Stone by stone, 21-year-old Mohammed builds back a bit of his dignity. The tall, lean young man works with several hundred other refugees in 100 degree heat in Eastern Chad, picking up rocks, and dropping them into rows.
He joins other men, and many women wearing bright traditional dresses, to build these low rock walls on hillsides to reduce erosion.
The task: simple and exhausting. The outcome: dignity and freedom.
What I saw today was amazing. Darfur war refugees had an opportunity to work.
“This I like,” Mohammed tells me in English. “I buy clothes. I eat. It’s for my family.”
Mohammed left his home in Darfur, Sudan, seven years ago. He says Janjaweed rebels killed his father and many other family members, shooting rocket propelled grenades into his village.
Since he fled, he’s been living near Goz Beida, Chad. He’s in one of several camps here. In spite of his current life, he does not want to return to Sudan. All told, more than 400,000 people are refugees or internally displaced in Chad.
Because Mohammed and thousands of others are not at home, they have seen that finding work is an incredible challenge. Because they can’t work, they can’t provide for their families beyond what they are given.
World Concern’s program, called Cash For Work, allows them to earn an income, giving them some financial freedom again, while also improving their environment.
The low walls, called bunds, slow the rain runoff down hillsides. This encourages water to soak into the ground, raising the water table. Within a year, it will be a good place for farming and a better place to drill a well.
The influx of refugees has exacted a toll on the local environment, as they have torn down trees to burn for firewood. The rock walls – and tree replanting – are helping to heal the land.
For Mohammed, he treasures each opportunity to earn money. He enjoys learning, and says he likes America. His future remains uncertain, but he now has more of a chance to direct it on his own terms.
Learn more and take action: www.worldconcern.org/darfurcrisis