The Greatest Desert Sahara: Saharan Savanna Style of living
In the early spring of last year I found myself in a refugee camp in the middle of the Sahara desert. Sand, everywhere around me, reminded me every minute that I am, in fact, in the middle of nothing alive. Except people. While I was looking for the reason of my arrival there, I met people who have been living in exile, nearly forgotten by the world. No drinking water in the near, no conditions for growing the food, no electric power. Only people.
Like everything else in our lives, in our world, there is something rich and shiny in modesty and poverty – their eyes and the children’s smiles. Without most of modern toys, they appreciate the bicycle that seven of them share or they just take a sandy stone and write or draw something on. In many of their sparkling eyes I have seen desire for knowing more, for learning about the world. That made me thinking about us, do we have the same desire for knowing something about them?
Saharawis, the people who live in the dead part of Algerian Sahara desert, expelled from their homes in Western Sahara forty years ago, organized their nurseries, elementary and high schools, medical care… they life, where no life is possible. Life filled with uncertainty and lack of basic living conditions did not discourage Saharawi people to enrich their lives with knowledge required for the advancement of their society. That places them above the world’s average in literacy and educational level.
Children grow up fast there into people whose faces can tell their life, their destiny. Whipped by the wind that carries sand everywhere, burned by the sun that mercilessly beats by day and missing its heat in cold Saharan nights, they harden and grow old prematurely. The spark of joy, but also the sadness that you catch in their eyes when they don’t know you’re watching, tells the story of a humble and simple desire what the modern world has forgotten to wish – their own homes, drinking water and freedom.
After I saw their travelling library with just a few books inside, that made me thinking about what can I do for them, for their better childhood, for at least one of them to make his/hers life meaningful? With a great help of one of their teachers, we collected short writings of Saharawi children from refugee schools, translated from Arabic to English and Croatian language and make a trilingual book of their dreams and wishes. Within that year of working on this project, holding travel presentations about Sahara and Saharawis all around my country, collecting the funds to print the book, appearing in all sorts of media, many people found out the story about the forgotten childhood that they didn’t know anything about. People cried, they were thinking about the story for days after we met, sending their good thoughts to the children of the desert, sharing their good energy around this project – and we did it! The book was here, “The Voice from Sahara” was ready to be transported back to the kids who wrote it.
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Dark night in the desert, again. Hugs, tears and smiles of old friends, Saharawi families and their “members” from all around the world. I am in the Sahara, in Saharawi refugees camp Smara, finding my heart again, with the people who were waiting for me. Bringing the books, school accessories and two of my friends with me, to place their harts in the sand of Sahara too.
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June 18, 2017