We arrived at camp Djabal at about 2:30pm, which is pretty late to be starting work at a refugee camp. Djabal is a very convenient camp, though, because it is only about a 10 minute drive away from town. The camp looked empty, since people get away from the heat and out of sight during those impossible middle hours of the day. Once we got down from the car at the edge of the camp, children still ventured out to meet us, and pretty soon we had a large crowd of boys and girls ready to be entertained by the weird visitors with all kinds of gadgets.
It’s hard for me to explain the feeling I get at visiting camp Djabal. It feels very familiar, and the friends we’ve made come running to us and give us hugs and smiles and say our names many times in a clear gesture of connection and community. It is my third visit to Djabal. I will be back more times, and we will stay connected, even when not here. Our friends in Djabal know that.
It feels like home, I would say, but it is not really even their home. We are in an interesting position, coming in as i-ACT, an independent group of more or less citizen reporters. We want to help the voice and the face of the refugees get out there. They have a voice. They know what they want to say! Only they feel that nobody has been listening for years.
When we, the i-ACT team, talk about conditions in the camp, it is in no way meant as a negative criticism of people doing the heroic–and I mean this, heroic–work of providing services in these impossible conditions. Are refugees always 100 percent accurate in their sharing of information? No. Nobody is. We do spend extended time with the people in the camps we visit. We do not parachute in and then run out with the stories, developing them later at a safe distance. We are there with them, sitting by their tent, seeing what they talk about, and coming back the next day. We do not get close to walking in their shoes. We try to get close to walking next to them.
It is a complex situation. What we all agree on, I am sure, is that no population deserves to be brutally displaced from their homes, to have family and friends killed, to see sisters and mothers raped, and to have no say in what and where home is.
Besides all the mixed feelings that come with coming in to this complex situation, I feel privileged at being able to act. Our little team, and you probably really have no idea how little we are and what my team mates go through to be a part of it, gets to put a face on the numbers. We need you. We need the people out there that will be open to listening and then will be ready to act. Let’s simplify. It is fellow human beings that are in need.