This is the third day we visited refugee camp Djabal. We are doing work for the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program, which will connect students in the US with students in the refugee camps in Eastern Chad, starting with camp Djabal. It is fun collecting the profiles of Darfuri children and spending time with them at school and at their homes. They are so much like the children I’ve worked with in the US. They’re very much like my own kids.
There is one huge exception, though. All of the children we’ve been talking to have to grapple with some facts and memories that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They’ve all seen their villages destroyed; they say nothing is left standing, where it was once their homes. They’ve all seen families and friends killed, leaving voids that we visitors just cannot see. They’ve had to walk weeks across the desert, with some not making it. They’ve had to settle in to a life of receiving and survival, when they really want to produce and thrive.
At times I feel powerless and ineffective. What can I do that goes beyond the symbolic and seemingly trivial? I really wish I knew what it took to bring about change for these children, even if it seemed almost impossible to reach. That way, we could go all out and exhaust ourselves, but going in the right direction. For now, I truly believe that our leaders and experts could bring about change, but the political will is missing. It is not easy to pin down how we can create that will.
For today—Sunday’s—action, we are reverting to what feels symbolic and trivial, compared to what is happening to the people of Darfur. The team here will be fasting, in solidarity with the children in this camp and the more than one million people that will go without food soon inside of Darfur. We will also make a small donation ($25 each) towards nutrition, through USA for UNHCR.We are requesting that you join us in the fast and also send in the donation towards nutrition. Besides this, in order to work on the political will that is missing, we would like you to call your Senators’ office and tell them about your fast, and that you expect them to be your LOUD voice in Washington. Action is needed now.Thank you for standing with these children.Peace,Gabriel, for the i-ACT team.
4 replies on “With the children”
Your work in the camp today must have been extra hard as you learned of the death of little Marymouda, and could visually see the differences in the physical appearance of Adef and Achta’s other beautiful children, as well as in so many throughout Djabal. We all want them to do more than survive – we want them to thrive.
Your work with the Sister Schools Program will help to give the Darfuris hope as well as a more global academic foundation, and that is important in building their focus on their future. It is amazing how they continue to try to help themselves despite the lack of resources and their need to rely on humanitarian aid for daily survival instead of their past self-sufficiency.
We’ll be thinking of you as we fast in solidarity with you & Yuen-Lin (& KTJ in spirit). None of your efforts can be considered “trivial” when they come from such a big heart. As our Darfuri friend, Kaltoum, remarked when thanking all the anti-genocide people for their help, “You are VERY good.”
It was a rough day. We always use the word resilience over and over on these trips, and it’s because the people that we meet, like Adef, define resilience. Education is definitely a part of the solution for the people in the camps. It’s what they believe is needed for their children to have a future.
Thanks for always being there, Lisa.
gabe, following comment is on starvation. hope it is not too long. there was so much to say, i had to really cut and cut.
Hunger, Malnutrition and Starvation
Hunger is ‘not enough food’ to satisfy body needs. It results in ravenous hunger, eating nearly anything available and lots of it. Eventually, the body adjusts but the appetite doesn’t.
Malnutrition results from lack of balanced food intake, which must include protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals; all of these are necessary to properly utilize food. When food is not readily available, the body is thrown off balance, which results in weight loss from the digestion of body fat first, then muscle, then vital organs to keep the body alive. Internally, there are adjustments made: vital organs survive upon foodstuffs which ordinarily could not be used.
The weight loss becomes extreme as malnutrition becomes starvation. The skin hangs on the body, the facial contours change with temple wasting as a giveaway sign. Hair begins to lose pigment, thin, and then fall out. The person becomes so weak that appetite is radically diminished: the effort to eat and the energy needed to digest exceed bodily strength. Lethargy, apathy and onset of opportunistic diseases (bacterial, parasitic) besiege the helpless system.
In closed circumstances, such as prison camps or punishment, death from starvation follows. In open circumstances, such as starving populations, disease usually kills first.
Worth mentioning here is Kwashiorkor, a disease of children caused by protein deficiency in malnutrition. Malnourished children eat whatever vegetables or roots they can find; protein is not available. Signs of this are orange hair, swollen bellies from liver disease, vomiting, diarrhea (which contains undigested food), ulcerated peeling skin and sloughing of tissue/development of ulcers throughout the digestive tract. Extreme pain is present. The ulcers are entry points for bacteria and death usually occurs from overwhelming infection.
For further study: