Camp Darfur depicts scene refugees face

Katie-Jay Scott (right), community outreach coordinator for stopgenocidenow.org, talks to Samara Shein (left), freshman in ACES, about Camp Darfur, a traveling exhibit that helps raise awareness and education about the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan, o Erica Magda

By Marie Wilson

A scene that is more common in Darfur, Sudan, than in Central Illinois appeared on the South Quad yesterday: Six tan, cloth tents packed tightly together gave a visual of life in an African refugee camp to students and other pedestrians.

Members of Action Darfur pitched the tents to set up a traveling refugee camp exhibit called Camp Darfur. Katie Flamand, junior in LAS and president of Action Darfur, said she hoped the exhibit would increase student awareness of the genocide which has killed at least 200,000 people, according to Associated Press reports.

“We hope it will be there for people to come, to see, to walk in the tents and have information surrounding them,” Flamand said. “So that way, they’ll kind of be immersed in it and really empathize with what’s going on and be more moved to help and take action.”

The tents were provided by Stop Genocide Now, a volunteer organization formed in 2004, and were set up between about 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. yesterday.

Each tent provided information about a genocide in history, such as the Holocaust and the Rwanda genocide in the 1990s. The walls of each tent were decorated with messages previous viewers had written, such as “human rights should be human nature” and “liberation will come with love.”

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    “It was very motivational with the quotes that people decided to write on the walls,” said Shana O’Brien, sophomore in LAS.

    Stop Genocide Now provides the tents for the mock refugee camp but lets the local group personalize the event with its own forms of activism, said Gabriel Stauring, co-founder of the organization.

    Action Darfur club members incorporated political activism by asking people to sign petitions to Sen. Barack Obama and President George Bush. Flamand said the group gathered about 200 signatures and about 70 people stopped and went inside the tents.

    “A lot of people are aware of what’s going on in Darfur, but not necessarily a lot will act on it,” said Jason Wang, sophomore in Engineering and Action Darfur club member. “It drives the point home that there is this (genocide) going on in the world and individual action can make a difference.”

    Stauring said individual action is important, especially among college and high school students, who he described as leaders of the movement against genocide.

    After he visited a refugee camp on the border of Chad and Darfur three times, Stauring said the survivors’ stories work best to motivate people to take action. He made a speech about his experiences at the refugee camps to conclude the event.

    “It’s very important to allow the voice of the victims to be heard,” Stauring said. “They feel like they don’t have a voice, and they’re stuck in these camps with no one caring about them.”