By Lori Vanderveen ’13
For nearly a decade, the Darfur region of Sudan has suffered from persistent genocidal violence and government oppression. The conflict between Darfuri rebel groups and the Sudanese government proxy fighters has left an estimated 300,000 dead and nearly 2 million people displaced in refugee camps.
For seven years, Athenian students in the Holocaust seminar have produced and hosted an event called the Darfur Benefit Show to raise awareness and money for victims of Darfur’s genocide. What began as a tear-filled night with survivor’s testimonies has evolved into a performing tradition, showcasing Athenian’s talent from all grades and sending the school into a Darfur T-shirt hysteria. The cause has become very close to the Athenian heart.
Many people would say that the time to help Darfur has passed: with the 2011 peace agreement, the conflict is officially over. Are Athenian’s benefit shows now irrelevant?
Sadly, Darfuris still need global support. Although the conflict is officially over, fighting continues in the region and millions are left suffering in refugee camps. The threat of violence has not subsided: this past August, 25,000 people were forced to flee a refugee camp in the midst of more fighting. The situation between the Sudanese government and Darfur is deteriorating, and the 2011 agreement may soon add to the list of numerous other broken peace agreements from the last 10 years.
The seventh annual Darfur Benefit Show and Silent Auction is coming up—on Thursday, November 29th at 6:30 pm. This year, the silent auction’s inventory boasts a weekend getaway to Lake Tahoe and Warriors tickets. Performing talent comes from all grades.
Proceeds will go to Darfur Peace and Development, a non-profit run by Darfuris in the U.S. DPDO focuses on long-term relief solutions for Darfur. Among their projects is the Schools Program, which aims to increase the availability of education in Darfur. Many children have lost several years of schooling due to the conflict, and DPDO is working to build schools in refugee camps and even a rare high school in North Darfur’s capital, El Fasher.
Donations will also support DPDO’s Women’s Program, which helps many widowed Darfuri women who struggle to provide for their families in the wake of the conflict. The women’s center provides much-needed medical care, loans for starting careers, and psychological support for the many women who have suffered rape. DPDO has also been actively involved in the peace process that resulted in 2011’s agreement between Sudan and the rebel groups. They are continuing to work with both sides to facilitate diplomacy to end violence in the region and Athenian is proud to support their efforts and draw attention to the continued conflict in Darfur.