We Are Up, Up and Away—Someone Pinch Us Please
by Gabriel Stauring, i-ACT
Somehow, the driver that took us to a ten minute meeting left and did not come back for forty-five. It was now less than two hours before departure for us and a team of refugees, all of them carrying temporary travel documents on their very first international flight. It was now, again, nervous time.
After about eight confusing phone calls, I was told that the driver was on his way to take us back to the UNHCR office, and we would then leave from there with the team. Not good. That could easily mean another forty five minutes. Instead, I suggested they grab the guys and meet us at the airport.
At the airport, it was slow going to get the boarding passes for everyone, but we were moving, and it was feeling not real. This is happening! READ MORE
Sound Off: Sulieman Reflects on the Journey
Sulieman, a natural leader on and off the field, reflects on the true meaning behind Darfur United and the impact of the previous eight weeks of training. The team is more than 16 people playing football (soccer), it is a family that has united camps, tribes, and cultures.
A View From the Hospital
by Alex Nuttall-Smith, DU Medical Trainer
The first Viva World Cup match for Darfur United is tomorrow. I can sense the mounting excitement among the Darfur United players and coaches.
We have settled quickly, after only two days, into a routine of practices, team meals, and medical treatments. The tournament organizers, hotel, and Kurdistan fans (who line up the watch practices) have shown the greatest hospitality toward Darfur United.
My hotel room has been labeled by the players as “the hospital.” After team meals and meetings, the players line up in my room for treatment. READ MORE
Exhausting. Up at 3:30am and out at the camp by 5. The players were all already up and getting ready for the trip to N’Djamena, for sure the farthest any of them have been from home.
Two players, Mohamed and Mohamed, had to leave earlier than the others because we could not all fit into one plane. They were nervous and talked to me, wanting to know why they were not traveling with the team. I explained and assured them everything would be alright. The older Mohamed thanked me and said that they wanted to talk with me because they could trust me. They feared that they were being sent home and would not be with the team on the journey. My only worry was that they would not be flying straight to the capital but would be making a stop in the scary Abeche airport. I’ve been through that airport dozens of times, and I still stress every time because it is crowded and pushy and a bit unhinged. It’s one of a kind.
As soon as they landed in Abeche…. Read more here.
Gabriel and James have arrived in Chad and are making their way to the east, where they will reunited with the Darfur United players who have spent the last 8 weeks eating, sleeping, and training together!
I’m somewhere high over the Atlantic, on my way to Chad via Paris. It’s my thirteenth such trip, the first one being in 2005, which seems a lifetime away. I’ve been staring at a blank document for over an hour, not knowing what to say. It feels like I’ve said it all—too many times.
Sudan is spiraling out of control into what could be the bloodiest African war of the decade. For Darfuris, another year has gone by, and millions remain displaced with little to no hope for a better future anywhere on the horizon. I’ve said something similar to this on each of my previous twelve trips.
This trip is different.
N’DJAMENA (NDJ) AIRPORT
I have four big duffle bags, filled right up to the weight limit, something we’ve become experts at doing. They have all the travel gear for our players, plus my food, clothes, and tech gear. Everything arrived at the NDJ airport, and I’m feeling well. The feeling did not last long, as we try to make it out of the customs area…
Although I’m not going on this trip, I know it’s going to be one of the most exciting. I think we probably say that every trip. However, this time, and with Darfur United, we are bringing the opportunity for the refugees to be “part of the world,” as one refugee said during the i-ACT11 Expedition upon hearing about the team. When you watch the footage from last trip, you can see the hope and pride that the refugees when they talked about having a soccer team of their own.
Mark and Brian are the coaches for Darfur United and will help with team selection and training in the coming days. They have a big job ahead of them that includes narrowing down 20 players from almost 70. I’m eager to read and see their experience as not only coaches, but as ordinary people who will have a huge impact on so many.
Gabriel will also be delivering the second R2E Mobile Human Rights Library to Camp Goz Amer and bringing supplemental materials for the library in Camp Djabal. Over the last several months Rahma and Adam have been taking the library to the six schools in Camp Djabal and sending updates! This trip, Gabriel will find a librarian for Goz Amer and hand over kindles, talking dictionaries, handmade materials by students from the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force, English materials, and more.
The Expedition Team has reached N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, and they will head out to the East early tomorrow morning. You can read the first blogs from Gabriel, James, Mark and Brian here!
My return trip to Chad has been a bit surreal. The last time I was here, I was evacuated from my N’Djamena hotel by French military in an armored HV after two days of rebel attacks on the city – and one very intense moment as the rebels plastered our hotel with their machine guns. My teammates and I eventually made it out of the country via a French military plane to Gabon, a country to the southwest of Chad. Yet despite being in great physical danger, I don’t see this as the most dangerous moment of my life. Some may say I flirt with danger, but I say otherwise.
What do I see as being truly dangerous? Losing passion in life, being complacent or not believing in yourself and forgetting who you truly are. Possibly numbing oneself with food, drugs, television, or entertainment to make it through the day instead of living life. It is playing with fire when you stop following your dreams and you forget what is most precious to you. It is dangerous to accept life as it is; to play small and ignore that inner voice that is pushing you to your life’s calling.
So while visiting Chad and the refugee camps brings a bit of an inherent risk, I feel I am more likely to lose myself, my wife, or my family by tuning out rather than by following my passion and living my dream life.
However, following your dreams does come with some discomfort. My bag (the majority of my food and clothes) did not make it here to eastern Chad. Our plane was too small to accommodate all our luggage, which was mostly comprised of basic necessities for the team and tech equipment for the refugee camps. In a mad scramble at boarding time, we had to quickly decide which bags would stay and which would go. So with only two days of clean clothes, I either need to figure out how not to sweat in 100 degree desert heat for 8 hours straight – or my bag needs to get here soon.
Thank you all for all your support and joining us on this journey. We spend tomorrow in the camp and I am looking forward to it.
i-ACT footage from the 2006 battle of N’Djamena: