Empowerment and Inspiration

Today, we set up MY HOME: A Walk Through Children’s Memories of Darfur in Redding, CA at Turtle Bay Exploration Park. It was a long day, but at the end of eight hours of setting up fabric walls, assembling bamboo stands, and hanging drawings there were more than thirty volunteer docents from Genocide No More–Save Darfur ready to be trained to educate and empower their local community. Over the next month, these community members will spend their valuable personal time telling, and retelling the stories of Rahma, Rouda, Mansur, Adam, and the other Darfuri refugees. It felt like I was home being around such dedicated and attentive leaders ready to change the world.Each tent hosted by VISA student - Sept 2009

A bit later, I received an email from a teacher at Vaughn International Studies Academy (VISA) in Pacoima, CA. We first took Camp Darfur there two years ago and their elective class ETHA (Engaging Teens in Humanitarian Action) used peer education–pictures right–to teach about Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Darfur. Their high school was so inspired and affected by the Camp that ETHA then trained VISA middle school students to host the camp at their school. Last fall the ETHA hosted a Human Rights Conference with Camp Darfur and dozens of workshops for the entire high school. Brent, ETHA’s advisor, emailed me to say that students at VISA were so affected by Camp Darfur and the human rights education by ETHA that there are going to build a permanent camp at their school that includes Darfur and other human rights issues.

This will be the third “camp” inspired by Camp Darfur. Minnesota’s World Without Genocide is building Tents of Witness with tents to Ellen Kennedy leader of World Without Genocide include Somalia, Argentina, Native Americans and more. In Los Angeles, the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force regularly uses Camp Darfur tents to create their own Children’s Rights Camp that includes a Darfur tent alongside others about child trafficking, underage migrant farm workers, the juvenile justice system, and more.

Reflecting on all of this fills me with such joy. It reinforces one of the reasons why I do this: to empower the next generation of leaders. I know I am so, so lucky to get the chance to personally know not only the refugees we work on behalf of but also to work directly with the people who are reaching out to their own communities. I am so proud to be part of the i-ACT and Stop Genocide Now team who has inspired and sustains everyday hundreds of dedicated activists across the US. We may not be a big organization but I know that we make a huge impact. So thank you to all who is part of this community. Thank you team for your endless hours of support, energy, and innovative ideas. And thank you leaders for listening and standing up for what you believe in!

peace, ktj

PS: Check out all these amazing things that i-ACT and SGN has done since 2005: i-ACT Achievement 2005-2011 (Thank you Lexi for creating this awesome summary!)

Katie-Jay keeps i-ACT running on several levels. Much of her work entails coordinating partnerships with other grassroots organizations and implementing the campaigns developed by Gabriel and seeing through the details. She graduated from Portland State University with a BA in Sociology and a focus on Community Development. She has previously worked as a community organizer in Thailand, Guatemala, and with grassroots organizations across the United States.

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