s video I couldn’t help but repeat over and over, Selma, and Selma, and Selma, and so you get to meet her too! I really like what she said about her hopes for the women of Darfur to unite and mobilize. Paz!

What about this idea? These kids seem to have a lot of time on their hands…Is it not possible to study both curriculum’s,Chadian and Sudanese? Here in Monterrey many have bilingual education and learn both english and spanish programs at the same time.I do not see this as a big obstacle.Maybe finding and training teacheres? But still none of this seems impossible.I think all of us involved can come together to help girls like Selma and her classmates.Let’s do it!!!!!!!!!!
Amor y Paz,Connie.

Greetings Connie!

Thanks for you excitement and encouragement about trying to find a solution. There are definitely no obstacles, as Gabriel says, there are only opportunities to be creative. I am not entirely sure anyone knows the real answer to this one – bilingual education is just the beginning – it goes deeper into benchmarks, curriculum, etc that I am just now learning about. RET has come up with some good ideas for those who are already prepared to go on to continuing education. I think it’s a great idea and exploring what has been accomplished in other countries is great place to start! Your encouragement and enthusiasm is just what I needed today!

Yeah Gabe! Where’s your entry??? I imagine you are getting tired and experiencing some technical challenges to not have made a post. So like Gayle I’ll dump my post here.

I’ve been very quiet this trip. Please know I am watching and reading each day but, to be honest, I’ve been feeling quite negative, pessimistic and yes, ANGRY this visit. I didn’t think sharing that here, when you are trying to deliver so much hope, would be helpful so I have kept it to myself. But I can’t shake it. So here it is.

I first met you back in the spring of 2005 when you proposed that 100 day tag hunger strike to raise awareness about Darfur and joined you in the effort on my birthday. Then joined you again when we built that 1st Camp Darfur in LA the following spring. I’ve been with you on all four i-ACT visits to the camps, albeit from the safety and comfort of my living room while you have been there on the front lines but I’ve been with you in spirit none-the-less. FOUR!!! Why, has there had to be four?! How can this have possibly gone on for this long? How can people like you and others have worked so tirelessly and unceasingly for the people of Darfur and this is still going on? Innocent people being brutally murdered, rapped and displaced from their homes for years and years. And the global community has done nothing to make it stop! It just boggles my mind, I can’t understand it or reconcile it. It just doesn’t make sense and it makes me sad and angry. There, I’ve got it off my chest, maybe now I can turn to more positive, hopeful thoughts.

One of the things I’ve appreciated about this trip is the whole community 2 community feel. As you know SOLID adheres to the C2C philosophy, building relationships between communities in the developed and developing world. Making us one global community; we are a global family and we have the responsibility to nurture and support our brothers and sisters where ever they may live on this earth, our home. You are connecting again with people you have met before on other trips and with people and families others have met, seeking them out to bring pictures and messages of hope; building a relationship between Camp Djabal and Tracy McGrady’s high school in Florida; Joshua and Jeremiah’s ambition of connecting humanity by facilitating personal connections with those in need. Connecting communities : )

I love hearing the kids response to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I know, most of the time the answer is a teacher or doctor/nurse but I still love to hear their answer about their ambitions and watch their faces light up with the possibilities. Thanks for sharing the story today about Selma and her desire for higher education. This frustrates me too, when most of our kids here can’t wait to be done with school. Just doing whatever it takes to get by and get school behind them. Taking for granted their free access to education, abusing it and not using it to full advantage when there are so many kids in the world, like Selma and those 11 boys, that would dearly love to have their opportunities, freedom and right to higher education. Diving in to that negative space again so I better stop. Guess I shouldn’t bottle it up for so long LOL!.

My thoughts, heart and prayers are with you, Katie-Jay and the rest of the i-ACT team. Keep up the good fight and know that we are with you, from Australia to Canada and around the globe!

Be well and keep yourselves safe,

XoX Meron

PS: Why is it we always shake poloroid pictures as if it will help them develop faster? :D

Meron – I adore you!

And there is NOTHING negative about feeling as angry as you do about all of this. You turn anger into action on a daily basis, baby …. so please stop apologising for feeling like this.

Hmmmmm – might hand the “response to comments” part back to KTJ & Gabe now!!!

love Gayle :)

If there was no anger to motivate us (I mean you and I) then we would not be the activists that we are. Many times my first reaction to injustice is negative – it’s anger. It’s disbelief that we could allow something like genocide to continue for more than 5 years – when we know it’s going on. The first time I saw “Darfur Now” I was on a panel discussion with Gabriel and Mohamed Yahya. I spoke second, after G. He calmly talked about his connection to Gabo and the kids, the next generation…I on the other hand stood up and the first thing out of my mouth was, “I’m angry.” And people responded to it – good friends who have been alongside of me for more than 3 years of activism, thanked me for standing up there and sharing my true emotions. I think many of us are angry – its just what we do with that anger. We turn it into positive, passionate, productive steps towards changing the future – it’s really all we can do. So, in short, I feel you sister.

Dear Meron:

Thank you so much for your “negative” and personal comment. I completely get and feel what you are saying because I go through exactly the same on so many days. How can Darfur continue to get worse? How can we not be pessimistic, after working on this for years and only see deterioration? It’s not an easy one, Meron. I try to turn my frustration in to energy, as I know you do, cause you are a doer! I also know that your own children might be the force that drives you, as mine drive me. It does make me happy to have friends like you and Gayle that find a way to encourage me to do more.

Greetings from Ackerman Middle School in Canby, Oregon, USA. My students and I are following your progress each day in our classroom. Your post today reminds us how very fortunate we are with our own education. We likewise are reminded of a responsibility to share with others from our abundance.

We are prepared to organize a campaign for school supplies and other needs for the refugee camps in Chad. Please know our hearts are with you.

Thank you for your selfless service for others. You are great role models for our students.


Greetings Tony and Ackerman Middle School!
You are truly part of a great community at Ackerman and I look forward to sharing more with you when I return! I am so proud to say that students from Oregon are standing with the people of Darfur. I will be sure to pass your message of hope and support on to those I meet tomorrow in Farchana! We will be doing an art project with many school-aged children, many of whom will be your ages! I can’t wait to hear more about your campaign for Darfur!

Hello Everyone!
How old is Selma and the other students? Is level 6, 6th grade?
Who is the person carrying the pile of wood on her head? How far does she have to travel to get the wood?

Take care, Andy

The other evening after Judo practice, I asked Andy to write an entry in his home journal, titled, “What Makes Me Happy.” He began with with talking about his Mcfarlane NFL American football figures and his entire family and ended by mentioning Oumar and his dream perhaps being fulfilled by Tracy McGrady and community members. He writes, “One kid in Africa is going to have a better life. But what is sad is that others didn’t.” Today he wore his “darfur memories” T-shirt that was drawn by Mansur.

Hola Andy!
Selma is 15 years old. Her classmates range from 14 – 18 years old. Level 6 would be equivalent to about 6th grade. Here in Chad, your proficiency in your classes determines what level you are at rather than at home, its usually your age. We did not get a chance to speak directly to the woman carrying the wood. However, when we were in Mile, several women mentioned that it takes up to 6 hours to find firewood and return and they usually have to go out 4 times a week. Whether they are alone or with a group they are still at risk for being attacked. Your journal touched me, Andy. I think about the women and children we get a chance to sit down with and then I begin to think of the thousands of others we don’t get to. I hope that all the children of Darfur fulfill their dreams.

Hi Gina and Andy and family:

Thank you for staying connected as a family activity. It’s so great to hear that Andy is aware and personally engaged with the stories such as Mansur’s. A big hug to all.

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