12 hour flight to Paris, France, 4 hour layover, 6 hour flight to N’djamena, Chad. [sidenote: am I the only one that thoroughly enjoys the overly salted preheated and packaged airplane food?] We were pretty much the last few out of the airport late at night – getting all our luggage, getting it all inspected, and some confusion with the agent checking my passport since we didn’t speak French and she didn’t speak English. We were greeted by a UNHCR employee, Siv, from Norway and a driver who shuttled us to the hotel. Our first hotel of choice was completely full (I guess reservations don’t mean too much) but we drove down the street to another hotel and settled in just fine. After a pretty decent night of sleep we had breakfast at the hotel; no greens/fruits/veggies for safety reasons – but that’s okay, I’ll take chocolate croissants smothered with Nutella any day!
We spent the morning at the UNHCR office in N’djamena in a meeting with Siv, another UNHCR employee from France, and a JRS representative. In the camps, different sectors of service are handled by different NGOs and government agencies. JRS, Jesuit Refugee Services, currently manages primary education in most of the camps, including Goz Amer. With input from UNHCR and the refugee community, after this trip we will make the decision on location and design of the Little Ripples facility in Goz Amer, and JRS will be in charge of the construction. Total construction for one of the secondary schools at one of the other camps took three months and we are hoping for a similar timeline for Little Ripples.
Because the Little Ripples program also hopes to improve health outcomes by providing one meal each day and also having a basic-level health assistant/nurse to tend to minor medical issues in the program, we will need to connect with the agencies handling the food and health sectors in the camps. It seems that it will be a challenge to figure out how to provide breakfast at Little Ripples; the World Food Program (WFP) distributes daily rations per family at the camps each day. Theoretically, if students are provided a meal in the classroom, the WFP would somehow need to figure out how to deduct this from the family ration. Hopefully Siv can put us in contact with someone she knows at WFP working in the education department and we can figure out some sort of alternative solution. Providing a breakfast at the beginning of each school day will immeasurably help in students‘ learning and development.
My first impressions and thoughts in Chad: weather is relatively warm but not too different than some days of a Los Angeles “winter”; must remember to brush my teeth with bottled water (again, water safety reasons); will be asking my French roommate for some quick and dirty French lessons when I return to LA; despite language, cultural, ethnic, and religious differences, the exchange of a universally genuine smile is always heartwarming. I also think I may have grossly underpacked for this trip – so be prepared to see a repeat of t-shirts in various videos/pics that may be posted :p
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