One thing that brings meaning to my life and makes me fight to make it happen is our yearly visit to the refugee camps in the Sahara desert. Its hard to imagine in a developed world with the latest technologies at our fingertips what life is like in the camps. Our first night upon arrival is such an emotional time, as we meet our friends, exchange hugs and kisses, sleep under the stars, and feel the cold breeze of the desert night... And this is just the beginning.
We have a mission “to bring happiness to many”. Dressing as a clown is not something I normally do in Spain but it's different in the Sahara as my heart is drawn towards these children and I can really act the clown and make them laugh. It has been so much fun!
Our puppet show is a big hit, and now we do parts of it in Hassanian (the local language) the kids enjoy it tremendously and laugh a lot. We were able to donate 2 sets of puppets, something nonexistent in the camps, and the school administrators were so appreciative. When we distributed the children´s material in the schools, they also thanked us profusely because it is rare to find this type of material there. We also gave them a special gift of The Motto For Success in Arabic which, due to their sensitivity, they really enjoy and treasure.
I still remember the big smile on a little girl's face when we gave her a dolly. She held it in her arms as if it was a baby. Special moments...there are so many of them. Like when Benna, a dear friend, prepared and served us a whole goat to eat, that was a blast. Benna stayed with us in Spain for 6 months whilst we helped him obtain some documents and get some paperwork sorted out and this was his way of thanking us by doing something special for us.
Another outstanding recollection from our visit was that of a dear 13 year old boy. He would rise at 5:30 every morning and ride his bike to school wearing a great big coat as the temperature in the desert at that time of day is pretty cold.. He would return at 9 a.m. bringing us any items we needed as well as water in some jerrycans, as there is no running water in the camps. He served us with such joy, without complaining. Nobody asked him to do this but he was so happy to do it.
When you arrive, the Saharauis welcome you right into their homes and offer you their own rooms which they vacate for the duration of your visit. They also cook for you and guide you around, accompanying you everywhere, holding you by the arm as if you were their best friend. They respect you and love you from day one, because they realize that you traveled all the way there just for them because you also love them. It is a mutual love, a cycle of giving and giving. It is difficult to explain in words what the heart feels, but it is indeed a perfect way of life. There would not be enough space to write of every moment, every feeling, every little experience, there are so many at the end of the day. The house we were living in was near a main street. When the children left school each day, they would all pass by the front door. There, in the desert, it is extremely hot at noon and there is very little water. One day I realized there was a big drum of water and a metal cup adjacent to the door, and practically every child from the school was stopping to have a drink there before going home. This is a people that cares for each other.
Anyone can make a difference no matter where you are!
In the evenings we would go to the dunes nearby and kneel down with our friends and pray to the Father we have in common. We’d truly regard each other as brethren, sitting and talking about our families and our desire for a better world. At moments like these, everything stops, and time is no more.
Everyone is telling you, “Thank you for coming, don’t forget us, come again, visit us more often.” Every person you meet, without exception, is telling you, “Remember, this is your family, this is your house.” How could I ever forget them? How could anyone forget these loving acts of kindness and sincerity?
Our time in the Saharaui camps was a great success. We were able to perform in 15 schools and over 4500 children attended the programmes. We distributed presents, toys, clothes, and had a wonderful time with the families we lived with whilst there. When we arrived home after our trip I called the Minister of Education’s personal assistant, the person instrumental in securing the permit for us, to thank Him for all he did. He replied, “After you returned to Spain we received lots of good reports from everyone, from the schools’ head masters, the camps’ local authorities, and the families you lived with. We are very glad you came, and we are especially pleased with the tremendous job you did of bringing happiness to our children.”
I want to personally thank Activated Ministries for the big help they gave us which made it possible for us to make this trip. You were part of every moment, every smile, every tear of happiness, every gift that was given. For a few precious moments to 4500 children could forget they were refugees, liberated to laugh and enjoy themselves. We were also able to give gifts to many of them which brought them a lot of joy.. We couldn’t have made it without you.