Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Conflict-Free Campus Initiative Campus Organizer Allie McNamara. On November 6, 2015, CFCI leaders met with U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Tom Perriello, to deliver a letter signed by over 500 students calling for accountability, inclusivity, and a conflict-free mineral trade in Congo. Read the full letter here.
If someone had asked me exactly a year ago what I thought of conflict minerals, I would have had no idea what to say. Today, I can strongly voice my opinion about conflict minerals and also tell that person why they should demand conflict-free minerals for their electronics. It was just by chance that I stumbled upon the Enough Project website this summer and found an application for a position called a Campus Organizer. Little did I know that by applying for this position, I would ignite my passion for backing human rights around the world and urging others to join me.
As a student from Illinois College, a small liberal arts college in Jacksonville, Illinois, I was quite intimidated when I saw the list of students who were also chosen to be Campus Organizers for the Enough Project’s Conflict-Free Campus Initiative this year. They were from universities that made my college of one thousand students seem like an average class size! So when we began our training, I was unsure of how exactly Illinois College and I would fit into such a big cause like supporting peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo through activism on college campuses. During training, however, I realized that we were all uniting through one cause and it did not matter our size or prestige as schools because every step towards a conflict-free mineral trade in Congo is not unimportant or unnoticed. As soon as I arrived back to the campus I call home, I decided that Illinois College would keep up with the other amazing universities on this mission to end the deadly conflict mineral trade in eastern Congo.
Thus, my first objective came into sight. I planned to get as many signatures as I could for the letter to the U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Tom Perriello, in order to keep up with the big universities. I wanted to show that even though we are a small college, we are still a school that is mindful and takes action on global issues. So I began my efforts by informing my classes of what I was doing and asking them if they wanted to support the conflict-free movement sprouting up on college campuses around the world.
With class sizes ranging from seven to forty students, I knew that just doing this was not enough. So I set up camp outside of the cafeteria because, you know, people have got to eat. I sat outside of the cafeteria on a Monday afternoon to make sure I would reach my peers. To my surprise, many of the students I started conversations with actually asked me great questions and wanted to know more about Congo. It was refreshing to see that students of a central Illinois community wanted to take action and learn more about the issues Congo faces, as well as the potential for peace. In just two hours, I had over 100 signatures! It was amazing to see the interest and action for the initiative and the letter for the Special Envoy. About a week later, I was so excited to see that Illinois College ended up with 151 signatures! At that moment I was so proud of my school and of my peers for showing their commitment to a first step toward peace in Congo.
My journey as a Campus Organizer hasn’t been long, but I already feel as if I have made an impact on the larger journey of supporting a peaceful future in Congo. I feel confident that, as I continue my journey and hopefully pass a conflict-free procurement resolution through the Illinois College administration, I will truly be making an impact in a country which is often forgotten by the rest of the world. So if nothing else, I know that my actions up to this point have already made the smallest ripple in creating change, and supporting hope and peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo.