In light of the underdeveloped infrastructure and near starvation that roughly 70,000 refugees in the Central African Republic of Chad face, Global and International Studies professor Richard Appelbaum and former faculty member William Felstiner founded the non-profit organization Chad Relief Foundation to bring supplies and other necessary aid to the country’s refugees.
Since its initial launch in 2007, the organization has provided assistance totaling nearly $500,000 to date, completing 15 projects including offerings of wheelchairs, secondary schools and much-needed medicines and vitamin supplements in addition to various other forms of aid. Of the thousands of refugees being assisted, the foundation focuses on residents in the southern region of Chad and primarily serves citizens living in refugee camps located immediately outside Goré, Moula and Haraze.
Funded by various private donors, nonprofit organizations and private businesses, CRF is partnered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNICEF, CAREInternational, Vitamin Angels, Direct Relief International and a number of other organizations. It raises about $100,000 a year through fundraising and receives that same amount in donated medical supplies.
According to Felstiner, he and Applebaum decided to begin the Chad Relief Foundation while attending a seminar in Darfur, adding that he felt UCSB has the resources and ability to provide necessary aid.
“A person there was talking about a rescue camp in Chad … As I listened to that, I thought to myself, ‘Santa Barbara, with all its human and material sources, ought to be able to do something,’” Felstiner said. “So we decided that day to do something. We got in touch with people in Chad, particularly the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and eventually we decided to work in South Chad.”
During the eight trips Felstiner has made to the African country, he has routinely met with members of other nongovernmental organizations to discuss future goals and has also spoken with refugees at local camps to address their most pressing needs and concerns.
Refugees in Chad live in tents and mudhuts, and have little drinking water and basic sanitation facilities in addition to a total lack of electricity and roads. According to Felstiner, they battle malaria, tuberculosis, AIDs, meningitis, infectious lung diseases, diarrhea and constant hunger, adding that such harsh living conditions are made worse by the little help these citizens receive from the outside world.
“These are forgotten refugees,”Felstiner said.“I’ve never met anyone who has been there.”
The CRF has also established solar power infrastructure for lighting and refrigeration in a rural health center, provides ongoing deliveries of vitamins, medical equipment and antibiotics, and created a secondary school in an area where schooling usually ended after the fifth grade.
One of the foundation’s major goals is to increase the number of females enrolled in educational institutions since these numbers are currently relatively low, with an average of just one to three girls enrolled in classes of 30 to 40 students due to frequent drop-outs which oftentimes result from incidents of sexual assault or exploitation by teachers. The foundation is also working to reduce sexual and domestic violence, such as genital mutilation, in the area.
According to Felstiner, all received funds go toward projects in Chad as there is no paid staff and trips are funded out-of-pocket.
“We’re working in a very different part of the world so our expectations are quite modest,” Felstiner said. “We think that the money we get goes a long way; with a relatively small amount of money, we’ve been able to affect the lives of thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people.”
To learn more about the Chad Relief Foundation or to donate, visit www.chadrelief.org.
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of January 10th, 2013′s print edition of the Nexus.
Photo by William Felstiner / Daily Nexus.