Bette Takes A STAND:
Prepares To Fast To Raise Awareness of Darfur Genocide

STAND Prepares Global Initiative
By Elise Craig
Hoya Staff Writer
Friday, September 2, 2005; Page A1

A nationally recognized Georgetown student group, Students Taking Action Now: Darfur, will spearhead an international fast on October 6 meant to raise awareness about genocide occurring in Darfur, Sudan, its members announced last month.

People across the globe will be asked to forgo a luxury item, like candy or alcohol, and donate the money they would have spent to a charity to raise funds for Sudanese refugees.

“The idea behind the fast is to raise awareness to pressure government into action,” said STAND member Evan Caplan (SFS ’07).

Participants in the fast are asked to donate the saved funds to one of six charities, including the United Nations World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Service, Church World Service, World Vision, Islamic Relief and the American Jewish World Service.

STAND has set a goal of surpassing the 1,000 Hoya participants who fasted last fall, according to member Patrick Schmitt (SFS ’06).

Several celebrities have already committed themselves to the fast, including Bill Cosby and Bette Midler, Caplan said. Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and University President John J. DeGioia have also agreed to fast.

The student group also plans to conduct a nationwide tour of campuses, churches and synagogues, during which experts on the Darfur crisis and refugees from the area can speak about the humanitarian situation, according to a press release.

The Darfur fast announcement came during a four-day conference hosted by STAND in mid-August. Over 200 students from 140 universities, colleges and high schools convened at Georgetown to learn more about the humanitarian crisis.

The conference also marked the launch of the Sponsor-a-Camp program, which asks communities across the nation to sponsor refugee camps in both the Darfur region and neighboring areas. Students spent the night in a mock refugee camp in Red Square to show solidarity with the displaced residents of Darfur.

Georgetown’s chapter of STAND will partner with local schools to sponsor its own camp,” Caplan said.

“By launching the Sponsor-a-Camp intiative, we hope to humanize the crisis in Darfur for the public and establish a personal connection between our community and the displaced people in the Sudan,” STAND member Sasha Kinney (COL ’06) said.

A group of Georgetown students founded STAND in September of 2004. Since then, the group has grown to include over 200 chapters at high schools and colleges across the United States and Canada.

The Sponsor-a-Camp program was STAND’s winning submission for a $40,000 grant from Reebok and MTV-U last April, given to an activist college group working to raise Darfur awareness.

“The real purpose of STAND is to bring together national coordination for awareness, advocacy and action,” Caplan said.

The group’s biggest goal is to make Darfur more of a priority for the U.S. government and the United Nations, members said.

“We really want to see the State Department move Darfur from 12 or 15 on its priority list … to two or three,” Schmitt said. “We want to focus the resources of the United States to bring genocide to an end.”

STAND officials said they would also like the African Union to be given the power to protect individuals.

“Right now the AU only has a mandate to be an observational force. It can watch attacks, and document what happened. Their existence is just a small deterrent to violence,” Caplan said. “There needs to be an increased mandate to be protective force so that the AU can actually do their job — prevent violence and promote peace.”

For him, the decision to get involved in the effort was an easy one.

“I think we have a responsibility to do this,” he said. “We always say [genocide] can never happen again, and it always happens again. We need to act right now.”

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