I’ve definitely become more openly emotional since I started traveling to the refugee camps three years ago. I tend to feel heart ache and tears swell up in my eyes when something warm and fuzzy, however cheesy it might be, happens. I usually push the emotion away and move on quickly without looking back. But last night I was watching Grown Ups, a movie I probably never would have watched before I started work on Darfur and genocide, and at one corny line, I felt the aching and wet eyes. Instead of retreating from the feeling, I thought about why I have become more sensitive.
I think one of the reasons I get emotional at moments of warm and fuzziness is because I want Darfuri families–who have seen great violence and whose memories of lost loved ones haunt them–to have these carefree moments where only love exists. Where their lives are filled with only happiness and where memories of hatred and burnt homes fade away. That’s what the movies do, right? They create fairy tale moments where only love and happiness lives. And then people who see these movies, they want that to. The life of a refugee who has fled because of violence is the polar opposite. In many ways their youth have lost the innocence of their childhood, and the parents have lost their livelihood, their everything.
Although their families are filled with love, just like ours, their situation calls for more strength and daily fight than many of us use in our entire lives. Darfuri parents love their children just as much as we do, and want many of the same things for their children: to be loved, feed, happy, secure, and to succeed in life. I want our Darfuri friends to succeed in life. This trip was difficult in that I felt to my core that the people living in Djabal, Goz Amer, and other camps, really feel they can trust us to help them. Their hope lies in our efforts to continue to educate, and more important bring change to their lives.
I normally don’t make new year’s resolutions. I figure we are all evolving individuals and communities, and we can and should work on ourselves all the time. But this year Gabriel has challenged our family to make a family resolution, or this case a goal: to raise enough money to fund a sister school in one of the camps. We are also going to research how to provide several secondary school graduates with the opportunity to attend university. Neither of these will be easy, as we will continue all our other efforts and projects, but if we all commit to raising a portion of it, I know we can do it. It feels good to be able to bring concrete change, in addition to hope, to our friends in the camps. I just hope that one day we can be there when they walk back home to Darfur.