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Archive for Monday, November 19, 2007

Nickel drive benefits Darfur oppressed

November 19, 2007

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— Doing something to help the oppressed in Darfur is more than just a political action project for two Smoky Valley High School students.

What began as a project for current events has evolved into a passion - one they plan to keep working on well after they're graded for the project in December.

Kat Emler and Alex Peterson are trying to gather 400,000 nickels - one for each person who has died in Darfur - for a total of $20,000.

The two were inspired to gather nickels after seeing similar memorial projects in different schools. Rather than a memorial, the two decided to collect nickels to hopefully save some lives in Darfur.

They are looking into organizations that ensure the money will be sent to Darfur, so far settling on the International Medical Corps.

Emler said she was surprised about the number of people who didn't know about the genocide crisis in Darfur.

When teacher Margo Lysell wore a "Save Darfur" shirt at the front of the classroom, students jokingly asked, "Who is Darfur?"

"I'd say it's almost a Holocaust that's going on," Lysell said.

More than 2.5 million people have fled from Darfur, either on foot or by donkey. Those who remain are deprived of water and food by the Arab Muslim government.

Emler and Peterson said it makes them appreciate how good they have it in the United States.

"We agree that we should be thankful for what we have and not take anything for granted," Emler said.

Since the project began, the two have asked for donations through local businesses, churches and their fellow students. There have also been a few good Samaritans along the way.

"We've had checks show up (from people) they don't know," Lysell said.

Emler and Peterson also plan to write to state and national representatives, encouraging them to help displaced refugees and help stop the genocide.

They're also asking other schools to do similar things to raise awareness of the situation in Darfur.

To get their peers involved, the two are proposing a Darfur Day at Smoky Valley High School.

A tent would be set up to represent how those in Darfur live, and the students would be fed diets similar to those of the impoverished in Darfur.

"You can learn, but if you don't take action, it's not going to change," Peterson said.

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