Inspired by NBA star Tracy McGrady’s visit to refugee camp Djabal in eastern Chad with Enough Project staff Omer Ismail and John Prendergast, the Darfur Dream Team Sister School Program (DDT) was a program that was designed to provide empowerment through education. The program promoted a two-tiered approach that educated and engaged students in the United States to act in order to support the education of their Darfuri peers living in isolated and under-resourced refugee camps.
Between 2008 and 2014, the program raised over one million dollars for primary school education in camps Djabal and Goz Amer for Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad. These funds impacted more than 18,500 primary school-aged refugee children, 173 classrooms, and over 213 teachers. It strengthened the foundation of 12 primary schools, including the replacement of open-air and plastic-sheeted structures with concrete and mud buildings and providing all schools with essential school materials such as books, maps, blackboards, desks, and chairs. Over the years, the Darfur Dream Team added more than 18 new teachers, reduced the teacher-to-student ratio by almost half to 1:35, established student/teacher/parent committees, implemented certified eighth grade testing, trained teachers on child protection, built fences, hired school security guards, and created school clubs for girls.
In the process of supporting primary schools, DDT engaged over 350 high schools and universities from across the United States. DDT provided education about the lives of refugees from Darfur, Sudan, through multi-media materials like a movie highlighting Tracy McGrady’s inspiring trip to refugee camp Djabal, a curriculum for middle schools, high schools, and universities, and service-learning opportunities such as the Darfur Dream Team video contest. The national partnership also created a unique satellite-based communications network called Pazocalo, through which more than 27 U.S.-based schools exchanged messages and multi-media with their Darfuri peers for over three years.
While the program has ended, its impact continues.
The work of empowering Darfuri refugees through education moves forward with Little Ripples, an iACT education program in eastern Chad and WISE Awards 2016 winner. Located in the same camps previously supported by DDT, Little Ripples is an early childhood development program that builds the capacity of refugee women to implement customized, in-home, and play-based education in order to support the social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development of children ages three to five. Little Ripples continues to grow and has thus far impacted over 1,000 children ages three to five years old and their families in addition to more than sixty teachers and ten cooks. The program plants seeds of peace to break the cycle of violence and lays the foundation for long-term well-being of both the child and the whole community. The Little Ripples in-home centers, called “Ponds,” are strategically sprinkled throughout a camp to ensure an accessible, community-based solution.
The Darfur Dream Team Sister Program’s original partners included the Enough Project; IACT; Not On Our Watch; the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR); USA for UNHCR; Participant Media’s Darfur Now Social Action Campaign; TakePart.com; the Education Partnership for Children in Conflict, co-founded by Angelina Jolie and Gene Sperling; and Facing History and Ourselves. In addition to Tracy McGrady, the partnership included several other professional basketball players, including Baron Davis, Derek Fisher, Luol Deng, Jermaine O’Neal, and Etan Thomas.