Energized. Positive. I am ready for a new day after a full night’s rest. I checked my watch at 9am, but rolled back over, thinking to myself, today will be the last day to sleep in for a while, enjoy. Once up, I slip into my flip flops, and slowly walk towards Le Meridien for wifi and an omelet sandwich. Scooters and cars buzz by racing each other to get ahead. This morning, I am confident in my French, that is, until my omelet sandwich comes with ham instead of mushrooms. Hmmmm. Better luck next time, perhaps pointing at the menu might help.
Good news comes quickly with a phone call from a good friend in the East. All four of us are on a plane tomorrow morning, and same day, headed to a camp! All with a grain of salt, but better news than yesterday, and better tasting than my sandwich. I begin to read your comments, not only to the team, but the thoughts and prayers you have sent us to share with our friends here. I am more confident than ever, that there was no question about returning, it was just a matter of when. And even though we have faced Chadian obstacles, they are only opportunities to be creative, and I feel like now is the right time to be here.
As the evening begins to cool, we grab a taxi that smells of Chad: gasoline and cigarettes; it reminds me of the Ford Explorer and our luggage from i-ACT4. Before too long, our driver pauses, gets out, opens my door, and uses his hand to push down on the glass, allowing air to cool us in the back seat. We pass women selling African clothes and men standing by makeshift stalls with cigarettes and wine bottles of gasoline. We approach the familiar blue UNHCR gate, the first of many we will see on our journey. Welcomed by hugs and smiles, we meet with a few friends to talk about Chad and connect personally. Listening to Ann Maymann speak about her motivation, and the change that is possible because of actions that you and I take, remind me that what I am doing here is not a job. It is my way of life and my beliefs that have brought me here.
We ask her about development agencies, and their relationship to UNHCR in Chad. Her response describes the hope that one day the work of aid agencies will be the seed for sustainable, long-term solutions. How do we make this possible? How do we ensure that aid does not just keep people alive, but that it prepares them to return home more empowered, and more prepared to protect the life they want to live and rebuild a new one? I am not sure how we do this, but I do know that it takes a community – the global community – to seek and try innovative solutions that will make this a stronger world. We are part of this solution.
As I close my eyes to rest for the last night in N’Djamena, I know tonight I will dream about our friends in the camps. I will dream about passing on your messages, and experiencing their responses. Tonight is a night for images about what is possible if we stand together to make a stronger world for our community.
Together we stand. Forward we move.