The kids get such a kick out of seeing me take a picture of a donkey, and even more if it’s a baby donkey; I’m not sure why! There was this cute little funny guy with the big ears, and I told Rahma, “Donkey.” He laughed but then got serious and said, “Ass, because he is little.” We all laugh a lot looking at and talking about the donkeys. They’re all over the camp! I also taught them that they are called “burros” in Spanish, and they now use that word also.
In the camp, the donkeys mean so much, beside being good for laughing. They serve to carry the heavy bags of grain and other rations given out at the monthly distribution. The camp is big and long, and it would take a lot of energy to carry all of that for some of the people that are not close to a distribution center.The donkeys also serve to carry water from the water station, saving people from the exhaustion of carrying and walking in the heat of the day. Every day you see them loaded with firewood or grass, and this an important job, since it would mean more exposure to dangers outside of the camp for women, if they had to come and go with what they could carry on their heads. The donkeys are also great for plain personal transportation. You can see one, two, or even three people (if they’re small) riding one. Many times you see a mother with a little baby on her back, the baby deep in sleep, as it’s rocked back and forth by the toddler-like steps of the burro.
For some of the families, on their lasts days in Darfur, the burros were what straddled the line between life and death. If you had a donkey and the time to gather it before or during the escape, an older member of your family or someone that was sick might have made it through the long walk to the border. Maybe you could quickly load it with life-saving water and food so that your children could survive. In these cases, the donkey is now joke.
The kids do like to laugh at the donkeys, but the donkeys almost seem to laugh back. They are stubborn. They’ll lie in the middle of the road, and nothing will move them, if they are just in the mood for a lazy afternoon. They also tend to go and stop quite on a whim, making their owners yell at them instruction, or insults, I do not understand.
All in all, the donkeys seem to have a special place in the lives of the refugees. They are kept in the home compound, and they are fed and given water, even in tough times. The people know that these funny looking animals might be needed again, for rough times or just for a good laugh.