We are finally going to visit the Farchana refugee camp tomorrow. We fly from Abeche to Farchana in a four passenger plane that looks like it is from another century. At first it is a bit daunting, but then I focus on the land below me, and I am fascinated -- I have never seen terrain like this. Miles and miles of pale bronze desert with only the occasional sparse tree. There are no houses, no animals, no people -- just brown dirt.
Then there's the dust everywhere: on the ground, on our clothes, in our eyes and even in our rooms. It is desolate here. It feels like, if not God, then certainly the world has forgotten this place. It feels like the end of the world. I really understand the need for our Solar Cooker Project here. There are no trees for firewood. The environment is bare and rough. Women would walk for days to find an isolated tree.
We are staying in the guest house of the World Food Programme, behind a large stone gate topped by barbed wire. Other than the guards in our compound and the staff at Cord, there are no people. There is not one person on the road, just a deathly silence. Janice says that she has never felt as alone as when she was in Chad, and I completely understand. In Congo there is a life and energy everywhere, and despite the abject poverty, there is a bustling vibrancy that somehow engenders hope. People greet you with smiles and even song. People seem alive, and when there is that life force, there is the possibility of change.
Here, right now, there is only silence. In a way it feels very safe and peaceful, but then I remember that we are not allowed to walk anywhere alone even around the corner from the UNHCR headquarters to our compound. Every compound has the same barbed wire on top of the gate. I experience isolation in a way I never have before.
Tomorrow we go to the camp. I am anxious to see if these feelings remain; perhaps I feel the way I do because I have not yet met the women. Perhaps once I meet them and hear their stories I will be reminded of the work we do and how it does provide them with the hope and opportunity they need. After all, if the world has forgotten them, it is all the more reason that we cannot.
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.