i-ACT has been working with Triangles of Truth for over two years. Their global network of students and advocates support education projects in the camp by honoring Holocaust victims. They caught up with Alexxa Evangelista, an outstanding Triangles of Truth advocate.
??What exactly are you fundraising for?
Since I was a little kid I’ve loved school and I’ve always been really involved in my community and helping others. I used to raise money for children to go to sleep away camp every year and this campaign let me continue that in another way. I just want to continue my passion for helping others and give them the opportunity to love school as much as I do.
How did you get involved?
?I got involved through my teacher Ms. Kay in my holocaust studies class at Boca High and it’s been an amazing ride this far.
What has been the reaction of the community??
In my community everyone has been really shocked not only at what a good cause this is but how big we are making it and how drastic the tragedies are in Darfur. It just shows how little people know about the fatalities over there.
Why is this a worthwhile cause for teens in Florida and elsewhere to partake in?
I think this cause shows teens everywhere that there’s something bigger out there and that it’s really the little things that do make a difference and can make someone’s life just that much better. It goes to show how little we can give here in our worlds to help others do so much more.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for others looking to start their?own campaign?
The only advice I have is to keep sending it out to anyone you can think of and try to get the best results as possible, not only in monetary form but in feedback and that in itself is the real success.
On Wednesday April 17, i-ACT set up Camp Darfur at Brentwood School in Los Angeles, CA. Students from Martha Kermott’s sophomore class hosted each tent and the Little Ripples information table. During each period teachers of the Upper School visited the tents and learned from their peers about mass atrocities and genocide. Dr. Mike Riera, Head of School, wrote the following email to the entire Brentwood School community about the experience.
Letter of the Week: Unexpected Opportunity
by Dr. Mike Riera, Head of School
On Wednesday, I spent some time at the sophomore History Project: Darfur Refugee Camps. I circulated through the tents representing five different instances of genocide: Armenia, Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Sudan. (See the article in Teaching and Learning for a more thorough description of the installation.) Listening to the presentations, viewing photos, and talking to our students moved me in a myriad of ways—anger, despair, sadness, shock, guilt, and outrage, just to name a few. There was a lot to take in.
The variety of these strong feelings permeated the inside of each tent. As students entered to hear the presentations, I watched their body language change from the typical adolescent stride to a retracted walk often seen when people enter a spiritual place. There was a kind of anxious reverence. When they exited the tents, their adolescent walk was slow to resume. As one would hope, their feelings and questions lingered, and it showed.
As I paid attention to students describing the various genocides, I heard a vulnerable and humbled quality in all of their voices. Whether they were describing the event or reading a first hand account, all were visibly shaken by what they were saying. Just as powerful were the reactions to the photos hanging on the walls—images of people who had lived and died in the various camps. The power of the material quite simply cut through the typical adolescent defenses and self-consciousness.
Over the course of the day I spoke with students about their various responses to Camp Darfur. They were quite similar to my own. More impressive, however, was how articulate they were in how they related these experiences to the human condition, power and influence, leadership, group think, and a myriad of other nuanced emotions and concepts. They were maturing right in front of me.
When people ask me what is special about Brentwood, besides the outstanding academics and teachers, I frequently cite the additional focus on the development of emotional intelligence. In my mind, Camp Darfur is one of those clear-cut examples of emotional education in process.
In their groundbreaking 1990 article, Emotional Intelligence, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer defined emotional intelligence as “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” These skills were on display during Camp Darfur. From presenters self-monitoring their content based on peer responses; to students ability, upon reflection, to identify their various and subtle emotions; all the way to using this information to refine and deepen their attitudes on a host of issues, including their own identities. It was profound to see this emotional growth-spurt in action.
Emotional intelligence is not a subject like math or Spanish, rather it frequently exists in the spaces between content. It can be mined and brought into the light of day for clarity or it can be left to go unnoticed and ignored. At Brentwood this aspect of learning is intentionally mined for all its potential, like what happened earlier this week at Camp Darfur.
Have a great weekend.
Thank you Brentwood School and Martha for partnering with i-ACT year after year to raise awareness and funds for Darfuri-led projects in the refugee camps on the Chad-Sudan border.
I became active in the Darfur movement in late 2004. I did not know exactly how I’d be able to participate in alleviating what was and continues to be overwhelming human suffering. I just knew I needed to act.
One of the very first campaigns I helped create and organize was a 100-Day Fast for Darfur. My sister Rachel and I thought fasting would be a good way to connect people with the issue, while at the same time fundraise for direct assistance for the survivors. I had no idea how deep of an experience it was going to be for me and for the many people that participated in that and other fasts we organized since.
2013 is considered the 10th anniversary of the start of the crisis in Darfur. After ten years, millions of people continue to live in internal and refugee camps, with new generations of Darfuri children knowing no other life than the life of a refugee or IDP. Fighting, killing, and displacement continues in Darfur and is also happening in other areas of Sudan. When I started working on the peace for Darfur movement, I never thought that in 2013 I would be organizing another fast to offer hope and support to a population that continues to be besieged.
Fasting can be powerful. Clearly, for us in the United States and other well-off countries, it is not necessarily dangerous or even a sacrifice. We know that at any moment, we can walk into our kitchen or direct our car to the nearest drive-thru, and our “hunger” will be taken care of. It is meaningful, though, because it makes us think about something we take for granted, when our next meal will be. For those that fast without an option, the question is much more urgent: Will there be a next meal for me and my children?
I am lucky that over the years I have also been able to focus on the beauty and hope that exists in the communities of survivors from Darfur. They are hopeful and actively involved in creating a better future for their children. They value education and sports, and they are excited about connecting with the rest of the world.
The 2013 100-Day Fast for Darfur is about connecting. It’s about connecting as communities and as individuals. It’s about saying “10 years is enough.” Join me in fasting and connecting with our Darfuri friends that have lost so much–but who have so much more to offer. I promise you it will be an experience you won’t forget.
Please join our 100-Day Fast for Darfur.
I’m big on creating goals, but I’ve never been big on creating New Year’s resolutions. I guess I feel like if you really want to accomplish something you should start right now, don’t wait for a new year. However, this year our team has really made an effort to create timelines, long-term goals, and fundraising plans for our various projects. I think mostly this is because of the amazing team we have built – a few of us paid but many more volunteers – who are all committed to seeing our projects become successful (and who help us stay organized!).
Our model is simple but our avenues tend to be bold. We don’t always wait for the grant to be awarded or for the perfect time to take a trip to visit our refugee friends. We just do it. And this year, you will see our team forge ahead and hit key milestones for a few of our projects. Here’s a sneak peak (of just a few of our programs):
|First Little Ripples Center to Open: We start the pilot phase with 351 Little Ripples (children ages 3 to 5) in refugee camp Goz Amer. We have assembled an amazing team of Expert Teacher Advisors who will train and guide refugee teachers in the creation and implementation of a new innovate program that not only teaches the foundations of reading and writing, but focuses on peace-building and trauma recovery. We hope to continue to launch Little Ripples Centers until more than 8,000 students are touched. Long term goal? This program becomes a model that can be applied in emergency situations throughout the world.|
|First Darfur United Soccer Academy Launched: Last year we helped Darfur United participate in the Viva World Cup in Iraqi Kurdistan, an almost impossible feat when we first discussed it. Surely this year we can reach our goal of launching the first Academy. We have the blueprint for skills & drills, health and hygiene, and a league. We have interested soccer coaches to train refugees. We even have consistent equipment and jersey donations rolling in. We are on the right track. Long term goal? To build a comprehensive program for boys and girls in every Darfuri refugee camp that leads to having both a men’s and women’s teams who play with a unique Darfuri style.|
Right to Education Mobile Human Rights Library
|Recreate the Right to Education Mobile Human Rights Library: The library in Camp Djabal was unfortunately destroyed in a fire. We must recreate it and also continue to supplement the library in Camp Goz Amer. So far, this is an all volunteer project supported by communities and individuals. Long term goal? Keep it stocked, bring new material, and just imagine an actual human rights library for every camp!|
100 Day Fast for Darfur
|It has been 10 years since the violence in Darfur started in 2003. For many, it has been 10 years of living in a refugee camp, or as one refugee called it, “an open prison.” Let us honor and commit to working for peace, protection, and justice for all Darfuris. Fast for a day or more, eat only refugee rations, or sponsor a faster between April 6 – July 14. Long term goal? Empower individuals and communities to act on behalf of our refugee friends by fostering a new culture of participation.|
It was an honor to represent Darfur United at the Peace and Sport Forum in Sochi, Russia. It was an amazing event, bringing together people from all over the world that share the same vision — that sports offers something unique and beautiful to the movement towards a more peaceful world.
i-ACT, our small non-profit, was awarded the “Peace and Sport NGO of the Year Award” for our work towards peace through Darfur United. I was proud to receive it for all of our players that are back in their refugee camp homes. I will visit some of them in two weeks, and I will let them know how true it is that Now They Are Part of the World!
Thank you to Joel and all at Peace and Sport, and a special thanks to Prince Albert II of Monaco who is a champion for peace through sport.
We will continue with Darfur United and are calling on everyone that reads this to join us in creating the Darfur United Academy, so that the hope and joy that soccer brings can be experienced by all refugee boys and girls in the camps.
For more photos visit Darfur United
Some children see bears ready to attack everywhere during their “normal” daily life. The “fight or flight” response is activated, at times when it’s not necessarily needed, getting in the way of a happy childhood! This leads to health, cognitive, and emotional issues that impact life in a negative way for the rest of that child’s life. This whole-body response system evolved to have us ready to face the dangers—like bears and lions—that were imminent, when early humans lived in the woods or plains.
I’ve been immersed in research related to early childhood development and the effects of trauma, as we move forward with our plans for our Little Ripples and Darfur United Soccer Academy projects. The kids these programs are meant to serve have been born to a society that has experienced extreme trauma. Experts agree that this trauma is passed on to the next generation, even if the little ones did not experience it first hand.
Our little refugee friends are starting their lives being haunted by their parents’ bears (or Janjaweed) and then must also deal with their own, as they are born into harsh and crowded refugee camps where it’s difficult to even dream about a safe place to play, much less find one. Their “fight or flight” response is activated over and over again, and their whole emotional system is thrown off, affecting their ability to learn and thrive.
I live in Southern California, a place where Spring is eternal, where water flows freely even during droughts, and where bagels compete for our attentions with Jamba Juices, frozen yogurts, and iced mocha Frappuccinos. While there are many children in need here, it is also common to see kids with an iPhone in their hand and an iPad in their backpack, as they run home to play on their Xboxes. The more I dive in to the challenges our team faces to bring eduction and play to Darfuri refugee children, the more I feel privileged, personally and for my children.
I would be doing this work, even if there was no other argument than the one of compassion. But, there are other important arguments to be made. It sounds cliche, but it is true: we live in a small, shrinking, interconnected world. We cannot raise the moat bridge and think we can live in isolation, unaffected by what is happening “out there.” We can either decide to care now and be proactive in a positive, and yes—compassionate way, or we will most certainly have to deal with bigger issues later. Do we want to export hope in the form of books and balls — education and play? Or, do we want to export guns and war? By the way, the first option is immensely less expensive.
Research also shows that interventions and having safe places and caring adults in the their lives will effectively counteract trauma in children. Play is also a proven healing therapy. Toy blocks and a soccer ball can change the lives of children—and the world around them.
I believe in pushing our government and institutions to do the right thing. They won’t do it, just because it’s the right thing to do. We have to make it the right choice, politically, for them. But, we can’t wait until we turn that big ship around. It has been so wonderful to connect with amazing, compassionate, and giving people that want to be a part of putting some of those bears away, even if it’s for children that are half-way around the world and that they will probably never meet. Together, we’re not waiting.
If you are interested in volunteering for any of our projects, please contact email@example.com