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Day One in Refugee Camp Goz Amer: the Joy and the Incomprehensible

Today was a mix of emotions, and it was a day that gave me inspiration for our work from very different sources.

First, due to the Little Ripples teachers, the word of the morning for me was “heartening”. The day started off so positively at Little Ripples. We arrived at the school around 8am and were able to watch the teachers teach a class of Little Ripples children. I was so happy to see how the teachers were interacting with the children. They would split up in small groups, one teacher per group, sitting all together on the ground, talking about animals, colors, and having the children use building blocks. The children were engaged and smiling. Later the teachers brought the children outside to play some games, such as duck duck goose and red light green light. It was so great to see teachers playing side by side with the little ones and really seeming to have fun with the game and the children. What a difference from rote style of teaching!

After the morning school session was over, we had a chance to sit with the teachers and get their feedback about how Little Ripples was going so far. Gabriel and I then had the pleasure of pretending to be Little Ripples children. We had the teachers demonstrate what they do each day for the Little Ripples morning routine. This was too fun. The women really got into it!  Some were pretending to be children with me and Gabriel, while three were chosen to be the teachers. They made us enter the school grounds in a single file line, then use the latrines, wash our hands, pick up our morning snack, enter the classroom and sit down and sing songs. Boy did they love treating Gabriel and I as the students. I’m pretty sure at one point they joked that I had to go write on the chalk board for my bad behavior. They had a good collective laugh about that one.

Following the joy of the morning, the afternoon’s source of inspiration was one of sadness and incomprehension. We had the opportunity to speak with a “new arrival”. A man who had only been in the camps for a few months and who had recently experienced violence in Darfur and felt he was left no choice but to bring his family to the camps. I won’t go into too much detail, but hearing and watching him speak so emotionally of his experience, of his lost family members, home, and village was not easy. Everybody present at the interview was teary eyed, all of who were mostly men. At first the information was hard to comprehend. I listen and I listen, and in the moment its difficult to digest. This sort of violence and loss being so foreign to me.

But now, hours later, sitting alone in my room at the UN compound, thinking back to the story, to the man and his family, I feel at a loss. I can’t understand why or how such violence continues, in silence, as these human beings are suffering and coping with severe trauma and loss. I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around it. I can’t help but to keep thinking, when? When will we, the international community, really start caring? And what – what can I do to make my peers in the U.S. care, and more importantly, want to take action for these people? How much more violence must we let happen, how many more family members must people lose?

Readers, do you have any thoughts? If so, please send my way. I would love to read them tonight under the cloud of my mosquito net.


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Sara-Christine Dallain

Sara-Christine Dallain holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a Masters in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles. Through her previous work with Direct Relief; Réseau Africain d’Education pour la Santé (RAES) in Senegal, Africa; and Board Member of Chad Relief Foundation; Dallain brings on-the-ground insight and experience in program design, evaluation, and implementation for health and education projects in sub-Saharan Africa. As i-ACT Director of Programs, she manages the development, implementation, and evaluation of i-ACT programs in refugee camps, serves as the organization’s primary grant writer, contributes greatly to social media and marketing content, collaborates with and oversees program volunteers, and supports i-ACT development and fundraising initiatives. Dallain has been working in both southern and eastern Chad refugee camps since 2011, and is one of the staff members regularly traveling to eastern Chad refugee camps and global conferences.

 

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