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mia farrow

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March 22, 2010


We left Mao by car and bumped along over hills of sand for about 4 hours. Occasionally we stopped to push the car. I saw nothing but sand, shrub and an occasional trader with a band of camels until we reached Bol on the shores of Lake Chad.
There we were received in the traditional way: men on horses were waiting, wearing ancient costumes and there was singing and musicians. After some songs, enactments and words of welcome, the Governor himself showed me around Bol. With the parched lands of Mao still in my mind, it was a joy to see lush, well tended fields and chest high crops. All of the work here is done by hand, no machinery or even cattle plows.
I was raving about the beauty of Bol and over lunch the governor confirmed that it is indeed a near perfect place- except for one thing. The water in Bol has become salty and polluted. It is making people sick, especially the children.

In fact something has happened to the water in Lake Chad. After Lake Tanzania and Lake Victoria, the grand lake is the third largest in all of Africa. It touches 4 countries: Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. But it is only 40% of the size it was in 1956. Not only that, green algae is covering most of the lake's surface. There are islands on the lake. No one was sure exactly how many but more than 50. And at least 280,000 people are living on those islands. They farm and they have animals. They speak many different languages on the various islands and they are without phones, radios, medicines, schools or doctors. They are, I imagined, living as they have for centuries. I was and I remain, absolutely fascinated, and while the governor spoke all I could think of was how can I get myself out to those islands. But he said there was no boat deemed to be safe enough and we had to accept that we would not be visiting any islands. This time.

I kept asking questions and I learned that although the island people live in the most remote places imaginable, the worst of civilization has found them. Traders from Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger come through the lake, stopping on the islands and they have brought HIV/Aids to the lake people. The people have not heard of AIDS. They have no information, no medicines and no way to protect themselves. The governor estimated that at least 20% of the island people are now infected.

Then he did something astonishing. The Governor of the Lac region of Chad presented me with a sealed document that officially grants me ownership of a piece of land on the shores of Lake Chad. He explained that if I came to live there, then people would surely know they exist.

So,I now have land in a remote and beautiful part of Chad. I love the people and I love the land. I would like to use my property to build something for the people of Bol, either a school, a women's center or a desalinization plant, and I will keep a little section where I can sleep when I come to Bol.

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