The plane drops about 50 feet in a few seconds, and my stomach goes with it, then steadies. I peer out the window only to see a fine layer of sand, rather than a cloud line as you would in the States. It’s a bright sunny day, but the air is fogged with fine granules, I hope it doesn’t impede our landing. We bounce to the familiar runway secured by white hard top vehicles with large radio antennas attached to the passenger side.
Relief enters my mind and settles into my body. Even though we have not seen Bouba, Youssouf or one of our many UNHCR friends, I know that we are one step closer to holding the hands of those we came here to see. And I am confident that Bouba and Youssouf will make happen what needs to happen to get us to a camp by tomorrow, if not today. After spending some hours with permits and speaking to friends at UNHCR, Youssouf confirms this, “Tomorrow at this time, be in refugee camp!”
Youssouf has a surprise for us, although I am certain that he has no idea how much of a hero he really is: the lost suitcase of panels that were painted on one side by elementary students in Petaluma, CA and on the other by women and children of Camp Farchana! I can hardly believe my eyes when I see the suitcase, in all of the chaos that we experienced on our way out, our stable and trustworthy friends have come through for us once again.
One by one, we pull out the panels, looking first at the US side, then at the pictures that tell the stories of our Darfur friends. On one side Ryan has drawn a soldier holding a gun with a circle and a line through it, indicating “No War.” Moubarakh, with no guidance, on the other side shares his experience when war and genocide ravages a nation. When men are targeted for slaughter and women gang raped. His picture is one of military planes bombing innocent civilians, and janjaweed riding in to burn and loot the homes.
One panel. Two stories. Two cultures. Two children who deserve the same level of security and protection.
Would we allow for a child in our neighborhood to draw such violence? Would we not seek help for them – counseling, art therapy, sports to encourage them to work out anxiety. The answer is simply, yes, we would.
As I repack our bags for tomorrow – which includes a backpack ready for a visit to the camps! – I am distracted. I find myself opening the 75 pound suitcase of panels. Pulling each one out, first looking at those that are complete, then smoothing out the remainders, placing 20 in the backpack for tomorrow with pens that the children will get to keep.
I continue packing, but I am drawn to Ann’s words: relief agencies must be the seeds for sustainable long-term solutions. Community development agencies must be brought in along with immediate needs organizations. Because the emotional recovery and healing of individuals is just as strong and important of a human right than food, shelter, and water. And it is imperative in the rebuilding process, that it begins sooner rather than later. But later is already here for Darfur, so we need to act now, and more fiercely and confidently then ever to bring protection so we can begin rebuilding Darfur.
PS: For those of you who knew Van Gogh, my 17 year old cat who died last week, I met a cat today who meowed like him: loud, strong, and with intent. He even pawed at me when I pet his head.
8 replies on “One Panel. Two Stories.”
oh, katie, those panels are just heartbreaking…thanks so much for showing them to us.
does the delay mean yall only have one more day to try to get to darfur and accomplish what you want to? any chance for an extension?
as usual, thinking of yall.
Thank you Carole! No chance of extensions in Chad – it’s a Chad thing, but we are trying our best to get to our friends to hold their hands, hug them, tell they are loved, and to pass on your messages!
I am humbled and moved that the panels were recovered! I am the principal at the school that drew on the squares. I cannot wait to tell our students of this remarkable journey. Thank you so much for the steadfast, fearless, devoted work you do to change the world. You are in my prayers!!!
Thank you for your message, and thank you so much for getting the children from your school so involved in helping other children that are so far away. It gives me so much hope to know that children and young people in our own country might be more caring and involved by connecting with the stories of very real individuals from Darfur. I look forward to delivering the panels when possible. The journey is not over. We are in such an unstable region, and we are not sure what lies ahead, but we will do our best to complete the panel’s journey.
KTJ, what great friends you have made that they secured the tent panels until your return. I’m sure Youssouf was thrilled to see your expressions as he delivered the panels to you. Is it possible for any of these drawings can be offered as t-shirt designs on your web site?
P.S. I’m sorry for your loss of your feline friend, but glad you felt the comfort of Van Gogh’s spirit in the Chadian cat. Peace.
Thank you Lisa, I think VG is with me. I’ve dreamt of him a few times since we had to say goodbye to him. I just keep telling myself that he lived a grand old life of 17 and even after he had a stroke and was stumbling around, he was still begging for food acting like his normal, self. He was a good kitty.
Hello there, We’ve been in NE visiting family, so I am just now getting to your journals. It sounds like its been one delay after another, but you are there and that is important. I am so sorry to hear about VG. He was such a cute curmudgeon. The panels are beautiful! As I read further, it seems that you may not make it into the camps, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. We are thinking of you, your team and your friends there. Be safe, my friend. Abrazos y besos, Brenda
I hope that NE was good – did your dad and Matt like the t-shirts? I am sure they did! We are in the capital, safe, on our way home early, with no visit to the camps. Very disappointing, but I think the trip was still important. It brought attention to the increasingly serious security situation of the whole region, not just Darfur.
Did you get the package? I hope it arrived and was there waiting when you returned home (on the back porch, I cross my fingers!!!)!
See you soon in NoPo!