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Assalamou Alaikoum

1.5 hour flight to Abeche airport, 2.5 hour layover, 45 minute flight to Goz Beida.  Airport security is interesting here – a formality more than anything (metal detector beeps at every other person that walks through but nobody stops you, and half the time there isn’t even a guard at the security station).  Also, to get on and off the airplane, everyone piles into a little shuttle bus, the shuttle bus drives between 100-200 yards to the plane or the airport terminal, and then everyone piles off the little shuttle bus.

But blah blah blah on to the real meat of the day.   After a brief stop at the UNHCR offices we headed out to Camp Djabal. Without Gabe navigating throughout, I wouldn’t have even known that we had already driven into the camp [Maybe I was expecting some sort of “Welcome to Camp Djabal” sign? who knows..].  We walked through the camp accompanied by Rahma, Murtada, and Ali, all longtime i-ACT friends who participate actively in the Communication Kits.  Everywhere we went we attracted attention [White guy and asian girl walking through the camps? who WOULDN’T be intrigued?!] and the kids especially loved crowding around us to get a glimpse of what was going on.  In fact, there seemed to be young children everywhere – playing in the streets and fields, fetching water, collecting firewood – unattended and unsupervised by adults.  There were even some young children riding donkeys and others balancing bundles and bundles on their head, neither of which I can imagine myself doing with any grace or skill.

Most of the children quickly warmed up to Gabe and I and then it was a constant stream of smiles, waves, and even some silly poses.  And their smiles…what beautiful smiles!!! You really just can’t help but open your heart to these kids.  What struck me was the sense of community throughout the camp.  It seemed that everyone knew each other, and even if they didn’t they could ask a question or strike up a conversation easily.  Back home in LA, I don’t even know the names or faces of half of my neighbors that live in the same complex as me, and people seem to avoid direct eye contact at all costs when pedestrianing through the streets.  But walking through the camp with Rahma, Murtada, and Ali, they brought us by many new (and old – for Gabe) friends and were constantly interacting with everyone that we passed by.  Everyone I met was so open and welcoming, greeting me with smiles and handshakes.

I hope to pick up a few Arabic phrases, Rahma was so eager to teach me more and more but I can only handle one at a time!  assalamou alaikoum : hi/peace be with you <3

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Jennifer became passionate about international development and humanitarian work when studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, and leading youth performing arts workshops in one of the surrounding townships. After graduating from UCLA with a Masters in Public Health in Community Health Sciences, she taught adolescent reproductive health to high school students in South and East Los Angeles. She has also worked as a Research Associate at the UCLA Center for Health Services and Society, where she was able to foster an understanding of the community engagement and community resilience approaches, and hopes to incorporate these strategies in her work with Little Ripples. jennifer@iactivism.org


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