“Give up a latte, save a life!” could be heard around UCSB’s arbor early on Wednesday, December 5, as members of STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur) were soliciting donations from passersby for their annual fundraiser Darfur Fast. Holding up green flags and painted signs with slogans such as “$3 = 1yr 1 LIFE” as well as photos and drawings from Darfur provided by Human Rights Watch, the group was out in front of the campus’s Arbor area from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., collecting money and spreading the message of Darfur Fast. Chelsea, an art major and STAND activist, said the fundraiser appeals to college students because, “it’s the idea that it’s so little but it can help.” STAND, a division of the Genocide Intervention Network, is a student run anti-genocide organization with over 700 chapters on campuses nationwide. In association with Amnesty International and CALPIRG, STAND organizes this nationwide fundraiser in hopes of raising awareness about the conflict in Darfur. Last year, STAND raised over $400,000 in donations. This year’s donations will go to Genocide-Intervention Network’s Civilian Protection Program, which provides services for civilians in Darfur refugee camps.
With over 400,000 dead and 2.5 million displaced, resources in refugee camps are often strained. Refugees have to leave the relative security of the camps to gather necessities like firewood and water. Leaving the camps can often have fatal consequences as roving bands of government sponsored Janjaweed militia kill men and rape women who fall into their clutches.
The Genocide Intervention Network aims to circumvent these dangers by providing water and firewood for refugees as well as alternatives like fuel-efficient stoves and employment within the camps. While these services are effective many still have to leave the camps in order to sustain themselves. Part of the Civilian Protection Program enlists the support of African Union and United Nations peacekeepers to conduct armed patrols that accompany the women on their perilous wood-gathering excursions. By coordinating with the peacekeeping forces, the Genocide Intervention Network seeks to neutralize the threat to the civilian population in Darfur. According to the Genocide Intervention Network, the cost of administering this program is approximately $1 per person.
Darfur Fast called on participants to donate more than just money but to make a small sacrifice in show of solidarity with the suffering refugees. This fast may take the form of a luxury item such as a coffee or afternoon snack or any other indulgence. The idea of the fast is as important as the money, said Keely Patterson, a French major and STAND activist. “You’re not really involved until you’re giving up something of your own,” she said.
In addition to the fundraising STAND hosted a showing of the documentary Darfur Diaries in IV Theater later that evening. The documentary chronicles the journey of three activists who snuck into Sudan to capture footage of the genocide. While he was not certain as to how much money was collected from donations, STAND chair Serj Parseghian later added that Darfur Fast was a terrific success and students were extremely generous and showed a lot of concern for the ongoing crisis in Darfur.