It’s hard to believe it, but today, 4 days after leaving Los Angeles, we finally arrived at our destination – Iriba. The town is home to somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 people (there is no census so no one knows the population for sure). Of course, there are only a couple of dirt “roads” and all of the people live in small mud houses.
But first, a word about yesterday. While in Abeche, we had a wonderful meeting with the UNHCR manager who is responsible for refugee camp programs in Eastern Chad. There are more than a dozen camps housing some 250,000 refugees in Eastern Chad. The UNHCR Eastern Chad Camp Manager expressed her support of the Solar Cooker Project and asked that the project be expanded in 2008 to 3 more camps in another part of Eastern Chad. This was very encouraging. Like others with whom we have met, she explained the complexity of the political situation in Chad, specifically about the enormous shortage of firewood and the tensions and violence caused by that shortage.
Today, we began our series of meetings with our partners. We met our partners who actually operate the Solar Cooker Project in Iridimi. They are amazing people who are so grateful for the support we have given to the project. We delivered a shipment of our beautiful potholders, which they love. The said that the women in the camp are asking for potholders, and we were very happy to bring a fresh supply to them.
We also had a meeting with the “governor” of this region of Chad. It was definitely a surreal event about which we will report more when we are no longer in Chad.
In the last couple of days we, quite by accident, met representatives from two of the other projects which JWW has funded–we met a man who works for HIAS ( the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, through whom we funded a social worker in the Goz Amir camp in Southern Chad), and we met the representative from Internews (through whom we are funding “She Speaks, She Listens”, a women’s education and empowerment radio project). We have also seen the major presence of International Medical Corps and the International Rescue Committee–two other organizations to which JWW has made major financial donations. It is so great to see the dollars we have raised actually bringing some modicum of service and relief to this area.
Tomorrow we go to the camp to begin our evaluation.