Chad, 2009

To get the French version, click here.


In September/October 2009, I was in Chad, not far from the border with Sudan, to develop and implement a training program fo young refugees from Darfur at the request of the Refugee Education Trust (RET), an International NGO, based in Geneva, Switzerland, whose mission is to “assist communities to meet the educational needs of young people made vulnerable by displacement, violence, armed conflict and disasters” (

In early 2003, the struggle for land and power in the western Sudanese region of Darfur erupted into violence between Sudanese government forces and rebel groups protesting the marginalization of the region’s black African ethnic groups by the Muslim central government. Arab militias (Janjaweed) supported by the government soon began enacting policies of ethnic cleansing–including forced displacement and starvation, murder, torture and rape–against Darfur’s civilian population, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead and more than 2 million expelled from their homes. By 2009, the U.N. estimated that some 300,000 people had been killed and 2.7 million displaced since 2004.

My mission is to prepare and deliver a training program to help young people start small businesses and get income to improve their livelihood. I will have to run two training courses, one in Iriba for youth from the camps of Touloum and Iridimi and another one in Guereda for youth from the camps of Kounoungou and Mile. You can see on the map, in the red circle, where Iriba and Guereda are located: very close to the border with Sudan and the region of Darfur. To help young adults living in camps develop a professional activity is crucial for the maintenance of peace. If they are left in idleness, they may leave themselves recruited by Sudanese rebels and return to make war in Sudan. RET is involved in providing primary and secondary education to children and adolescents, but it is the first time that they try to help young people develop small businesses.

Sunday, September 6th, 2009 arrival in N’Djamena. I am welcomed by Jennie Taylor, the RET Head of Mission in Chad.
Jennie briefs me about the operations of RET in Chad and arranges a meeting with Barry Sesnan, the initiator of the project “Educating the Children of Darfur”. We meet various organizations such as INADES and CEFOD engaged in training programs for youth.
Wednesday 9th, flight to Abeche, the largest city in eastern Chad, where Jennie is based. The day after another flight to Guereda (see the map). The plane is operated by Humanitarian Air Service, a South African airline which is in charge of organizing air transport for the World Food Programme, a UN Agency.
Thursday 10th,flight to Guereda, near the border with Sudan (Darfur). meeting with Drob, Programme Assistant and with Gedeon Nijimbere, UNHCR Community Service Officer. The picture shows the UNHCR compound of Guereda where I am accommodated.
On Friday 11th and Saturday 12th, visit to the refugee camp of Mile with Drob, the RET Programme Assistant in Guereda. On Sunday 13th, visit to the refugee camp of Kounoungo.
Armored vehicle
Aid workers from the various NGOs involved are forming a convoy to go to the refugee camps (we don’t have the right to spend the night there for security reasons). The convoy is protected by armored vehicles with Polish soldiers of the MINURCAT ( United Nations Mission in Central African Republic and Chad ), the “Blue helmets”.
The term “camps” is misleading. In fact Mile and Kounoungo are real cities with about 20,000 inhabitants each. The houses are made of adobe and there are big markets. All these people have fled from Sudan to escape from the civil war.
On Friday 11th and Saturday 12th,visit to the refugee camp of Mile with Drob, the RET Programme Assistant in Guereda. On Sunday 13th, visit to the refugee camp of Kounoungo.
We meet with young people, entering into dialogue with them and trying to analyze their needs and  expectations.
Visiting the markets gives us some indications about business opportunities that could be launched by young people.
On Monday 14th, I went by plane to Iriba, the other locality where RET is operating.
 I meet with Koundja Mayoubila, the RET Programme Assistant and Gaetan Ambeni the Head of the UNHCR Bureau.
Here too, we are going to the refugee camps under the protection of the Polish army.
On Tuesday 15th, Wednesday 16th, and Thursday 17t, visit to the refugee camp of Touloum and  Iridimi.
Meetings with the camp coordinators and dialogue with young people to assess their needs and expectations.
I explain to the future participants what the training program is about and what are the objectives.
We visit the refugee camps to have an idea of how people are living, what are their needs and what are the business opportunities.
Friday 18th, Trip to Abeche, meeting with Jennie Taylor. From Saturday 19th to Thursday 24th: work in Abeche RET Office on the development of the training programme.
Friday 25th, trip to Iriba. Last arrangements for the training course. Saturday 26th, visit to the refugee camps of Iridimi and Touloum, meetings with young people who are candidates to the training course. Sunday 27th. New visit to the refugee camp of Touloum. I use also these 3 days to explain to Koundja Mayoubila, the programme officer, the objectives and the programme of the course and prepare him to play a role of facilitator.
From Monday, September 28th to Friday, October 2nd: first training course in Iriba for young people from Iridimi and Touloum.
We use active learning methods with collaborative work. This is quite new both for the learners and the facilitator, Koundja. However both are learning quickly and well.
The programme includes 5 modules : (1) Introduction: breaking the ice and creating a good atmosphere within the group and between the participants and the facilitators; defining collective rules for living and working together; introducing the objectives and the programme of the training course; giving the opportunity to participants and facilitators to introduce each others; providing participants with a method for checking whether their ideas of small businesses are consistent with the needs of their communities and to exchange feedback. (2) “Getting organized”: this module aims at helping youth organise their group or cooperative to develop a sustainable and profitable small business. They should be able to set up a common purpose (share vision), to establish a set of rules to avoid possible conflicts and problems, to distribute roles among themselves and to establish a plan of action. (3) “Leadership skills”: the aim of this module is to help participants understand the role of the leader in a group, and to equip them with some leadership skills. (4) “Running a business”: this module aims at helping trainees manage the economic and financial aspects of their project. It includes the following sessions : Costing and pricing, Sources and use of money, Taking care of money (bookkeeping),  . (5) “Business plan“: the aim of this module is to conclude the course by providing the participants with a tool to prepare the launching of their Youth Cooperative, the Business Plan, and help them plan the future steps. Also it proposes a method for the participants to evaluate the learning process and give some elements for the closing ceremony.
The final evaluation is good. Almost all the training sessions went well and the trainees are very satisfied with the content. They receive a certificate of participation.
Saturday 3rd, Iriba: meeting with the delegation of the funding agency. Each NGO involved presents its programme and the results achieved. RET is the only one organization working on preparing young people to enter into the work market.
Sunday 4th, I go to Guéréda by car, because there is no plane available.
It’s an opportunity to discover this wonderful country…
… and its inhabitants better. Here, a riding shepherd !
Meeting in Guereda with Maurizio the future RET Head of Mission and Drob. Last arrangements for the training course.
From Monday 5th to Friday 9th: second training course in Guereda for young people from Mile and Kounoungo.
Drob, the Guereda Programme Executive, facilitating a session
The working conditions in Guereda are more difficult because we don’have enough space for team work inside the room. We need to do it outside and sometimes it is very hot.
 However, participants are motivated and active.
 A team of participants…
 An another one… Young women get married and have babies very early…
The team of facilitators
The last day : participants show their certificates.
Last day in Guereda…
Last night in my room…
It’s time to leave…
Bye-bye Chad !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s