I hope you are well. I wanted you to know that I returned safely from Darfur. Despite having had some trouble in the beginning getting permission from the Government of Sudan to take pictures and film (I was denied this permit) the trip was deeply moving, depressing and inspirational at the same time. This was thanks to my amazing host a young woman and activist who works for an underground Radio station and a wonderful community of activists including a professor at the University of Nyala, Hajja Fatima my surrogate mother and her cousin Sheikh Adam whose family I stayed with in one of the displacement camps on the outskirts of Nyala, Darfur. We were able to film and interview community leaders in several displacement camps, witness work happening in schools, community centers and income generating workshops and interact and film popular education theater and singing groups led by Darfurian youth. We were even invited to film inside a local prison where one of the local NGOs we met runs a theater and singing program for prisoners. In the end, the time was simply too short to record and witness the amazing work, resilience and resistance of the communities we visited in and around Nyala.
In addition, we were witness to aspects of life in the camps and stories which seem unimaginable. Stories of rape, torture, mass killings, forced displacement, children being thrown into fires and villages once full of life being burnt to the ground of UNAMID forces sexually harassing women who themselves are survivors of war and sometimes rape. I am not doing them any justice by mentioning this within this post but needless to say they made feel a deep responsibility to act and share what people want me to share which is only some of what we saw. All this to say I have alot of work to do and I wanted to thank you for supporting me to embark on this journey which is just barely beginning. Without you I wouldn’t have been able to do this. Through your support I was able to make a donation to a youth center in one of the displacement camps in Nyala where community members are teaching youth how to make simple beds and chairs for sale, sew, build homes out of adobe brick and much more. There was also a deaf school in this particular center.
One thing I heard over and over again is that many people have come to Darfur to interview people over the past years to do documentaries etc…but few have asked how they can support them to rebuild their lives and communities and even fewer have returned with support or demonstrated any of this support. Again, a big task lies ahead of me to not repeat this and to try to raise significant resources for these centers and local NGOs doing sustainable development and grassroots organizing work.
Over the next couple of months I might call on you to get support for media and fundraising contacts for this project. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to help out in any way or have ideas for how to move forward. It can feel overwhelming at times to know where to start and any advice/support is welcome.
In gratitude and love,