“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Martin Luther King, Jr

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Keep Darfur in Your Prayers

I have not written here in quite a while. Life sometimes takes you gently in her teeth and proceeds to shake the living hell out of you, but eventually lets you go. I have issues like so many others, but one thing that helps me get through the pity party is to look at what I do have. I have a roof over my head, I have food in my belly, and my children go to school every day, preparing, hopefully, to further their education.  There are no rifle shots outside my door and if I need help, there are those that will lend a hand if needed.

The people of Chad do not have many of these things. The roof over their heads is straw; there is no way to cool off in the heat of the desert, nor any way to keep warm when the weather turns cold. Food is a luxury and school is something that is rare beyond rudimentary early teaching.

In 2992 and 2003 violence in Sudan’s Darfur region drove 271,000 plus citizens to escape their homes and set up in refugee camps in eastern Chad across the border. Now, ten years later, after years of struggle just to survive, the refugees are subject to support for their basic needs, such as food and water, and just as important, education. Unfortunately, budget cuts and funding decreases is still a most important concern for the refugees as fighting in the region continue.

Olabukunola Williams of the Darfur Dream Team visited Darfur and spoke with the refugees on the subject of education for the war torn regions inhabitants.  Several months ago, she had the opportunity to visit two of the refugee camps Djabal and Goz Amer, in eastern Chad. There she met with teachers, students, and communal members to talk about the challenges and needs of primary education in the camps, where an estimated 60 percent of the population consists of women and children.

After one meeting with the camp leaders, a woman pulled Olabukunola aside to ask why the camp’s education funding was being cut. This beautiful lady was just learning the alphabet and was so excited about learning how to read. The passion on her face as she spoke of the impact on her and the other women in her group was something that will stay with Olabukunola constantly. She spoke of the need for education for her as well as for the children in the camp, then expressed fear as decreased funding jeopardizes the primary education budget, among other important programs. Unfortunately, this story of reduced funding is one we are all accustomed.

Do you realize that the average time a refugee spends in a displacement camp is 17 years?  Every child has the right to an education. Even the basic literacy skills will give them the chance to escape their world and show them how to navigate, engage, and understand the world we live in.
Education is a important, in fact the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) deems primary education a priority. Without support from us and the international community, the execution of this priority is a significant task.
The Darfur refugees want nothing more than to return to their homes and hope that the communities of the world do not forget their desperate predicament.

Support for institutions like UNHCR and Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools program provides hope and skills for marginalized communities even when the world has turned its attention to the next crisis. The Darfur conflict is still going on. As the push for peace continues, the need for sustained support for refugee education is just as critical as it was ten years ago.


Ted said...

Wow! 17 years is the average stay?!? I had no idea that children are born and grow up in those camps. Very enlightening. And thanks for the reminder to count our blessings

A. said...

It's so good to see your blog popping up in my sidebar again!

Coincidentally, I am in the midst of reading a novel, "What is the What?" by Dave Eggars, at the moment. It's about the war in Sudan, refugees and the Lost Boys. Maybe you know it. Not an easy read.

I hope everything is OK with you. Life has been shaking the living hell out of me recently too though, like you, I try to remember the good things.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin