Editor's Note: Madison Brenchak is a student at Seymour Middle School in Seymour, CT. She is a member of Seymour’s Small Steps club, a participant and supporter of the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program. Learn more about the Darfur Dream Team and the Pazocalo social network that connects students at Seymour and 25 other U.S. schools with their Darfuri peers.
Right now, in 2013, it has been ten years since the tragedy occurring in Darfur started. In 2003, the Sudanese government began supporting militia groups called the Janjaweed (“Devil on Horseback” in Arabic) to terrorize villages in Darfur because of their ethnicity and with goals of acquiring land and resources. These actions have been widely recognized as genocide.
As a result, millions of Darfuris lives were in jeopardy and they were forced from their homes. Hundreds of thousands of Darfuris walk miles and miles to seek asylum in Chad, Sudan’s neighboring country to the west. Even after ten years of brutality and displacement, this tragic conflict continues today.
As members of Small Steps, a student club at Seymour Middle School, we aim to make a difference in the lives of these displaced Darfuris. I joined Small Steps with hopes of improving the lives of Darfuri students in refugee camps. We have been brainstorming many different ideas and plans to help make a difference for education in the refugee camps through the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program.
For example, Small Steps is holding fundraisers and collecting donations in our community to support our sister school, a primary school in Goz Amer refugee camp called Choula A. We believe we can learn from our Darfuri friends and that they can benefit from our help here at Small Steps. This semester we raised more than $1200 for Choula A during our penny jar wars fundraiser.
We are also trying to get more and more people to become aware of what exactly is going on in Sudan and the refugee camps in Chad. The refugees have few possessions and are thankful for the support we provide. So acting and donating just a little, can be crucial to improving their lives.
As a group, Small Steps has also been able to communicate and build friendships with some Darfuri refugee students and teachers in Chad via DDT’s social network, Pazocalo. We ask how they are doing and about school subjects and other topics as well. This way we are interacting with and learning from each other. This is a great opportunity because, although we are separated by a whole ocean and half a continent, the social network gives us a chance to interact with each other. The refugee camps are so remote and our daily lives are so different, but it’s amazing to share back-and-forth about our experiences as students despite the difficulties.
If we get more people to spread awareness and get involved, we can really make a difference in the lives of Darfuris. Just think about how much of an impact we can all make together. The conflict in Darfur persists, even today. But as more schools and students get to know these survivors and take action, we can begin with small steps and then be able to take giant leaps toward improving each other’s lives. For example, our donations are providing much-needed supplies, training, and more for schools and education in the refugee camps. Additionally, our Small Steps club here at Seymour Middle School can motivate other students to learn about Darfur, get involved, and hear directly from Darfuris about their hopes and dreams.
Photo 1: The Small Steps club at Seymour Middle School organized a school-wide "penny war" and raised $1,200 for their Darfuri sister school- Choula A in Goz Amer refugee camp. (Brian Cleveland/Seymour Middle School)
Photo 2: Student and faculty members of Seymour Middle School's Small Steps club. (Brian Cleveland/Seymour Middle School)