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Almost There

By Brian Cleveland / March, 29, 2012

When I was checking my bag at JfK in New York, I was showing my passport to the person working for Air France, and he noticed my visa for Chad. I’m not 100% sure, but when he noticed the visa and the area where it said “humanitarian” his eyes seemed to light up and he smiled when he handed back my passport. That was the first moment of my trip that it dawned on me that we were doing something real big. The only time I used the word humanitarian was when I was teaching about people helping out and spreading awareness about the genocide in Darfur. I guess now I’m considered one of them.

24 hours worth of airports and flights and we made it to Chad’s capital, N’ Djamena. Thoughts running through my mind?

Excited. I’ve been teaching about the people of Darfur for three years now, and never did I think I would make it out here to help make a difference. My platform? Soccer. Soccer has always been the stage where I’ve created and experienced some of life’s greatest moments. Being out here and after speaking with Gabriel, it’s the least we can do considering the many difficulties faced by the people of Darfur. But to be able to be a part of the coaching staff who selects Darfur United and in essence gives the team a chance to experience life outside the outskirts of the Sahara Desert, is something I will never forget. One of my only hopes is that I can make as much of an impact on someone during this trip that they will have on me.

Grateful. I found out about this project less than a month ago. There were many strings that needed to be pulled to allow me to get out here and play my part. I am forever thankful to Gabriel for taking me on as part of the team on such short notice, and for all the work he and his organization do for the refugees in Eastern Chad. To be able to converse with someone so educated on the subject is different than being back home. I’m usually the one filling someone else in on what has happened over here. In every sense of the saying, so far this has been a breath a fresh air, besides the fact that it’s about 100 degrees and hazy.

Lucky. Aside from my thoughts and the conditions here in the capital, I am in good company. I think anyone who has traveled has made a trip with people that just make it “tough”. I consider myself lucky to be traveling with such a great team. Gabriel, James, our media journalist, and Mark, the head coach, are a great group to be traveling with, and I look forward to getting to know them further. Mark and I have had some conversation about soccer, and we’ll be able to work together just fine once we hit the field, or “pitch” as he would call it.

We fly out to Eastern Chad early tomorrow morning. For how different things are in N’ Djemena, I still don’t feel like I’m “there” yet. Once we get to the camp, we’ll be “there”, and I cannot wait.

Brian Cleveland
Darfur United Assistant Coach

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14 Responses to Almost There

  • Gohar K

    Amazing post Mr.Cleveland! Glad you’re having a great time, can’t wait to see you back here and hear about your visit!

    • Brian Cleveland

      Hi Gohar! Thanks for the comment! It has been quite the experience so far, and we’ll be at Camp Djabal until April 5th. So many stories to tell, and great people I’ve met that I can’t wait to share with you guys!

  • Britt

    Hey, Mr. Cleveland its Britt, how was your flight long? I can only imagine how tired you might be. I know it was probably about 1 or 2 in the morning when I posted this but, I hope you have fun selecting players! P.S. don’t forget to hand out the bracelets

    • Brian Cleveland

      Hi Britt! It has been an amazing time so far. It ends up our sister school is at Camp Goz America, but it is the closest camp to where we are so their leader, Umda, is here. I haven’t gotten a chance to yet, but I’ll be giving him the posters and letters we made in school, and of course the bracelets you made. That was very thoughtful of you, and the kids at the school will be so thankful! Time for a nap, we had to begin try outs at 5:30am to beat the heat! Tell everyone I said hi!

  • Rachel

    What a great blog! Thanks for sharing this journey with all of us. It makes us feel part of it. Good luck!

  • consuelo

    Brian, we are forever gratefull to you!
    Thank you for taking us on this great trip with the team.
    Looking forward to all the experiences from your view.

  • Teresa

    You started being a humanitarian and making a difference 3 years ago when you started teaching about the people of Darfur, now you are just taking it one step further…

  • Mrs. Studley

    Brian, This is awesome, you are definitely lucky though I am sure well deserving. Enjoy your time there. Can’t wait to keep reading about your experience.

  • Candy

    It’s an amazing feeling to work with those that are less fortunate than we are and to make such a positive impact on their lives. Looking forward to more posts about your journey and the team selection.

    • Brian Cleveland

      I learned from the best Mama! Miss you!

  • Aunt Joyce

    Wow, what a trip! You are in our thoughts as you have this adventure. Will you be seeing any animals, farm or otherwise?

    • Brian Cleveland

      Hi Aunt Joyce! I haven’t really seen anything too crazy out here. We have seen some camels, many donkeys, cows, and lizards everywhere!

  • Steph

    Hi Coach,

    Your aunt shared the Darfur United site with me and I loved reading your blog and looking at pictures. Hope the experience turns out to be absolutely amazing, as I’m sure it will! I look forward to reading more! 🙂

    • Brian Cleveland

      Hey Steph! Thanks for following, its been pretty awesome up to this point. Little bit different than the soccer were used to at home! 100 degree heat in the sand makes for quite a different style game…

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