After three days of travel within Chad, some of which got a bit dicey, we finally boarded the Air France plane which would take us home. We were very happy that we had made it through this harrowing experience and very excited to be going back to the US and to our loving families and community. At the same time, we share an overwhelming sense of sorrow for the refugees and for the horrific tragedies they have experienced; a sadness that we might never see the people we met again, and that it might be years (or forever) before they can go back to their country to begin rebuilding their lives.
We have been home for 24 hours. While our sadness persists, (and lingering nausea plagues our innards) we also feel a growing sense of amazement and pride at the positive impact our JWW projects have had on the refugees.
The Solar Cooker Project has played a vital role at the Iridimi camp in decreasing dependence upon firewood. While the evaluation report is not yet complete, there is no question in our minds, after speaking with hundreds of refugees at Iridimi, that the project is successful. It has reduced the need for firewood so significantly that there is little or no need to search for firewood outside the camp and risk assault. The increased safety and security of the women is beyond our original hopes and expectations.
While this trip focused on evaluating the Solar Cooker Project, our experience there spoke volumes about the importance of our other JWW funded projects in other refugee camps. We saw firsthand evidence of the critical importance of our work to build medical clinics, to support a psycho-social counselor for trauma victims, and to expand the “She Speaks, She Listens” radio program that educates and empowers women, particularly about gender-based violence issues.
And, having seen the thousands of children at Iridimi and Touloum and their total lack of anything , we are thrilled beyond words with the JWW backpack project. If only we could all be there the day they distribute the backpacks to the children!!!!
So, if one would ask about our overriding feelings now that we are home, we would say that we feel both very sad and very validated. The horrors suffered by the people we met will leave an enduring picture on our minds and an indelible mark on our hearts. We feel so fortunate to have a vehicle through which we can work to continue to make a difference in the lives of the survivors of genocide. The needs of the refugees are so vast and unmet, that the only limit to the impact we can make lies in the level of interest we can stimulate and the amount of energy we can generate.
We have renewed enthusiasm for the work of JWW and feel more passionately than ever about the vital importance of our mission, one borne of the ancient teachings of our people, which are as relevant today as they were when originally fashioned. We are so proud of our Jewish World Watch community and how they choose to live the words of the Torah: “Do not stand idly by . . . .”