Dear friends and family,
I apologize for the short report today — we have an early start tomorrow morning to catch the kids as they go to school, so I should get some sleep to be as present as possible :)
Today, we found four kids who we will be profiling over the next few days. We recorded them introducing themselves. They also showed us around their homes and let us meet their families. Tomorrow, we will visit them at school. We are trying to capture in pictures, video and words all these aspects of their lives, so that students in the US can come close to meeting them in person. We hope to also do the same in the other direction. This is all on the belief that through these, friendships can blossom. And through those, many good things will transpire for both sides. When you have a good friend in Chad who deeply wants to further his or her education but has no access to a secondary (high) school, there will be an urge to help. Likewise, as your good friend in the US learns more about the challenges you face and the way you respond to them, that is bound to bring a very positive perspective on life.
The same as in 2007, I was very moved by the way the kids (and adults too, but there are just so many kids!) treated us. They would crowd around as we did our interviews, ask our names as we walked from place to place, wave good-bye as we left for the day. I’m a nobody, but entering the car today, so many kids wanted to shake my hand that for a moment I felt like a VIP :) I feel a strong sense of community here; it seems that the notions of stranger vs. friend are a little less carved out that in some other societies I’ve been in. I remember chatting with a friend living in San Jose not long back, who remarked that he sometimes felt very lonely despite living close to many people. I think there is a lot that we in the West and West-influenced world can learn from other societies.
One thing I felt today was that the situation of the refugees here brings out two polar opposites. On one hand, you have a living tribute to some of the best things about humanity — that despite the large hurdles of survival here that seem present at every corner, the refugees have managed to continue living and smiling. In no small part thanks to the heroic efforts of the humanitarian workers. On the other hand, there is no mistaking the fact that while they will almost always find a way to live and smile, the refugees continue to experience a reality that should make the rest of us immediately feel outraged and ashamed. That they are almost entirely dependent on food aid, despite being some of the world’s toughest and most skilled farmers. That from leading very dignified lives in Darfur, their kids now go around in tattered clothes, and on bare feet. To those looking for the motivation to continue advocating, continue raising awareness, continue expressing outrage to the highest levels of power — look no further but to know the day-to-day life of the refugees, and then ask yourself the question: if these were my children, my father, my mother, my friend, what would I do?
Thank you all who have followed our journey so far. We will continue working hard to bring you, in ways beyond this website as well, the faces and voices of the people on the ground.