The ongoing genocide in Darfur is at the heart of the mission of STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur), an organization at Christopher Newport University that raises awareness and funds to alleviate current and future genocides in Darfur.
These human rights activists are taking action by planning events and fundraising for the spring semester.
According to darfursources.org, “The genocide in Darfur has claimed 400,000 lives and displaced over 2,500,000 people. More than one hundred people continue to die each day and five thousand die every month.”
“I have always been interested in human rights issues, it is for a good cause and we’re open to listening to anything,” junior Allison Collender, STAND president, said. “We are always looking for new fundraisers, and we try and have fun events.”
STAND has multiple events planned for this semester, such as a concert in February and their annual STANDFest fundraiser in April. They have plans to work with Invisible Children and LINK (Liberty in North Korea). The group will also sell T-shirts to raise money, as well as beads, which are handmade by the women of Uganda.
STAND is open to all students interested in the cause.
Invisible Children attempts to raise awareness to stop the use of children soldiers in the rebel war in Africa. Children are abducted from their homes at very young ages and are forced to fight in the war. More than 90 percent of the rebel army troops are abducted children. Invisible Children works to bring these children back home.
Freshman Rachel Luckenbaugh joined STAND this year after working with Invisible Children last year.
“I did Invisible Children last year, and I am really passionate about injustice and genocide and this organization just seemed like the perfect place,” Luckenbaugh said.
STAND has been working with Invisible Children for three years, including this semester, and with LINK, an organization that works to redefine the crisis in North Korea through creative storytelling, while providing emergency relief to North Korean refugees and pursuing an end to the human rights crisis. Last year, LINK rescued 22 refugees from hiding.
“I though it would be a great opportunity for us to get involved and work with LINK, especially with what they are going through,” Collender said.
Junior STAND member Mary Ragan had the opportunity to travel to the east African country of Uganda for two weeks during her freshman year of college. Ragan helped the women and children of Uganda who are suffering from the ongoing war.
“It was an incredibly humbling experience and very shocking at times, but I am very thankful to experience another culture,” Ragan said.
Ragan now sells the handmade Ugandan beads to raise money to send back to the country. Ragan has being selling the beads through STAND since last year. Ugandan women make earrings, bracelets and long and short necklaces in a variety of designs and styles. All of these beads are made out of two simple products, paper and glue, and range in price from $5-20.
“It is something that you can’t get the full experience from talking to someone or learning about—to actually go there and experience it was really incredible and I met amazing people,” Ragan said.
Senior Christopher Urie also had the chance to travel to Uganda this past summer. The trip was something that Urie had always wanted to do.
“My experience at Uganda was amazing, and a lot of fun. You get to see the world through a different perspective, you see how people thrive in a different way than us,” Urie said.
Urie witnessed the affects that the genocide wars continue to have on the people of the battered nation firsthand.
“When I was in Uganda, I met a man who was abducted by the rebels. He was let go, because a solider felt pity for him, but when he got back, his entire plantation had been burned down and his dad was killed. Even all of his school friends had been taken,” Urie said.
Students do not have to travel all the way to Africa to start making an impact. Those who are interested in raising awareness around campus to stop the genocide war can begin by attending STAND meetings, which take place every Monday at 8:30 p.m. in the DSU.
“It’s a life changing thing, and it’s something that you don’t forget and you don’t let go of it,” Ragan said.