Our arrival to N’Djamena (NDJ) did not start off perfectly. One bag decided not to come with us. I’m not sure if it stayed in LA or in Paris. It has soccer gear, some of our tech stuff, and some books for a special library. I am sure that it will join us tonight. Umm, yes, I’m sure.
The streets of NDJ are bustling with cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. They all flow and weave among themselves in this strange and dangerous paved river. We made our way through it to go to UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) to meet with Idriss, our main UNHCR contact here, about our permits and about Darfur United.
It seems surreal to be here just a few hours and a flight away from meeting the players that will be trying out for Darfur United. At the time we started to dream about this team, it seemed even more dangerous and difficult to achieve than getting through NDJ traffic. But, we’re here!
Getting us here has been a community effort. We’ve had friends and family—and family of friends and friends of family, extending out in a beautiful way—collecting soccer balls and cleats, donating money, buying t-shirts, and offering their time and expertise. It is the perfect way for Darfur United to have come about.
Out on this side of the world and the story, it has been the same. UNHCR has been hands-on with logistics and the complicated task of getting sixty refugee players from all over the Chad-Sudan border to one camp. They are working with multiple partners to arrange the lodging and the food for the players that will be trying out. In the camps, refugee leaders worked to get the word out to the camp about Darfur United, and then each of the twelve camps picked their best five players to come to try-outs.
Our two coaches, Mark and Brian, are 100% volunteers. They are taking time away from family and work because they believe in the project. Their eyes light up when they talk about the guys that will be putting on their soccer shoes for a chance to wear the Darfur United jersey.
Later tonight, we will see if our missing bag decided to join us. Whether with that bag or not, early tomorrow we fly out to a little village called Goz Beida, where we will be staying and from where we will visit Camp Djabal. The day after tomorrow, as soon as the sun rises, try-outs will begin.
Oh, we did not get our filming and photographs permit, which is really not good. It should get done tomorrow morning, ideally, and we have it scanned to UNHCR in Goz Beida, so that we can capture the story from the very beginning.
I ask this quite a bit while out here, but here it goes again: we need our bag and the permit, so please cross your fingers!