i-ACT first met Djabal’s librarian in January 2008. Gabriel was filming in a classroom and he asked if there were any students who wanted to sing a song. Rahma’s hand shot up in the air. He first sang his version of B-I-N-G-O, and his second number had a little dance. In this video Rahma shares his story, and you can even watch him sing and dance:
Year after year we have returned to Camp Djabal and watched Rahma grow. He has graduated from Primary School (through Level 8 in his refugee camp), and takes what classes are available for Secondary school. He still wants to be President of Sudan, but is also interested in being a Journalist. Upon learning that he was selected to be the Right to Education Mobile Human Rights Librarian, he shared his thoughts and gratitude:
Rahma took great pride in being the R2E Librarian. We were all saddened to hear that this hut had burned, and all his possessions and the library destroyed. We received this video in December 2012.
The refugee community came together to help rebuild Rahma’s hut, and several individuals and communities in the U.S. have given to help him replace his personal belongings. Most recently, on January 29, Human Rights Watch Student Task Force chapter at Wildwood School in Los Angeles launched a Change for Change drive to raise enough funds to replace the entire Djabal R2E Library. i-ACT and all the refugees in Camp Djabal are very grateful for their efforts and we look forward to learning who the winning class will be!
Some children see bears ready to attack everywhere during their “normal” daily life. The “fight or flight” response is activated, at times when it’s not necessarily needed, getting in the way of a happy childhood! This leads to health, cognitive, and emotional issues that impact life in a negative way for the rest of that child’s life. This whole-body response system evolved to have us ready to face the dangers—like bears and lions—that were imminent, when early humans lived in the woods or plains.
I’ve been immersed in research related to early childhood development and the effects of trauma, as we move forward with our plans for our Little Ripples and Darfur United Soccer Academy projects. The kids these programs are meant to serve have been born to a society that has experienced extreme trauma. Experts agree that this trauma is passed on to the next generation, even if the little ones did not experience it first hand.
Our little refugee friends are starting their lives being haunted by their parents’ bears (or Janjaweed) and then must also deal with their own, as they are born into harsh and crowded refugee camps where it’s difficult to even dream about a safe place to play, much less find one. Their “fight or flight” response is activated over and over again, and their whole emotional system is thrown off, affecting their ability to learn and thrive.
I live in Southern California, a place where Spring is eternal, where water flows freely even during droughts, and where bagels compete for our attentions with Jamba Juices, frozen yogurts, and iced mocha Frappuccinos. While there are many children in need here, it is also common to see kids with an iPhone in their hand and an iPad in their backpack, as they run home to play on their Xboxes. The more I dive in to the challenges our team faces to bring eduction and play to Darfuri refugee children, the more I feel privileged, personally and for my children.
I would be doing this work, even if there was no other argument than the one of compassion. But, there are other important arguments to be made. It sounds cliche, but it is true: we live in a small, shrinking, interconnected world. We cannot raise the moat bridge and think we can live in isolation, unaffected by what is happening “out there.” We can either decide to care now and be proactive in a positive, and yes—compassionate way, or we will most certainly have to deal with bigger issues later. Do we want to export hope in the form of books and balls — education and play? Or, do we want to export guns and war? By the way, the first option is immensely less expensive.
Research also shows that interventions and having safe places and caring adults in the their lives will effectively counteract trauma in children. Play is also a proven healing therapy. Toy blocks and a soccer ball can change the lives of children—and the world around them.
I believe in pushing our government and institutions to do the right thing. They won’t do it, just because it’s the right thing to do. We have to make it the right choice, politically, for them. But, we can’t wait until we turn that big ship around. It has been so wonderful to connect with amazing, compassionate, and giving people that want to be a part of putting some of those bears away, even if it’s for children that are half-way around the world and that they will probably never meet. Together, we’re not waiting.
If you are interested in volunteering for any of our projects, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Gabriel and the team visit Guisma’s family in camp Djabal. She has grown a lot since Gabriel first met her but is still much too small for a girl of her age due to the meager rations provided to the refugees. thankfully, her knowing smile is as wide as ever.
You can learn more about Guisma and her family’s story at thisisdarfur.com
June 20, 2011 is right around the corner. For many of us, we will get up and go to work like any other Monday. For the more the 43 million refugees and displaced people, it will be a day they are honored. And a day where groups and organizations around the world stand up in solidarity to raise awareness and empower others to get involved.
There are a few things you can do:
1. Test your Darfur knowledge:
2. Visit World Refugee Day 2011 to find an event near you or put your event on the map.
3. Take the Darfur Dream Team
Summer Service Challenge
, June 20 – July 31, 2011.