I haven’t said much about one of the major characters of the camp. The children. More so during the afternoon session, children are surrounding us the moment our vehicle arrives. They fill the windows of the community center where we hold our team meetings. They crowd around whatever drill we have the players running. During down time, the second one of us takes a camera out, what seems like 100s more appear to pose with a charming smile, thumbs up or a simple wave. It makes you think where the parents of these children are. In Darfuri culture, when babies are born, women wrap their babies onto their backs instead of carrying them everywhere. It looks quite comfortable for the baby, and makes sense for the mother.
But, from what I’ve noticed, the second a child is old enough to walk on their own, many wander the camp aimlessly. There’s so many that we need crowd control during our training sessions, and they don’t always listen. If we take our eyes off a stray soccer ball for a moment, all of the sudden we’ll hear a number of high pitched tribal yells as one brave child takes the ball and makes a run for it into the depths of camp. Its truly a sight to see. Theres one kid with the ball and a crowd of his buddies chasing after him to share the prize. They’re not being “bad” kids, they just have nothing. Most look as though they’re suffering from malnutrition with swollen bellies, are dirty from the blowing sands, and have torn and tattered clothes.
When you look past all the negative, and give them some time, you see that they have the same wants and needs as any child. The sparkle in their eyes is true beauty. They want to have fun and play. They’ll make a game out of anything, even with nothing. They want to know your name, and shake your hand. For this reason alone, my heart aches for these children. For most young children, life in a refugee camp is all they know. They were born there, and never experienced anything else. Some children up to eight or even nine years old. Their family has to live off of monthly (or longer) food rations that just aren’t enough. Yes, they go to school, but again, as I explained about Rahma and Murtada, what are they supposed to do afterwards? Do they have any chance whatsoever to go on to higher education at a university? How can they have realistic dreams? Does their childhood of making nothing into something reflect how difficult their adulthood will be? I wish I could say otherwise…