3 1/2 weeks.
10 villages. Over 35 interviews. 7 airplanes. A large variety of beds.
15 Cokes. 3 Coke-car-explosions (inevitable). 2 head-scarfs.
2 times getting the Land Rover stuck – once in a wadi & once in mud. 25 cups of hot tea. 1,596.97 moments of wishing I spoke French. 42 herds of camels.
Countless painful stories. Countless stories of resilience and hope.
1 fantastic team of colleagues.
Over 4,000 photos.
The following photos are highlights of Africa Communication Liaison Kelly Ranck’s time spent visiting World Concern’s projects in the Sila Region of Chad. “I’m fairly certain I could write over 30 blog posts based on everything and everyone that I saw, heard, met, and experienced. But, for now, I give you photos,” says Kelly. “If you haven’t caught my last two posts on Chad, make sure to check them out here and here.”
World Concern staff member Susan Talbot, a technical specialist in commodities, logistics and disaster response, is in South Sudan this month. The following is her account of a visit to one remote village where we’re working.
Today, our team traveled to Menaba, a three-hour journey by Landcruiser over a road that would be impassable to most vehicles. We are accompanied by tsetse flies that swarm over the windows and hood. Phillip, our security officer based out of Nairobi, says the flies are wondering why they can’t find blood on this elephant. It’s the end of the rainy season and the grasses on the sides and at times in the center of the road are 6-8 feet tall, snapping as the vehicle charges through and over them. As we hit flooded holes, the muddy water splashes on the windshield.
As we reach Menaba, our staff is finishing up distributing food – salt, dried beans and sorghum – to women with children. Some are displaced from other parts of South Sudan and others are returnees from Darfur. They’ve been settled in a nearby camp for about a year. Hunger and malnutrition are evident in the toddlers’ patchy hair. This is the end of the hunger gap, which starts in April. The gardens are producing and the marketplace has peanuts, tomatoes, watermelons and cucumbers. But the families in the camp have no land to farm and no resources to buy food. The women greet us like long lost relatives; so welcoming, so grateful.
Women with toddlers gather under a large tree to receive their monthly ration of Plumpydoz, a nutritional, peanut-based food that addresses malnutrition in 6 to 36-month-old children. Nearly 500 children have been registered at each of seven distribution sites in Raja County. Each family receives four containers per child—one container per week. The child takes a tablespoon of Plumpydoz twice a day. The supplement will help the child grow physically and mentally during a crucial period of development. Without adequate nutrition like this, a child’s health is compromised for the rest of his or her life.
We go over the hill to see World Concern’s school feeding program in action. The children crouch around their common bowl of cooked sorghum, four to a bowl, girls on one side of the yard, boys on the other, eating with their washed hands. The feeding program acts as an incentive for school attendance. It’s good to see so many attending school — about 400.
We are invited to join the school principal and some teachers under a tree for lunch. We sample the same cooked red sorghum the children are eating. I expect a bland taste of cooked grain cereal, and am surprised by the good flavor. Phillip sees a group of boys kicking around a soccer ball and quickly organizes a competitive drill, then divides them into teams for a game. He manages to communicate, even with his limited Arabic. Games and laughter transcend language and culture.
I am particularly drawn to a little boy of a young mother. He’s 3 years old and infected by intestinal parasites. Bloated bellies have many causes, but his mother confirms she sees the worms in his stool. After spotting him, I notice several others in a similar state.
I have experienced the heartache of having a child die from an incurable condition. When I make eye contact with this mother, I see the question on her face. Do you have something that will cure my child? For this mother and this child, hope exists in the form of a tablet that costs 44 cents.
This was the response scribbled by my 19-year-old daughter on a note I left asking her to clean up the house. I had written, “This house has been such a mess, I’m starting to dread coming home,” scolding my family for not being tidier.
Hard to believe she had to remind her humanitarian-aid-writer mother that I should be thankful just to have a home. But she’s right. In fact, millions of people don’t have a home; many through no fault of their own.
Today is World Refugee Day, and it’s an opportunity for all of us to think about those who had to leave everything behind and start over in a new place – usually in very dire circumstances.
World Concern works with thousands of refugees who are trying to begin a new life in a foreign land. They live in camps, often for years, before their lives are stabilized enough for them to think about the next step. We help provide food, access to clean water, health and hygiene training, education, income generation and more.
But what’s the ultimate goal?
“For them to be able to go home,” says Chris Sheach, deputy director of disaster response for World Concern.
Many of those who fled Darfur during the war, for example, are still living in camps in Chad, where World Concern works. Their homes and villages were burned. They would love nothing more than to go home, but there is nothing for them to return to.
“If they can’t go home, we help them integrate into a new society,” says Sheach. World Concern’s Cash for Work program in Chad has enabled families to earn income to support themselves and contribute to the local economy, thereby reducing the risk of creating conflict in their host community. We also assist them in obtaining land to farm, and provide seeds and farming tools to grow their own food and earn income.
In an ideal world, situations wouldn’t escalate to the point where people had to flee their homes for survival in the first place. Sometimes they do go home, such as in Somaliland (northern Somalia), where returnees from Ethiopia and other areas are settling in camps in their homeland. Their hope is that they’ll be able to find a new home. But 96% of them are dependent on food aid. We’re teaching them to plant vegetable gardens to feed their families, and hopefully improve their diet beyond the staple grains they receive from aid agencies.
Nearly every parent’s desire is to provide a better life for their children. A home is the foundation that provides the stability kids need to pursue their dreams. I’m blessed to be able to provide that for my kids (despite it being a bit messy at times). The circumstances refugees find themselves in today is one of those things that makes me want to scream, “It’s not fair!” And it’s not. But we can stomp our feet, or we can do something about it. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that’s doing something about it.
Rather than fostering any hint of a global pity party, we’re empowering refugees by giving them the the tools to move forward. Whether or not they can return home, we can help them focus on the future and the hope of having place to call home.
Our staff in Chad have been teaching people living in refugee camps there how to grow sack gardens. It’s a great way to improve a family’s diet by adding fresh vegetables with less water needed than a typical garden.
Since spring is a time many people are thinking about gardening, we thought we’d share these instructions for growing your own sack garden! If you do, please share it with us! We’ll be sure to share how things are growing in Chad too.
Did you ever want to have a direct impact on children in Africa? You can make a big difference right now by donating school supplies. Even used supplies would be great!
As kids around here are going into summer break, World Concern is planning for a big shipment of school supplies to Chad, Africa.
You may have heard about all of the craziness in Chad with news about the ongoing war in the Darfur region of Sudan, which is the country just to the east of Chad. The poor families in this region have been burned out of their homes and chased from their villages by crazy men with guns. These families are ending up in Goz Beida, Chad, where World Concern is playing a key role in keeping these families alive and healthy.
So – here’s what we need. We’re looking for anything relatively small, but especially notebooks, paper, pencils, pens, rulers, scissors, calculators … if you think it would be useful for learning here … it will be a huge hit in Chad.
The main purpose of the shipment has been to send furniture and computers to equip a classroom. But a we’re getting this all together, we’re seeing that there is still a lot of space for these school supplies. We want to fill the container!
If you want to help, drop off or mail your supplies to us here at World Concern in Seattle. It would be good to get it to us by this time next week (June 18), if possible, so that we will have time to sort it out.
Here’s where it should go:
Susan Talbot – Gifts in Kind
19303 Fremont Ave. N
Seattle, WA 98133
If you have any questions, feel free to email Susan at email@example.com
One of my responsibilities with World Concern is to make sure our programs are of the highest quality possible.
Sometimes this means helping our teams figure out the best way to do something. Sometimes it means training people. It surprises me that I really like teaching, but I really do, especially when it makes a difference. And I’m usually as much student as teacher.
Most of the people receiving disaster relief here in Chad are refugees or displaced people from the Darfur crisis. They have had absolutely no education and are not used to thinking in abstract ways, so sometimes it is hard to communicate even when language is not a barrier.
Our latest exercise was to find out people’s priorities beyond tomorrow. On the first day I sat with our key staff and trained them on a technique, and the next day we tried it out for real. We wanted to know what people value most in their communities so we can plan our programs accordingly.
Our first step was to sit down with small groups of only men or only women because women here won’t give their opinions in front of men.
In the US, people are so closed up in their homes that it takes actual scheduling to get a group of Americans together. Here though, my translator and I just wander through the disaster relief camp until we spot or hear a women, plunk down on a mat in some sliver of shade, and start talking. Curious neighbor women soon gather and we have our group.
For this exercise, we started with a simple concrete question, “If you had a salary of $40/month, what would you do with it?” As they listed things, I’d draw simple pictures of it on a big piece of paper, grouping similar thing, as we all laughed at my lack of artistic ability. If they were used to pens I would have let them draw the pictures themselves.
Finally, I draw circles around the groups of pictures to make categories – staple foods, other foods, clothes, kitchen utensils, debt, animals, education, housing… Then I pass out beans, explaining through the translator that each is worth 500 francs (a bit more than $1) and the paper is the market. To give them an idea, I go first, then collect up my beans.
By now, the women are really getting engaged, crowding around on the plastic mat, chattering with each other about what to buy, explaining the game to those who are slower in getting it. Babies are shifted out of laps to get at the paper. Now we’re laughing and teasing each other. Some of the wiser, older women quietly make their points and purchases. Young teen-age mothers are more timid, looking to others for approval of their choices.
One by one, the women naturally take turns, carefully placing their beans on their purchases with the thoughtfulness as if it was a real purchase. Rough, calloused fingers, thickened by years and decades of hard labor fumble and drop beans, quickly snatching them up again. Finally, all the beans are down and we count them. 48 beans for staple food, 20 beans for chickens, and so on. Then we talk about their choices as a group and why they chose what they did.
Now that they understand the game, I ask a harder question, “Make a picture in your head of your home village as you would like it to be. What do you see?” We go through the game with that question, then the final question, “If the war goes on and you are here for another 5-6 years, describe how you would like to see this community here in the camp.”
As they name the things I draw them out. Then again, they vote. Now the stakes are higher. The jokes, joshing and laughter continue, but now there is an element of seriousness.
They know that their answers may influence what programs we plan for disaster relief. This is exactly what we want. They are now a part of determining their own future.
Merry Fitzpatrick is World Concern’s director of technical support.
Humanitarian aid and relief groups are asking President-elect Obama to pay attention to the human rights disaster in Darfur, Sudan, as soon as he takes office. The idea is referred to as a “peace surge,” a way to reach an agreement to work out terms of peace by bringing the warring groups to the table together.
Obama may have a better chance to work out a deal right now, because the president of Sudan has agreed to an immediate, unconditional cease-fire with Darfur rebels.