The people of Djabal are so beautiful and welcoming. Each time we return I feel more and more at home in this community. People remember my name and they ask about Yuen Lin, Ian, and Eric, all of whom spent many days in this camp. They always thank those who have come before and hope for their return. I truly believe that some of their hope for a better tomorrow comes from knowing that people in America, and around the world, care.
I smiled most of the day from the shear joy of seeing our friends again. They are not as shy as when I first met them. Bashir and Bashar came running up to me, looked me straight in the eyes, and smiled widely. Rahma found Gabriel within an hour of us being in the camp, and came dressed in a suit and vest to school. Selma, whom I met on my very first visit to Djabal, is now 17 and is studying secondary school. She used to be the only girl in a class of 20, which has grown to 40 and now has 7 girls including her sister Busayna.
Although reconnecting with our friends is exciting and joyful, the camp seems different. It seems to be shifting to a more permanent state. Where dried sticks once stood as the only fence, long green vines and gourds reinforce the privacy of homes. There are very few sheets of plastic left and even fewer tents. Cement buildings are replacing mud structures. Many Darfuris have gardens outside the camp where they grow food to supplement what they are given by the NGOs.
This shift, although it may provide some stability on an individual basis for the short term, is sad to me. They are still just surviving, and as humans I believe they deserve more. They deserve to thrive as a culture. Their wisdom and traditions are part of all humanities history and they deserve to be part of its future; to be productive members of our community. Darfuris, like all of us, have the right to live fulfilling lives. This is what I hope for our friends here and why I continue to connect them with you.