October 21, 2007
Blogging under African skies
Local women go to help Darfur refugees in Chad
(Page 3 - Previous Page)Of course we know from news reports of the atrocities being committed in Darfur over the past few years, but we are sitting now, face to face, asking the question. A few women chuckled nervously as they began their story, each telling of their village being bombed and the Janjaweed militia coming by truck and attacking their families, raping the women, stealing their belongings and burning their villages. Each told of family members being killed. One woman had six children; four were killed the first day during the bombings the other two children killed the following day. A man came outside of his tent as we walked by to tell us that he uses the solar cooker to cook his meals. He was the first man who talked of cooking. His wife and children were all killed in Darfur. He is alone now.
I woke up this morning and wrote the above entry but with no time, left it unfinished.
And now that we have just returned from the camp, I write with a heavier heart. We went to a different camp today, the Touloum camp, where the Solar Cooker Project has recently begun. JWW funded the construction of a manufacturing plant and storage room and are now funding the manufacturing of the cookers and the training for the women. After touring the camp, visiting the Doctors Without Borders compound, walking through the different zones, witnessing solar cooking taking place, taking photos of and with the kids (everyone loves having their pictures taken...), we came back to the solar cooker workshop to meet the women who work in the project and to talk with them. After the initial introductions and welcome, it seemed clear that this would be short conversation. The women expressed that what happened to them and their families was too painful to discuss. We said we understood and told them that our hearts are with them. We thought that would be the end of the conversation, that we would thank them for all their work to make the solar cooker project successful and give them all the t-shirts and bracelets that we brought for them as gifts. They thanked us for coming such a far distance to be with them. Then the subject of our long airplane ride came up.
Suddenly the topic of airplanes sparked horrific memories for the women. They began to speak of the bombings and the attacks. One woman, Zanuba, opened up and told us stories of torture and pain I would like to forget, but never will.
People have said it is our job to bear witness. We have spent days talking about the positive impact the Solar Cooker Project has had on the lives of these refugees. Now, hearing the stories of the women's suffering in Darfur first hand, I feel that I have become a witness to their pain and must begin the work of telling their story.
-- Rachel Saturday October 20 and Sunday, October 21
Friday in Iridimi
-- LA JWW in Africa Friday 10/19/2007
Here are the first photos from Iridimi
Derk (founder of SCP) introduces Janice to Madame la Presidente des Femmes Refugies Makhboulet
Marie Rose and Fatima in the SCP storage building
Meeting with Iridimi Leadership Council (note the JWW team in the back!)
Outside the Solar Cooker Project workshop
Preparing gum arabic for use with SCP manufacturing
Solar cooker used for cooking rice by refugee family in Iridimi
Tzivia filming children in Iridimi
Working in the SCP workshop
--JWW team in Iridimi 10/18/2007
It's a small world after all
Today we arrived in Iriba. Having "slept" last night in Abeche, we woke early to catch the UN flight to Iriba. The 12-seater plane carried our team, which now includes Daniel Roger Tam, from the UNHCR Environmental Unit, as well as a representative of Internews. Internews is our partner with Equal Access for our new "She Speaks, She Listens" radio project (Ask us about it!) The Internews Program Director was on our plane and knew Jewish World Watch and that we were his funders! Now that is a "small world!"
As we flew from Abeche to Iriba we had a birds-eye view of the landscape, spotting the intricate wadi systems, the inactive volcanic craters, small settlements of 20-30 households and then, as we approached Iriba, we were finally able to see the Iridmi camp on the left side of the plane and, in the distance, the Touloum camp to the right. After being so intimately involved in these camps for so long, having never seen or visited them, we were thrilled to finally be here. Tomorrow we will begin our visits.
In the meantime, we had several very interesting and informative meetings with the entire evaluation team. We received a security briefing with the UNHCR head in Iriba, Emmanuel, and were then joined by the number 2 in charge at UNHCR in Abeche, Florent, and Regional Delegate of the Chadian Ministry of Environment, Quality of Life and National Parks, Nelngar Younane. Later we will also be joined by CARE International, Bureau Consult International, and Commission Nationale D'Assistance aux Refugies.
We have already heard from the UNHCR reps how much they and the refugees believe in the Solar Cooker Project and believe that it is helping to reduce the amount of firewood needed by the women for cooking, thereby helping to reduce their risk of rape or attack. We are looking forward to speaking with the women themselves and hearing it directly from them over the next 5 days.