This post was written by student activist Valerie Kiebala and originally appeared on the MTV Act blog.
I just opened the Africa section of BBC World News. The first photo is of a camouflage Libyan tank, with its weapon aimed at a swirling cloud of dust. The second photo shows Sudanese soldiers marching along a barbed-wire fence, with an explosion in the background.
It’s easy to let our view of Africa slip into a narrow perspective of dusty, bloody, explosive, never-ending conflicts and an endless cycle of poverty. Until I got involved in the anti-genocide movement, my perspective of Africa fit that description. My participation in this movement has gradually broadened my view to encompass not just an awareness of the conflicts that occur throughout Africa, but also an understanding of the impact that united individuals in a city across the world can have on people in Africa.
I recently graduated from St. Viator High School in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, where I got involved with STAND, a national anti-genocide group, and through which I became involved in – and currently am the president of – Youth United for Darfur, a coalition of student groups around Chicago fighting for peace in Darfur, Sudan. Through YUFD, I’ve also participated in the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program. In the past three years, YUFD has raised over $50,000 to support its Darfuri Sister School, Ali Dinar A, located in Djabal refugee camp in eastern Chad. Watch this video from Chicago Bulls star and Sudanese native Luol Deng talking about the Sister Schools Program:
Our work, not just as YUFD, STAND, and the Sister Schools Program, but as humans, remains far from over. The unfortunate truth is that while the BBC photos may present a disheartening image of the conflict in Africa, they also reflect the reality of these continued conflicts which have contributed to more than 40 million individuals becoming refugees and internally displaced worldwide.
Monday June 20th is World Refugee Day and throughout 2011, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is celebrating 60 years of providing life-saving support and protection services to tens of millions refugees and internally displaced each year. By signing up for the Darfur Dream Team Summer Service Challenge you can start to make your impact by raising awareness of the refugee crisis and supporting refugees in your own community. To make my impact this summer, I’m organizing Walk with Darfur–YUFD’s summer walkathon, in downtown Chicago, on July 9th. No matter how much or how little time you have, you can make a dent in deteriorating the wall of ignorance and apathy towards the worldwide refugee crisis.