Mia Farrow: A Trip to Darfur

In June, actress Mia Farrow returned from a weeklong trip to Darfur, the conflict-ravaged region in western Sudan, with images of "unthinkable suffering" – and a passion for the people who have survived. The people I met, the stories I heard – all of it is seared into me, Farrow, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, tells PEOPLE. I am not the same person anymore. Here are her photos and recollections of her journey. By Joanne Fowler

01 of 05

SWEETNESS AMONG SUFFERING

SWEETNESS AMONG SUFFERING
Mia Farrow

"This girl's face epitomized all the reasons why we cannot be disconnected from this tragedy," says Farrow, who visited the Zam Zam Refugee Camp – one of 200 in the region. "In her face, you see all the sweetness and beauty and hope and trust. Just look at her – it sort of says it all. This little girl had never seen a picture of herself. So I took her picture and then turned the digital camera around so she could see it."

02 of 05

LIFE AT THE CAMP

LIFE AT THE CAMP
Mia Farrow

In Darfur, 90 percent of the villages have been burned amid the fighting, forcing families to live in crowded refugee camps like the one in Greida (left), where 126,000 people live under pitched tents. "There's nothing to do at the camps," says Farrow. "UNICEF tries to create safe places for the kids and brings in crayons and paper. An aid agency in Norway had sent three soccer balls, but they didn’t hold up; the heat deflated them." For day-to-day survival, "wood is becoming a currency in the camps, and can be traded instead of money."

03 of 05

A NEED FOR PROTECTION

A NEED FOR PROTECTION
Courtesy Mia Farrow

Farrow, in the northern town of Galap with a rebel fighter from the Sudan Liberation Army, wears a gift from a local woman, a necklace with good-luck charms. "Her children were killed and she had just lost everything. She pressed those amulets into my hand and said, ‘This is for your protection. This is for your children.’ I just stopped in my tracks because I could give the women nothing for their protection."

04 of 05

ONE BOY'S STORY

ONE BOY'S STORY
Mia Farrow

Since fighting began in 2003, an estimated 200,000 to 450,000 people have died, many at the hands of the Janjaweed – an Arab militia that torched villages and raped and killed their inhabitants. One 15-year-old (left, in Finna) escaped such a fate. "They had killed his father and whole family and burned his house," says Mia's son Ronan, 18, who accompanied her. "He told us he climbed and climbed into the mountains until he couldn't hear any more gunshots. Now he stays in a village protected."

05 of 05

DEFENDING THE WOMEN

DEFENDING THE WOMEN
Mia Farrow

SLA rebels in Galap, in northern Darfur, protect the women and children from getting caught in the crossfire. Despite a peace agreement, "various groups are armed and dangerous and they are now fighting each other," says Farrow. "It is a war of the worst kind."

HOW YOU CAN HELP: At the moment, 7,000 peacekeeping forces from the African Union monitor the region, but are set to pull out in September. For more information, go to www.unicefusa.org or savedarfur.org

For more on Mia Farrow's journey, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

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