Her eyes are deeper than I imagined from the pictures and the video. Her pain more apparent with every word she speaks. She becomes solemn as she describes the day she left. The day her husband and 60 others from her village were killed. She walked 20 days with her 7 children with no food, no water, nothing. Attacks from above and bullets from the surrounding area chased her across the border. They walked at night, stopping only to make a small fire to warm up from the harsh chill before moving on at day break. We talk with her for more than hour, she barely cracks a smile. Her memories lie secured behind her eyes, the emotion surfacing as she repeats, “I am suffering, I am suffering.”
Fatna is one of the most courageous women I have ever met in my entire life. Her youngest son, only two months at the time of the attack in Darfur, has only known life in a refugee camp, and one without a father. Five years and five days is how long Fatna has struggled to survive in Camp Farchana. Her tent, equally as old as her stay, stands limply in near the kitchen area. I can see where the water leaks through and I ask her if she can show me inside.
Two small beds made of sticks one with a small patch of the tent as the primary cushion, the other with one blanket. Eight people sleep inside this tent. Her hands guide me around the tent showing the water damage and where a few of her children sleep on the sand when it’s not raining.
There are no programs for women and neighbors are just that, neighbors, Fatna explains. She doesn’t feel the community, she is alone with her kids.
Early in the morning we met several men working together to build a friend’s house. The proud new house owner, who previously was sleeping seven to his tent, smiled as we chatted with the men. They have meetings and who ever needs a home, they all work together to build it. Barn raising! A great way to support community. But these meetings are between men. And Fatna’s husband is dead.
We do not receive the same support as we did when we arrived here, Fatna begins to go into more detail of her life. They lack food, they haven’t been given soap in three months and they don’t have any clothes. Mansur and Darsalam are examples of this, they returned to Darfur in search of necessities they could not get here and to visit family. The people of Farchana are suffering.
We return to Fatna’s after a short break and a run to see the local authorities. This time we distribute the small canvass tiles for children to draw on as part of Tents of Hope. Fatna’s eyes light up as we give her a painted canvass to contribute to. I remember now that only when she introduced her kids earlier this morning did she smile. She has a beautifully strong smile. One that commands respect but also shows a little of her vulnerability, her experience over the last 5 years.
She begged, “Please if you can do the last thing that is needed to bring peace to Darfur. I want to return home.”
From Farchana, KTJ