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Kids Growing Up: Excitement and Fear

My daughter, Noemi, is starting high school. As you might suspect, for me as a dad, this brings some stress, fears, and not necessarily welcomed excitement.

Noemi, I’m sure it brings a lot of the same emotions, plus many more. She is 14 now! It’s not easy to accept that my little girl is becoming a beautiful young woman.

Mimi, as we call her, has been a big, inextricable part of me becoming an advocate for the people of Sudan. We had long conversations about how and where we could make a true difference, more than the focused impact I was having as a therapist for abused children and their families, way-back-when before I started in the movement. She was only 9, when we decided that we had to do something to help the kids and families that were fleeing their destroyed villages in Darfur.

Now, I talk with her about girls and boys–well, young women and men–living in the refugee camps we visit that are closer to her age. We talk about the challenges they face. Their parents’ fears are, how can I put it, a lot more real and imminent than my fears about Mimi entering high school.

For these kids, a decision about their education can literally be a life-and-death decision.

I think a lot about Ahmat, the young man I met on my very first trip to the camps. He was (and, I truly hope, still is) a bright and charismatic young man. At 16, he had finished all the education offered at his refugee camp, so all he could do was dream about continuing to learn and grow as a person. He actually found another solution, to venture back in to deadly dangerous Darfur and try and make it to one of the larger towns that was still standing, where he might be able to continue with secondary education. It’s been about three years since I last heard anything about Ahmat. He was in Darfur studying. He must now be a man in his twenties, and I’m sure he’s a leader in one way or another.

Many refugee students attempt Ahmat’s same trip in search of learning. Many students die in the process. Our friend Abdulaziz, the headmaster at Obama school, told us that he knew of four young men killed on their journey back in to Darfur.

I cannot imagine having to see Mimi or my son Gabo make that decision, but I could not imagine them having no options or hope either.

I hope to hear about Ahmat again. Now I worry about the other young men and women in the camps. Our more recent friend, Rahma, reminds me so much of Ahmat. He is bright and charismatic, and all he talks about is education. He does not want to feel stuck.

Mimi told me today that she wants to go with me to the camps or hopefully right into Darfur, as soon as it’s safe. How I wish it becomes that safe very, very soon. Kids

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