There is much excitement as i-ACT 10 gets ready to depart. This trip feels very special to the team because we are beginning the fulfillment of a long standing need for books in the camps. We are launching The i-ACT Refuge(e)-Reading Project. This project allows us to bring books via Kindles to the children without the logistical difficulties we would ordinarily face. Each team member that has spent time in the camps has felt the longing for education. We have seen it in the faces of hungry children and heard it in the voices of protective parents. This project is very close to all of our hearts and more importantly a feasible way to make children’s dreams of a brighter future come true.
I remember when we went on i-ACT 2 and how effected I was by the children and their love of learning. With runny noses and painful coughs, it wasn’t medicine but books they asked for again and again. It reminded me how books and learning had helped me through my own difficulties in childhood. Being denied access to that avenue of imagination and knowledge seemed unfeasible to me. These children continue to face things far more difficult than most of us will ever know yet education is still their number one priority.
The i-ACT Refuge(e)-Reading Project will be bringing Kindle 3′s this trip which is a low cost, efficient way to bring multiple reading resources in English, French and Arabic to a remote area. It is a way for everyday people to effect direct change in the refugees lives both today and in the future. This is an investment in the next generation; the generation of children that will grow up and share the world with our children. Is there any greater investment?
Our goal is to deliver 10 kindles on i-ACT Expedition #10 but that is just the beginning. We plan to deploy more on our next trip after this initial launch when we have the system solidly in place. We will be working with the refugee’s directly to create a library system to house the eReaders where refugees can access the Kindles. We will also be asking the Librarians to keep track of the most popular books so we can return with more of the same. We invite schools, churches, organization and families to join this project by spreading the word or donating for Kindles.
You can follow the team’s journey as they post videos, blogs, and photos from the refugee camps. We will capture the delivery of the Kindle eReaders and share it here.
On Behalf of the i-Act Team,
“All of these here, born here in the camp,” the camp leader told us, as we look at a group of wide-eyed kids. The others in the group, they were probably either in their mother’s womb or too young to remember Darfur. He also said that they do not have the resources to dedicate curriculum towards Darfur history in their schools, so that it’s up to the parents to pass on their culture, through stories and songs.
Today was our last visit to a camp during this trip, my ninth i-ACT Expedition to Eastern Chad since 2005. I’m excited to go back home to see my children, right in time for the holidays. I miss them and I worry about them, even though I know they are safe and well looked after. Sometimes I wonder if I bring too much of my “eyes of a father” to the camps. Do I have too high of expectations, seeing children from my own western perspective? Do I have the right expectation, or am I measuring the wrong way from the start? Should I wish for the little, beautiful girl with the black scarf around her neck the same things I wish for my son and daughter?
I am realistic enough to know that my little team and I do not have the power to bring immediate positive change to the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and millions of children in this region alone that deserve it. Here I am coming on my ninth trip, and I am seeing so many more children still with little hope to return to a peaceful home. It can become paralyzing. So I try not to think about it, and our team huddles to figure out what we can do–for that little, beautiful girl with the black scarf, and her family, friends, neighbors. We figure, what if our own families, friends, and neighbors are touched and also pitch in; then maybe we can help more!
You know, to hell with status quo expectations and looking at all the limits and what cannot be done. What CAN we do?
As I walk the camps, I always make sure that I look in to the eyes of a child, one specific child out of the dozens following us, so that I do connect with them, with my eyes of a father.
It was nice to see Yuen-Lin (YL) and Eric (E) live on our computers last night. We tested the three way communication using the equipment we’ll be using out in the refugee camps. It was quick and pretty simple. Out here, there’s no high speed internet. There’s no medium speed internet. There’s slow and slower. To be able get on a video conference with someone halfway across the world is, in reality, no simple task. Except that our tech team makes it easy for out here, even if we don’t exactly understand how they do it.
I remember when I first spoke with YL, using basic technology – a phone. He called me from Malaysia, where he was spending some time with his family. I told him how we wanted to come out to Eastern Chad, spend time in the camps with the refugees, and, oh by the way, we wanted to upload video from the middle of the desert, where there is no infrastructure at all. After hearing me, YL said, “Hmm…I see. It is not my area of expertise, but I will find a way to do it. I’m in.”
Back then, technology was not close to what we have right now, and it’s still quite a challenge to do what we do. We’re just lucky to have YL and E and our team.
Oh, I also have to thank VSee Lab, who provides the video conferencing software. It’s amazing that we can stream video through such low bandwidth! Thanks also to Eric Talman at SatellitePhoneStore.com, who has been great to work with for our satellite service. And, since I’m in thanking mode, thanks to the great team at the Darfur Dream Team office in DC! We are involved in a complex program, and they are managing so many parts of it, but it’s nothing but a pleasure to work together with them on this very basic concept, connecting people to people.
It’s definitely all about teamwork!
What Yuen-Lin and Eric bring to the team is hard to describe. As we get ready for i-ACT Expedition #9, they’ve been working late in to the morning, day after day, to send the Expedition team as prepared as possible. They do this in addition to their already more than full-time jobs, and they do this for absolutely no personal gain, besides what they gain internally, which I know is huge.
What they are doing is so ambitious, and they are doing it in an extremely compact time frame. Their technology will allow students that live in a place as remote as any place can be, refugee camps on the Chad-Darfur border, connect with students in American cities, creating mutually enriching relationships–for the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program.
Katie-Jay, James, and I will take this equipment with us, departing from Los Angeles and New York this Saturday, December 4th, and we expect to make it to a refugee camp by December 9th, if everything goes well.
I am lucky and blessed to have such an amazing team around me.
Our i-ACT team is gearing up to return to the Darfur refugee camps on the Chad-Darfur border in December, 2010. We will be uploading same day web casts (video, pictures, and journals), creating personal relationships between advocates around the world and survivors, and implementing i-ACT Exchange and CommKit. Our team will also be establishing the school to school relationships for the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program.
Stay tuned, and follow @iact on Twitter for updates on the trip.