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.
i-ACT is partnering with the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force during i-ACT 11. The Student Task Force (STF), launched in 1999, works with 13 LA area schools and is all about students advocating for children’s rights.
Responding to requests for education and human rights materials, i-ACT delivered the first set of materials, dubbed the Human Rights Mobile Library, to Camp Djabal for their library.
Most of our first full day in the capital was spent at the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) doing the paperwork necessary to travel through eastern Chad. After our driver picked us up at the hotel I got my first chance to see rush hour life in N’djamena. The streets were busier than I expected. Cars filled the roads and swarms of motorcycles filled any spaces between them, sometimes the bikes carried two or even three men apiece.
The first automatic rifle I saw came as a shock, not because it was being carried on a busy city street (post 9/11 New York is filled with such sights) but because of the casual style in which they were handled. Uniformed and plain-clothed men alike sling them around their necks like electric guitars or hold them across their shoulders and hang their hands off both ends.
We spent most our time at the UNHCR compound trading our passports back and fourth and discussing the educational situation in the camps we’ll be visiting. While there has been some progress in reducing class size and turning plastic sheeting classrooms into concrete and brick ones, there’s still a long way to go. Secondary school is particularly lacking and it’s one of the main reasons for our trip. The Sister School Program is helping build up the camp’s educational capacity one of the first steps in the project will be connecting classrooms in the camps with American schools using our CommKits. We’ll be showing the potential of this technology in coming expedition reports.
This coming December, our i-ACT team will be returning to the Darfuri refugee camps on the Chad-Darfur border. Help us expand and enrich the mission by creating a space for direct reporting by refugees. We are bringing several digital and flip video cameras to give out to teams of refugee reporters (mostly youth). Through their eyes, we will learn about their lives. We will collect the information on the cameras, and upload it through satellite for you and the world to view and respond to, on a same-day basis.
If you have questions or want to see more about something documented by one of the Darfuri journalist, we will follow-up. At the end of the trip, we will leave the cameras, so they can continue reporting and sending us media. This is the first step in making iOnGround a reality, and we need your help!Read more…