12/04/2012 06:25 pm ET Updated Feb 03, 2013

Friends Old and New

I am sitting at the airport in Paris waiting for the flight to N'Djamena with my colleague and the co-founder of Jewish World Watch, Janice Kamenir-Reznik. After two stressful weeks of canceling and rearranging plans, we are on our way to the Farchana Refugee Camp in Chad to see the Jewish World Watch Solar Cooker Project.

Two weeks ago we had to cancel the Congo part of our very long trip -- a trip that would have taken us first to Congo to see the Rape Crisis Center we built with International Medical Corps in a very remote area of Eastern Congo, and then on to Chad. The Chambucha Rape Crisis Center is up and running and providing care to brutalized women in a region where they are hours away from any other medical services. We were traveling to see the clinic in operation and to present the people there with plaques that express our good wishes and hopes for the health and well-being of the women there. But two weeks ago, M23 rebels seized Goma, a major city in Eastern Congo and were threatening to move on to Bukavu where we were heading, not far from our clinic. It was obvious that our travel to the region had the potential of endangering our partners as well as ourselves. With great disappointment and serious concern for our partners and friends in Congo, we postponed the trip. Now finally we are off to Chad.

It's hard to know what to expect. I remember that before my first trip to Congo, I was so anxious (without realizing it) that I had trouble taking a deep breath. Now the Congo trips feel very familiar and comfortable. I have developed a deep affection for the Congolese people and in particular for some of our friends there. While these trips are hard physically and emotionally, I come back renewed and recommitted to our work and the impact it is having on the lives of the women there.

I have not really had much time to think about this trip. Between rescheduling plans and discussing and strategizing about Congo and our projects in the face of the conflict, I have had little time to think about the women we will meet in Farchana or the stories we will hear. I am excited to see the Solar Cooker Project -- the project that started Jewish World Watch on its amazing journey of providing relief and a sense of empowerment to the women who have been so badly abused in these conflicts. I am anxious to see if the experiences of these women will be very different from the women we met in Congo or if their stories will resonate in the same way.

I am interested to see if we find again that despite the wildly different and devastating circumstances that separate us, there is a symmetry to all our lives. In Congo, I found that despite everything that had happened to them, the women still shared hopes and dreams rooted in the same basic human concerns -- for the future, for their children, and for peace. I can only assume that it will be the same in Farchana. And as I listen to their stories, will I ask the same question I always ask? How is it that I ended up in my life and these women, our sisters, in theirs?


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 30,000 Darfuri refugees.