Today we continued with the evaluations of the Solar Cooker Project inside the Iridimi camp. At the end of each 30-minute interview related to each woman’s solar cooker practices, we asked if she would mind sharing her personal story about what had brought her to the Iridimi refugee camp. Each of the women we interviewed told us about the bombardments of their villages, and their horrible personal losses. One of the women told us that 3 children were killed in her family; she then pointed at a woman across the courtyard of the small compound and told me that the woman’s mother was killed in the same way. At the end of the conversation we offered them our condolences and our hope for peace for them and their families; their response was to bless us for caring about them and for bringing solar cooking to their lives.
In the first two days of the field work, we have visited around 35 households. By the end of the process, if all goes according to plan, we will have met with 100 households. Almost without exception, the women tell us that solar cooking has played a very important role in minimizing the need to leave the camp for firewood. They are very grateful and loving to us.
One of the most emotional aspects of the visit to the camp for me is the TOTAL lack of material culture. We have seen hundreds and hundreds of children. We have not seen a single toy or a single unnecessary object. Food is obviously very scarce, and despite 10 or so hours we have spent so far in the camps, I have never seen a child eating anything or playing with anything. The contrast not only to our own lifestyle (obviously), but to any lifestyle I have ever personally observed anywhere in my life shakes me to my core.
Then, despite these shocking disparities, I think of my husband’s parents and all of those who survived the Holocaust, and I think of the conditions in which they lived in the concentration camps and death camps and ghettos. And then, I look at the women in the camp as if they truly are family, for the similarities end up being far more glaring than differences.