Two years ago, the STAND chapter at Queens College in New York consisted of three friends sitting around a table, talking about Darfur and wondering how in Lemkin’s name to get people on our campus involved. When we came up with the idea for REFUGEE CAMPus a few months later, our chapter took off. What had been three became closer to thirty, and what had been tiny became a food pantry for our local community, a fund for conflict-affected Congolese students to go to school, a much higher quality and breadth of issues addressed, and a sustainable, empowered community of activists at one of the most diverse schools anywhere.
So what is this event that created so much change? REFUGEE CAMPus was conceived as a 5-day, 4-night camp out on our campus quad, complete with educational events and interfaith jamming sessions, to raise consciousness and action about the conflicts in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This year, between August 30 and September 3, STAND at Queens College is proudly hosting its second REFUGEE CAMPus. This time, we have the students and the resources to cover a much broader range of refugee situations, from Sudan and Congo, to Palestinian and environmental refugees, even LGBTQ youth who are homeless because of who they are in New York City.
We are not just talking about these issues, however, we are also giving students and community members tangible actions to take. We are engaging in a video campaign to put a spotlight on Sudan, urging the U.S. to take strong diplomatic action immediately, we are brainstorming ways to help make our laptops, cell phones, and cameras conflict-free, we are fostering Peaceful dialogue on our campus about tough issues like Israel-Palestine, we are distributing information about how students can make their everyday lives more environmentally-friendly, and more. In short, we are empowering everyone to take action for their favorite cause in a wide variety of ways.
Therefore, our educational events, Peace Jam, open-mics, and small-group dialogues are about far more than raising awareness. REFUGEE CAMPus is about empowerment. REFUGEE CAMPus will this year be packed with trainings and workshops to help students—both college and high schoolers—to underSTAND that every individual, no matter whom, or how old, or where, is truly empowered to create positive, tangible changes in our World.
Jenn Polish is a student at Queens College and an active member of the QC STAND chapter.