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 eat so much. Every day. It’s strange: I think about food so much, and at the same time–I take it for granted. It’s always there, always available. In all of my now long(ish) life, I’ve never had to worry about food. Even when growing up in Mexico, where it was only my Mom with six children and a relatively low income, I never once worried about my next meal. On the contrary, I remember great meals: meats, rice and beans, tortillas, all kinds of fruits and vegetables.
I don’t think I really thought about hunger in any significant way until I started going to the Darfuri refugee camps in Eastern Chad in 2005. Just about everyone I met there had experienced hunger first hand. Many had seen friends and family die from hunger and lack of water, as they walked across the desert escaping the destruction of their village.
I’m now thinking of hunger. I’m hungry, and it’s ridiculous. It’s only noon on day 1 of the 3 days I will be fasting. But I’m so used to just reaching for food at any time! Usually, soon after breakfast, we start to talk about what lunch might be…and then dinner. Plus there’s always snacks in-between, and a late-night one at the end!
It’s now 10 years since the Darfur crisis exploded. The “lucky” Darfuris made it to internally displaced persons (IDP) or refugee camps, where they live off of handouts. Malnutrition can be seen, brightly, on the children in the camps. The orange hair is a clear sign of it. I am hungry right now and will be hungrier the next couple of days, but I know I have food, and more importantly, I know that my children will never worry about whether their next meal will be there or not.
OK, more water for now. At midnight of day 3, I’ll have some good food in front of me. I’m already thinking of what that meal might be.
PS. Join me and many others during the 100 Day Fast for Darfur. Sign up here!
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 Molli Glickman, an outstanding Triangles of Truth advocate, whose 25% of the way towards her $5,000 goal. Her campaign contributions will benefit Little Ripples, an early childhood education program for Darfuri refugees.
ToT: What exactly are you fundraising for?
MG: I am fundraising for Triangles of Truth. We are a non-profit organization that aims to honor those lost in the Holocaust by remembering the victims by selling triangles in their name and raising awareness for the genocide the world is facing today, namely in Darfur. Triangles of Truth’s current project is to raise enough money to build a school in a refugee camp in Chad, in hopes to give the children there a brighter future with an education!
ToT: ?How did you get involved?
MG: I first got involved with Triangles of Truth this year through my teacher Mrs. Kay. She is the founder of the organization and this year I am enrolled in her Holocaust Studies class where we learn about the atrocities of the Holocaust as well as learning ways to prevent further acts of human injustice. When Mrs. Kay first introduced me to this cause I knew I wanted to put my head and heart into it 150%.
ToT: What has been the reaction of the community?
MG: My community has been nothing but supportive since I have begun my fundraising project. I think the most important tool to help achieve our goal is spreading the knowledge and raising awareness. The more people that we can inform of our mission, the more help and support we can acquire for this incredible cause.
ToT: Why is this a worthwhile cause for teens in Florida and elsewhere to partake in?
MG: I believe this is a worthwhile cause for teens everywhere to participate in because although we seem to be helping people in a very distant place, the very premise of our mission is an issue that affects every living human on this planet, promoting equality and human rights for every human being on this great Earth. Even at such a small scale, it begins with the idea that no one is better than anyone else. No human life is more valuable than the next. And once we can get this feeling on a global scale, I believe that genocide can be reduced to existing only as devastating stories in our history books.
ToT: Do you have any tips or suggestions for others looking to start their?own campaign?
MG: The best advice I could give to someone wanting to start their own campaign would be to have faith in yourself and the confidence to strive for your goals. Don’t ever sell yourself short! Persistence and passion are really the key, and with those two things, I believe anyone can achieve their dreams.
John and Kathleen Goldingay invite you to join in a fast for Darfur, to back up prayer for its people. We want to make a clamor that heaven cannot miss in urging God to take action to end the wrong done to this people. The fast will involve eating only what the refugees eat, for 24 hours each week, and praying.
You can find info on the typical Darfur rations and on the official fast at 100 Day Fast for Darfur. For ourselves we are making it a fast associated with prayer for Darfur. The heart of the prayer will be praying the Old Testament prayers in Lamentations and Psalms on behalf of the Darfuri people.
We’ll begin the fast on the evening of Thursday April 11 at 6 p.m. At the end of that 24-hour period, at 6 p.m. on Friday April 12, we’ll have a half-hour meeting for prayer at which we’ll begin reading Lamentations. The meeting will be at St Barnabas Church, 1062 North Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena (the church parking lot is at the back, entered from the alley), and all are welcome to attend.
John and Kathleen will follow this pattern in their own life each subsequent Thursday/Friday. We won’t meet with people each week, but it will be great if you are able to join us in fasting and prayer at a distance. We’ll continue until July 4-5th (you may adapt things for Independence-tide!).
As these weeks draw to an end, we invite people to a celebratory breaking of the fast with a barbecue on the evening of Friday July 5th at 6 p.m., at our house, 111 South Orange Grove Bvd. (We’re beginning a week later than the official fast and stopping a week before it ends.) There’s no need to say that you are coming or not coming for the initial evening—just show up. But if you’re coming for the break-fast, let us know!
Here are the prayers for each week. Of course they don’t exactly fit the circumstances of the Darfuri people. For instance, some speak of sin, when the plight of the Darfuri issues from the sin of others not from their own sin. So those elements in the prayers we could use to acknowledge our sin as nations who have let this event happen and let the situation persist.
April 12 Lamentations 1
April 19 Lamentations 2
April 26 Lamentations 3
May 3 Lamentations 4
May 10 Lamentations 5
May 17 Psalms 3 and 4
May 24 Psalms 5 and 6
May 31 Psalms 9 and 10
June 7 Psalms 12 and 13
June 14 Psalms 16 and 17
June 21 Psalms 22 and 23
June 28 Psalms 25 and 26
July 5 Psalms 27 and 28
John Goldingay and Kathleen Scott Goldingay
i-ACT first met Djabal’s librarian in January 2008. Gabriel was filming in a classroom and he asked if there were any students who wanted to sing a song. Rahma’s hand shot up in the air. He first sang his version of B-I-N-G-O, and his second number had a little dance. In this video Rahma shares his story, and you can even watch him sing and dance:
Year after year we have returned to Camp Djabal and watched Rahma grow. He has graduated from Primary School (through Level 8 in his refugee camp), and takes what classes are available for Secondary school. He still wants to be President of Sudan, but is also interested in being a Journalist. Upon learning that he was selected to be the Right to Education Mobile Human Rights Librarian, he shared his thoughts and gratitude:
Rahma took great pride in being the R2E Librarian. We were all saddened to hear that this hut had burned, and all his possessions and the library destroyed. We received this video in December 2012.
The refugee community came together to help rebuild Rahma’s hut, and several individuals and communities in the U.S. have given to help him replace his personal belongings. Most recently, on January 29, Human Rights Watch Student Task Force chapter at Wildwood School in Los Angeles launched a Change for Change drive to raise enough funds to replace the entire Djabal R2E Library. i-ACT and all the refugees in Camp Djabal are very grateful for their efforts and we look forward to learning who the winning class will be!
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.