We have finally arrived out to Eastern Chad. It has been an experience to say the least.. To get out of the capital city of N’Djamena we had to go through the all the red tape. We waited for two days to receive all the proper authorizations and signatures from the proper authorities. Then it was another 24 hours until the flight.
Our flight was towards the East, to Abeche. Abeche is the largest city in Eastern Chad. It is a mixture of modern technologies and ancient traditions. The only pavement that I could see in the city was the runway at the airport. Other than that, it is all bumpy dirt roads. You will see someone with a modern cell phone and a car and right next to them is a lady on a little burro with some chickens or maybe some firewood.
In Abeche we needed to go get another round of permits to be able to leave Abeche and enter the refugee camps. This includes the signature of the chief of police and the mayor. So two signatures and few hundred dollars later we are finally ready to make it to the camps. (It’s odd paying hundreds of dollars in fees and the assistant to get the signatures when the average salary is about $40 per month.)
This morning we flew from Abeche for a 1 hour flight south to Goz Bieda. This is a small town that is the hub to two refugee camps and a few IDP, (Internal Displaced People). You see, not only are there about 240,000 Sudanese that have fled their country and arrived in Chad for hopefully a safe haven, but there are also 180,000 Internally Displaced Chadian citizens. These are citizens of Chad that felt unsafe in their villages, so they have also fled and have sought out safety.
This is the largest humanitarian crisis that we are facing today. Over 400,000 humans that have been forced out of their homes are living in camps here in Chad. That does not count the couple of million that are still in Sudan that have fled their homes. This is a logistical nightmare. The NGO’s in charged have so much to handle.
We have had the honor to meet some amazing people. These people have totally dedicated their lives to the service of others. They work for the UNHCR and other organizations, and they live and work in these areas for years. It is so inspiring to see these people at work and doing all that they can to help out at this crisis.
Today we visited the camp of Djabel. It was my first glimpse in the life of a refugee. As we entered the camp we went first to the primary school. The school seemed to be more or less located in the central area of the camp. There were 4 buildings with about 4 to 5 rooms per building. Each building is made of mud bricks and a straw roof. The floors are dirt and sand, and they have a few portable chalkboards that go from one room to another. There are no textbooks, but the students carry a notebook around with them.
The greatest surprise to me was the amount of kids studying in the 6th grade. This camp is made up of 1st through 6th grade and there are literally thousands of kids in this camp, yet, the 6th grade class had 12 kids. Twelve. The problem is that there are no secondary schools in these camps. 6th grade is the most advanced education these children can get. They say at about 5th grade the students start to realize they are about at the end of their education so they start to lose hope. The majority of them will then end up just dropping the last year.
On one hand you have these students dropping their last year of school. Yet, everyone we talked to wants more education. In fact, we had a couple of teenagers pull us aside and specifically ask for more school. They spoke really good English and they came up to us and ask if they could tell us something. They went on to tell us their dreams of becoming teacher, scientist and doctors. They expressed the desire for more educations, more teachers and more materials.
Education is so important. It breaks the cycle of poverty. It gives young ones a chance, a dream of a future, a future full of possibilities and joy. I hope and pray that we can help bring more education to these amazing people.
We have traveled for the last couple of days and have now arrived in Farchana. We will be here for the next three days. We are excited.