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10 Things I’ve Learned (on my 14th trip to Chad)

1. Only the refugees are always here.

Thousands of staff working for humanitarian agencies and the UN Refugee Agency have come and gone through the camps. Not one remains that is still around from my first trip in 2005. The refugees, they’re still here, only more of them.

2. Life can get harder, and families can get stronger.

Guisma’s mother, Achta, received me with warmth and affection. She sat with me and had her children come greet me, all of them smiling. She gave me a gift for Katie-Jay. There was a group of women sitting on other mats at her home, and more were coming with food. Achta’s mother died last week, and they were mourning in community.

3. I don’t want to hear this again: “They’re better than they were before they came here.”

That’s not necessarily true because you can’t measure freedom. Besides that, “before” should not be the standard by which we measure.

4. From a distance, even the desert is beautiful, rich, and inviting.

Walking next to those that live there gives you a less romantic perspective, but it might still be beautiful, rich, and inviting.

5. Real Madrid vs. Barcelona divides the universe.

6. Ideas, concepts, and plans can be very exciting.

Meeting the actual little ripples that are the motivation and reason for all the work makes it all not be work anymore.

7. I don’t always care what studies say.

Eastern Chad is a rough, harsh environment. It’s hot, dusty, and I am always thirsty. I don’t care how many studies say it’s bad for you, I love and miss my DIET soda with lots of ice (coke or pepsi, does not matter). If there was one of those 7-11 soda and ice machines out in the refugee camps, my work rate might double during the trips, and I’d be so much more happy.

8. It is invaluable to be able to wake up every morning knowing you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

9. If Umda Tarbosh lived in my neighborhood, we would be friends.

And I would take him out for burgers or tacos as often as possible, so I could hear more of his stories and how he sees the world.

10. Beautiful is beautiful.

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Gabriel co-founded Stop Genocide Now in 2005, which gave birth to i-ACT in 2009. He became involved in the situation in Darfur out of a sense of personal responsibility. He believes the power of community and compassion, combined with personal empowerment, can bring about meaningful change.



  • Diane Koosed

    Ummm… can I just say that I love you?

  • Irma Vazquez

    Beautiful is Beautiful. At the end of this blog when the picture of Guisma popped up I was stunned at the beautiful face I was looking at. For a brief moment I saw my own daughter Micaela in her eyes. In that moment I thought of all the Guisma’s I’ve taught at a teacher and my own daughters and how important Little Ripples is for the Guisma’s of the worlds but also for the Alexi’s, Noemi’s, Micaela’s, Carolina’s, Isabella’s, Celinda’Lucias, and Baby Leila’s of the world. Each time I go back to this photo I still see my 11 year old in her eyes. Beautiful is Beautiful.

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