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The Sahara Refugee Project

Descendants of the Recabites, the Saharauis are a Bedouin tribe – some of whom had settled in the Western Sahara, near the ocean. The area became a Spanish colony in the late nineteenth century for over 100 years until 1976. The Moroccan government displaced the Saharauis by bringing Moroccan citizens into western Sahara, displacing them from their homes and lands into the desert. A subsequent war forced a greater part of the Saharaui population into the desert where they live in refugee camps supported by the UN since it is an area of scarce water or food. After 33 years it seems that the world has left these people to their fate as desert refugees.

Our mission center in Spain has organized volunteer teams to travel to these areas and help these forgotten refugees for the last several years and we planned another visit during 2008. There are a lot of expenses and resources involved so we can only afford one visit a year. A number of friends and colleagues joined in to help with man-power and materials so we were able to put together a comprehensive project during 2008. It is quite expensive to get to the camps from our base in Spain as the means of transport are limited and it took some time to raise the funds for this and all the visas, permissions, and other logistical details involved. It was also a challenge to prepare all the content for the programs, seminars and workshops, and the goals we wanted to accomplish during our time in the camps. Living conditions are very rough so we had to make sure we were well prepared and had a committed team.

From previous visits we have learned that as guests of their government, the government officials we work with are very accommodating in helping us with our many different needs from transportation, food, lodging and security, to organizing the different performances, seminars, and workshops. We were able to present our program in all their schools and different governmental institutions. Twenty thousand people attended our programs and our songs were sung and recorded for the local radio station to reach many more.

This year a new opportunity opened up for us to distribute sets of educational material in the schools, libraries, and cultural centers – thanks to the sponsorship of Activated Ministries. Prior to the trip we were able to translate into Spanish and print thousands of copies of a motivational magazine based on the topic of one of the seminars and we distributed these throughout the camps.

We are thankful and grateful to all the ones that supported us with their prayers, time, and donations. From the Saharaui Project team in Granada, Spain we wish you the best, and pray the Lord blesses you greatly.

Following are the reactions and impressions of some of our volunteers.

Anita: My visit to the Sahara was a wonderful experience. I loved almost every thing about it. It’s so different there; their lifestyle, the way they interact with each other, the way they appreciate the simplest things, how they share the little they have. It is amazing that after all they have gone through and are still going through, they are such wonderful, loving, sharing, and kind people. I never would have imagined that this trip was going to be so special for me.

Danny: I think that visiting new places and seeing different ways of life opens your mind and definitely changes your perspective. That’s what made this trip to the Sahara very special; all the things I learned by the mutual respect, love, and kindness that was shown by these people and their thankful hearts for anything that was given to them. Even though their way of life is simple and seemingly poor, they have many riches that cannot compare with what many have to offer; the hope they have, the patience that they portray and their faith and trust in God that He will take care of them no matter what.

Juan: They had so little materialism but they were happy and you could tell that they were close to God. I can say for a fact that it made a difference in my life just to live with them for a while, sharing our lives and stories with each other.

Jon: A long time ago I asked the Lord to make it possible for me to go to the desert and be a witness for Him to the Bedouin natives. I finally got my chance with this trip and I’m so grateful for the experience. When I got to the camp, I was filled with a feeling of hope as I saw so many people surviving thanks to the mercy of God and the love of good hearted people. It was beautiful experience to give to those who were so grateful, and also to learn of their hospitality and how they offered you everything they had, even though they didn’t have much. When I came back, I realized that through this experience the Lord had liberated me from a lot of what was weighing heavily on my mind before. My spirit feels lighter and cleaner than ever before, and I have a new outlook on what the real values in life are.