There is a big moon over Eastern Chad tonight. It’s beautiful, but it also gives so much light that you can’t see too many stars. They often fill the entire sky, with the Milky Way’s heavy brushstroke from one horizon to another. Back home in Los Angeles, that sky does not exist.
We are back in the little town of Goz Beida, and we only have one more visit to camp Djabal, and then we start our journey home. Yesterday was a travel day, with the usual “hurry up and wait” routine that is the norm here. It was a quick little jump from Kou Kou’s dirt runway to Goz Beida’s dirt runway. The South African co-pilot of the flight looked tired but still with a sense of humor. He could not think of where we were flying to until someone whispered “Goz Beida,” but he then said, “Don’t be surprised if we end up in Cape Town.” To finish his pre-flight instructions he said, “Let’s go home.”
We got to town at three, but we were still able to get a car and head to Djabal for a short visit. We arrived to watch a foot race between a number of women and girls at the soccer field. They run in their normal dresses and scarves, but they can still fly. The finish line was a wall of people into which the runners would pretty much slam.
I said goodbye to everyone in Goz Amer yesterday, and next it’s goodbye’s to Djabal. This time, though, I’ll be coming back a lot sooner and more often, and my refugee friends know that I will. In the camps, everything moves at a different pace. They have a different sense of time, but I notice more and more an urgency of wanting to break lose and be able to dream of moving in a space and time outside of the refugee camps and leave that label, refugee, behind.
Let’s go home.
Gabriel walks the refugee camp with a camp leader. They scout sites for the Little Ripples centers and meet some future LR students along the way.
We left Los Angeles on Monday. It feels so long ago, and the distance even longer. It is now Friday night, and I am back in eastern Chad in a little village called Goz Beida. I have lost count of how many times I’ve been here. It’s as remote as it can get, and the only reason anyone comes out here is to visit refugees. I do sometimes have those moments of, “How did I get here?”
Meeting up with Rahma is always special. I know that I will be somehow connected to him for the rest of my life. Anyone that has met him, even just through video, can see how special he is. He is far from perfect, like anyone of us, but he is full of curiosity and charisma that tends to make even his flaws look good. He wants to grow and explore, and he will not settle.
Rahma tells me that some refugees have been going to some place, I’m not sure where, that is believe to have gold. I ask him, “Is there gold?” He shakes his head in his very Rahma-confident way, “No. Very little.” Rahma is wiser than many older and more educated men around him. But he’s also young and playful, with the greatest sense of humor.
When I’m walking around with Rahma and friends, then I know how I got here. It makes sense. I have to be here. I feel the same with Guisma, Adam, Umda, Yakoub, Buseina, and so many more. I do miss my family, and it hurts to be away for weeks. I wish there was a way to be over here but never leave home.
In 2004, when our founder Gabriel Stauring learned of the mass atrocities in Darfur, he boarded a plane and went to the Sudan-Chad border to carry the word back to the world. He did not wait for money, red tape to clear, or the perfect plan.
Soon other ordinary people joined his efforts, and a dedicated team of volunteers learned first hand the best way to respond to humanitarian emergencies as global citizens. The foundation of our work is based on a willingness to act rather than to wait. When you invest in our team, you are taking a step toward creating a world that no longer waits in the face of mass-scale human suffering.
Our efforts have always been focused on the people of Darfur and raising awareness rather than fundraising. As our outreach, direct impact, and successful project list continues grow, the time has come for us to stay true to our grassroots history while becoming more sustainable. Our intention is to be directly accountable to other every day people who are unwilling to wait and to continue keeping our focus directly on the people we serve.
As a team of every day people, we are proud that our Board of Directors reflects that commitment to simply “doing the work.”
That’s why I’ve decided to become a monthly Sustainer of Action.
I hope you do too.
Rahma gives an overview of what the refugees use the most in the R2E Human Rights Mobile Library and Gabriel delivers the second library to Umda Tarbosh of Camp Goz Amer.
The i-ACT team has posted many blogs, photos and videos to darfurunited.com!
It has already been an emotional journey for all involved because this team will represent so much more than a game. Our podcast, Hit the Ground Running, includes i-ACT’s arrival in Goz Beida, travel to Djabal and a visit to the local restaurant to see what players will be eating. Our team meets many of the hopefuls upon arrival and to look in their eyes there can be no denying what a spot on the Darfur United Team would mean to them.
Hundreds gather around the goalie tryouts and it is clear what Darfur United will mean to every Darfuri man, woman and child. The players rise at dawn to avoid the midday heat as they vie for coveted spots on the team that will carry the word to the world at The Viva Cup.
We share the simple yet all too important joy this game and this team will bring to our friends as we see the women watch the team as they collect water for their families early each morning. They too rise at the crack of dawn to assure a first spot in line at the water point before their long walk back.
The team hopefuls speak for themselves in our Sound Off’s as we get to know the young men trying out and our first is Sulieman Adam Borma who shares his feelings with the watching world. Coaches Brian and Mark share the anticipation of announcing the 15 team members and 5 alternates who have made the team. There is tremendous joy in sharing the news with those lucky 20, but also a profound sadness about ending the Darfur United dreams of 41 other players who learn their fate one by one. Coach Brian’s blog captures the emotional roller coaster of reactions our Darfur United hopefuls experience as they take in the news.
For many the team journey has ended, yet they will never be the same. They know something now: they are not forgotten and Darfur is indeed United. For the 20 who have been chosen to represent the pain and triumph of so many years and lost lives – the journey has just begun. Please help them carry the word…….
On Behalf of the i-ACT Team, Stacey