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Diana Buckhantz Headshot

Hard to Leave

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I am sitting in my room waiting to go to the airport to return to Los Angeles. It's hard to believe that eight days have gone by. Yesterday, a colleague, who works here in Chad but lives overseas, said to me that it is after about five or six days here that she begins to count the time until she can return home. She asked me if I felt the same way. It's strange, but I don't. As much as I miss my son and am certainly ready for a meal that consists of more than rice and sauce and a day when I am not covered in dust, I feel very sad to have the trip end. In truth, I always feel the same way when we leave Congo.

These trips are such a profound and visceral experience. What I see on them is unlike anything else in my life or frankly anything anyone I know will experience. I am always deeply moved by the significance of the work that Jewish World Watch has undertaken, and I come away recommitted in a very deep way to our projects and mission.

We are so desperately needed here in Chad. It's hard not to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems we see, but when I remember how appreciative these women are for the opportunities we have provided them, I am reminded that impact is often achieved in small measures -- one life at a time.

But what is so hard to describe is what these trips feel like. We can return home and describe the conversations we had, show the pictures, analyze and strategize about the projects, but it is impossible to convey the feeling of being here. How do I adequately describe sitting in the midst of a circle with women with such sad eyes? How do I convey the feeling I had when an amazingly outspoken Muslim woman reaches for my hand as we are leaving and wants to have a picture taken of us together? We hold hands and put our heads together.

I feel so sad and so touched at the same time. How do I describe the feeling of listening to the woman who could not stop crying as she recounted leaving her home after her husband and child are killed? How do I adequately describe the sudden realization that young girls we are meeting from 8th grade in the school were actually 20 and 21 years old -- meaning that they had had no opportunity until now for school? How do I describe the anger I feel when even the boys admit that the women/girls do all of the work in the camp or the rage I feel that over and over again in the world, it is the women and girls who are the majority of the victimized? And how do I say that I genuinely leave a part of my heart in these countries without sounding trite?

It's hard to leave knowing that I am going back to a lovely home and all the luxuries that we all take so much for granted. It's hard to leave these women here. Several of them told us that they wanted to learn English so that they could come to the United States. For now, it is clearly not possible, but I will take them there in my heart and voice and in my commitment to continue to work to make their lives better.

Diana sits on the board of Jewish World Watch (JWW), a leading organization in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities worldwide. JWW's work is currently focused on the ongoing crises in Sudan and Congo. Diana is currently traveling along with Janice Kamenir-Reznik, JWW co-founder and president, on a site visit to the JWW Solar Cooker Project in the Farchana refugee camp in eastern Chad, home to approximately 25,000 Darfuri refugees.