Post by Connie & Anika, STAND: Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, University of Delaware

The United Nations estimates that over 2.5 million people have been displaced in Darfur, as a result of the genocide that endures in this region. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those forced to leave their homes but reside within their country in shelters known as IDP camps.

Last year, we attended the “Seal the Deal” rally in Washington D.C, in which hundreds urged PreIMG_1857sident Bush to enforce passed legislation in dealing with Darfur. Several mock IDP camps were set up on the National Mall, exposing the realities of life inside of a real IDP camp via accurate representations of food rations and medical supplies, as well as photographs, videos and written information. These camps immediately caught our attention and we, along with many others, spent a great deal of time walking inside each tent to learn more about the lives of the displaced people of Darfur.

After the march, we decided to apply for a Rights, Camera Action mini-grant from AID in order to create a mock IDP camp similar to the ones we saw at the rally in D.C. for our campus’s next genocide awareness event.

After purchasing a canopy tent, we covered it with white sheets. On the sheets, we posted specific information about the displacement in Darfur, definitions on an IDP camp, actual food rations and daily life. We also posted headlines, encouraging people to learn more about the lastest news of the genocide, such as the recent expulsion of humanitarian aid groups from Sudan following President Omar al-Bashir’s indictment by the ICC for crimes against humanity.

We reserved the entire back wall of the tent for information on “How You Can Help,” including specifics on what students can do to support larger efforts to improve the situation in Darfur. Finally, we decorated the outside of the tent with colored felt patches that our members had painted with messages and images of peace, hope, etc.

The colorful outside definitely caught student’s attention, and the fact that it was a tent seemed to intrigue too – more interesting than your average tIMG_1881abling experience.  Looking back, however, there are still a few things we would have changed. We realized that parts of the walls had too much information, for example, which most students simply skimmed.  Being more selective with our facts or highlighting certain components may have actually better captured the attention of our viewers. We had also hoped to show a video inside the tent, having seen the effectiveness of live footage used at the mock IDP camps in D.C. Unfortunately, we were unable to run an extension cord to the tent, and, therefore, had no way of playing the video. Things like this may seem minor, but definitely could have helped make an impact.

Overall, the event was hard work, but was well worth it. Our members were able to learn from the research they did for the tent, and we were able to depict that information to our audience in a visually appealing and captivating way. We see many people turn away from helping with the crisis in Darfur, not because they don’t believe that something should be done, but simply because it seems like too big of an issue. How can you help bring an end to something so much larger than yourself?

We feel that this event actually succeeded in bringing the issue down to size and demonstrating how small actions, like calling 1-800-Genocide or joining an active student group like STAND or Americans for Informed Democracy, can actually make a difference, especially when efforts are combined. We are so glad to have had this experience and are very grateful to AIDemocracy for its assistance.  We know we at least opened up a number of peoples’ eyes, which is really the first step.