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Choosing A Different Perspective

This blog was originally posted on iactivism.org.

There are so many needs. At the end of our 8 hour days in the camp, I plop down in my room at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) compound and usually sit in silence for some minutes. I let the day, the stories, the visuals, the activities, and the seemingly insurmountable needs all sink in.

However, as each day passes, I’m becoming more and more aware that it’s easy to be here and only see the needs. It’s easy to see all the resources they don’t have. It’s easy to ask questions that give the refugees opportunity to express their difficulties. When asked what the most difficult thing about living in the camp is, most respond, “everything.” And so, it’s easy to feel tired, sad, and overwhelmed from it all. But to only feel that way would be a disservice to the people of this community. Instead I’d like to notice, acknowledge and give room to all the beauty and humanity that also exists here. When asking Little Ripples teachers, Darfur United Soccer Academy coaches, or refugee friends we come across what makes them feel happy or what is most important to them, they give the most simple, yet meaningful responses. They say that having their most basic needs met, such as food and clothing, having time to sit and talk with family and friends over coffee or tea, and accessing education is when they feel most happy and what they deem most important.

Enter a refugee home and you’re greeted with beautiful greetings, smiles, chairs, food, and openness. Walk the camp and you cannot walk by another person without being greeted. Look around and you’ll see women laughing and embracing, caring for and carrying each other’s children. You’ll see men sitting together, closely chatting. You’ll see boys playing soccer with a raggedy, plastic, makeshift ball, erupting in cheer upon sending their ball past tin can goalposts. You’ll see community members coming together to physically clean and build up a space so their children may have a safe place to attend preschool.

This population is absolutely struggling to feed themselves. Their educational system is heavily under-resourced. Youth often drop out of school because they must help find the means to feed their family. There are few learning, play, and development opportunities available for children. Very few formal employment opportunities exist, especially for women. And everyday, I hear of children and adults falling ill. The needs are certainly great and they need to be addressed, but the love, friendship, resilience, and happiness born from simple interactions and moments are the things I choose to focus on during my time here. I hope this beauty comes across in our photos, so you too can celebrate it.

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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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