Reporters on the Job

Hope in the Desert: What's the point of all this hardship? It was a question that was nagging at staff writer Scott Baldauf on the hour-long flight, crammed into a tiny 14-seat Beechcraft with a dozen aid workers high above the impossibly hot desert that makes up the vast majority of Chad's territory.

"For a week, photographer Melanie Stetson Freeman and I had seen more hardship than we had seen in a long time. We met with Sudanese refugees from Darfur who came to those same deserts, seeking refuge from a war that even today shows few signs of stopping. It takes a desperate person to come to Chad for help, but these were people for whom hardship was a daily companion. Thrust from their homes by murderous militias, forced to walk for a month or more to Chad, and now scratching out a life in an alien country, entirely dependent on aid groups for their food, water, and shelter, these were some of the most desperate people I have ever met."

Why? Scott asked one tribal leader. He pointed at the skin on his hand, a dark espresso color with the calluses of years of farm work. "I'm here because of the color of my skin," he told Scott. "I'm black, and the Sudanese government and those Arabs don't like us."

"When I pointed out that most of the Arabs I had met in Khartoum were at least as black as he was, he just smiled and shrugged," says Scott.

As journalists for a paper that prides itself on looking for solutions and signs of hope in even hopeless situations, Scott and Melanie spoke with the people who flock to disasters – humanitarian aid workers. "We watched them drill for water, inspect earthen dams to capture some of the precious summer monsoon rain, and most important, convey a sense of hope to the refugees they served. Finding hope in the Chadian desert is not easy," says Scott. "It's like making lemonade out of sand. How do they do it?" (see story)

– David Clark Scott
World editor

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