Trudy Goodman

From Trudy

Community & Mindfulness in Darfuri Refugee Camp

Tonight I ate my freeze-dried dinner in bed under a wonderful pink mosquito net: there was a mosquito in my room so I quickly took refuge. Later, Joslyn and I figured out that mosquitoes don’t like the cold so we cranked up the air-conditioning—it worked! We have the luxury of two adjoining rooms with a tin door in between. Across the courtyard is the bathroom: a square metal container with toilet and (yes!) a hand shower nozzle. The trickle of a cold shower was perfectly refreshing for rinsing off the dust and heat of our first full day in the camp.

Today we saw what iACT is doing here in Eastern Chad; we walked all around, beginning in the original school building that houses six Little Ripples classrooms, freshly painted white with blue trim for our visit. It was around 9 a.m. when we arrived—just in time to see children lined up holding each other in a hug to wash their hands before their meal. I was amazed how these very young kids were in small groups eating calmly and mindfully from one big bowl of sweet rice (probably their only meal of the day),  sharing without grabbing or pushing. Clearly, they’re learning the core lessons of peace, helping, and sharing.

The highlight of the day was observing the teachers and children in their outdoor classrooms, called Ponds. Each one is located in a family dwelling with an aluminum roof, concrete floor with woven mats, blackboard, banners, and two dedicated teachers. The enthusiasm of the students and the joy of their teachers brought tears to my eyes—tears of wonder and gratitude that such a program exists in this forsaken place. Although destitute, without any hope of being able to return home, the refugees have created a highly organized, democratic community here. It is with immense respect that they welcome us as InsightLA friends of iACT, which has given the refugees the opportunity, know-how, and trust to lead and develop their Little Ripples preschools and the Refugees United Soccer Academy they long to have.

Around noon, we walked through the camp to see the soccer field. It was so hot that the air singed my nostrils. I’ve never experienced such intense heat before, way over 100 degrees—it was like being ironed by the heat. I felt strangely calm, thoughts all smoothed out, sipping the now hot water we brought, stopping to rest in bits of shade. We ended the day with a meditation in the Little Ripples courtyard, surrounded by a large, growing circle of murmuring children of all ages who inched closer and closer to us. Their energy of curiosity, eagerness, and welcome reminded us why we are here.