The following is an update written by my husband. I will try to post some more pictures to go along with it very soon...
"We have about 9 weeks left on our project and things are going very well. We've got our women's center and vet center running, the latter stock piled with more fodder than I've ever seen. We've distributed chickens and are looking at buying some donkeys and goats to distribute. And we have provided shelter to about 825 people in the last 3 weeks which has been the most feel-good part of the project so far. Here is a picture of the crap shelter the people have been living in (foreground) and the one we are helping them build (the one the guy is working on in the background).
It has been a very interesting experience working in international aid. The work we're doing is like the Peace Corps but in bizarro reverse. In Peace Corps we first learned the language, ingrained ourselves in the community and then did grass roots development with very little money. Here we have lots of money, developing a plan conceived in another country, plopped in the middle of community with virtually no language skills.
The security has been rather tense to say the least. Lately we have heard many rumors. We heard rumors that arms were being distributed to the janjaweed just outside of Kass. And that the janjaweed leaders met up and decided that they would assassinate Fur leaders and pillage the IDP (internally displaced person) camps if the UN peacekeepers come to Darfur. Additionally, the host community just had their food rations severed by World Food Program (WFP) and told the African Union (AU) peacekeepers that they would loot the next food distribution for the IDPs. Oh, and someone cut the main phone line so we, and western Darfur, were without phone for 2 weeks. Good times.
In other news, funding for Darfur has been drastically cut despite all the recent talk of UN and NATO coming. Most other NGOs budgets have been slashed 70 - 80% which makes some sense as the conflict is no longer in the emergency phase but the situation is definitely not getting better. MSF, or doctors without borders, and Oxfam are leaving our town and the rest of the folks sticking around are running with limited staff. The 2 million or so displaced people are still homeless, jobless and crammed into tiny locations where they feel safe. Sounds like Detroit – except with a lot more sand, heat and more Kalashnikovs.
On the home front, I am still anti-pigeon and am 3 for 3 in camel spider whacking. Alas, I am being outsmarted by our kitchen mouse. It is like a bad episode of Tom & Jerry. I have plugged the mouse hole no less then 7 times. The first lame attempt was with rocks which he just kicked out; once with a crumpled up empty pasta bag and the last 5 times with cement. Yes, cement. And the bugger has thwarted me every time. He has dug around the cement. He has even dug through the still setting cement - twice. My last attempt is to catch him in a bucket trap.
We got offered the opportunity (?) to open an office in northern Uganda to do work in southern Sudan. This is either high praise for opening up the office here so well or our employer is trying to haze us into quitting. There are probably 3 worse spots security-wise to be than Darfur right now and the border of Sudan and Uganda is up there. Here is a recent story of violence against UNHCR http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4813352.stm. While the janjaweed are a loose band of murderous militia armed by the Sudanese govt., they actually don't mess with NGO's (that much). The LRA, Lord's Resistance Army, on the other hand are ruthless, unconscionable mercenaries targeting anyone. No one travels without an armed escort around the border, and if you survive all that watch out for landmines. So with all this in mind we declined their generous offer.
One last thing, I discovered I possess a talent heretofore unknown to me. It is uncanny actually. Each day, without fail, I interrupt at least one of our staff while they are praying."