58 Days of i-ACT completed, and yet the work is just beginning.
G’s Journal—day 12 (and 11 and 10)
I’m again writing from up in the air, flying over the Chadian desert on our way back to N’Djamena. Day 12 is the last day of our fourth i-ACT, but it is not the end of our “interactive-activism.” We have to see it with the energy of beginners. These last few days, KTJ and I have been talking a lot about how to do more and be more effective at what we do, about how we can share the urgency that we feel out in the camps. The end of our current “mission,” as our days out here are called by all workers, is the beginning or continuing of our mission to help the displaced people of Darfur return to a stronger, peaceful, and full life in their homeland.
On the personal side, I do not feel as if I completed my mission for this trip. Overall, the journey has been amazing and very productive. We have connected and reconnected with so many wonderful people that are now a part of a larger community that reaches across continents. Our small i-ACT team, both on the ground and back home, has accomplished so much. It is small in scale but huge, rich, and deep in so many human values. We are now all determined to make a true difference in changing the way the world responds to genocide. Driving yesterday from Gaga to Abeche, though, I felt an empty feeling in me.
This might seem childish, and I know this trip is not about me, but I really wanted to see Leila and her family. Leila’s face has been in my mind since the end of my last trip out here. She has helped me to stay focused when going out to dozens of communities around the US to talk about Darfur. They did not allow us to go in to Gaga this time. The gendarmes told us angrily that we needed yet another stamp and signature from an official in a tiny little village a few kilometers away. We did not find this official, since he was out looking for some stolen cows. There was just no way to get in, so we drove away.
When we got closer to Abeche, we saw heavy military presence guarding the way in to town. They were definitely getting ready for serious activity. At UNHCR, they told us that the rebels were just a few kilometers away, and it was suspected that they were preparing to attack. All missions to the camps were being cancelled, so we were lucky to be back in Abeche and with a flight the next day. If we had stayed in Gaga, we could have been stuck in the middle of trouble. I’m not a big believer in that random “things happen for a reason,” but sometimes being lucky is not bad.
We did get very lucky in getting most of our mission completed, with Gaga being the only camp we could not get in to. That means that I did not get to see little Leila. My Gabo had spent weeks drawing and coloring pictures to send as a gift to Leila and her friends. He also gave me his favorite little car and a dinosaur to give to her. I’m going to hold on to those, so I can bring them with me on the next i-ACT, this coming spring.
I have Leila’s picture on my phone, and that will stay there until I see her again. I would love it if I could not only be bringing gifts for Leila in the spring but also good news. Wouldn’t it be nice if Leila’s friends from around the world had stood up together allowed her to return home?
I will get to Gaga next time, and I’m going to work a little harder in between on finding more friends for Leila.