The story began when I met Danielle Smith, the director of Sandblast, a Human Rights charity promoting the voices and visions of the Saharawi people through the Arts www.sandblast-arts.org. Embedded in a protracted conflict since 1975, half of the Saharawi population are refugees living in harsh desert camps in SW Algeria, while the other half live in their own land, occupied by Morocco for the last 40 years. The Western Sahara is Africa’s last colony.
In February, I went to visit the camps to find out if the Ministry of Health and the Film school Abidin Kaid Saleh based in one of the camps would be receptive to our project and collaborate with us.
At the same time, there is an international marathon that takes place in the desert every year to raise funds and awareness for the Saharawi refugees. I had no time to train for it, so instead I walked 21 km and was able to absorb the special magic of the desert and the unique state of mind it provokes.
The response from the Health Ministry and the Film School was extremely positive. And more than that, we also received invaluable support from Jorge Ferrer, a professor specialized in diabetes, working for Imperial College, and from a fundraising consultant, Annette Gibbons-Warren, who both participated
in the marathon. It was a stroke of serendipity that we all met there at the same time and connected so easily.
Living in one of the camps with a small group of women who were running the marathon, was such an inspiring experience, despite all the difficulties of living in challenging conditions, we were warmly welcomed and well looked after by our lovely, vivacious Saharawi hostess Fatima.
We are now fundraising for this project, to make it happen in 2017.