Director of Communications, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
On Dec. 5, 2007, the Villanova STAND Chapter raised $3,500 as part of Darfur Fast, an international event sponsored by STAND, in which students, families, friends, and communities fasted from "one luxury item for one day and donat[ed] the money they would have spent on those items to protect civilians in Darfur."
The Villanova University Chapter of STAND -- Students Taking Action Now Darfur -- is dedicated to ending the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Since the government backed genocide began in 2003, more than 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million have been displaced. Darfur marks the first time in history that the United States has classified a conflict as a genocide while the atrocities are still ongoing. STAND engages in many activities in pursuit of its mission, including political advocacy, education, and fundraising.
"The truly remarkable thing about this event is that Villanova University raised more than any other college or university in the nation," said Sally J. Scholz, Ph.D., professor of philosophy and editor of the APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy. "In fact, VU broke the previous record by $500."
The money raised by STAND has been donated to the Genocide Intervention Network. It will be used to protect civilians, especially women and children who are often targeted for attack while collecting firewood. The money the University raised will provide opportunities for alternative fuel sources and protection in the collection process.
STAND successfully raised the money in two ways. First, the group set up a table outside of the Italian Kitchen staffed by members of STAND who asked students if they would like to donate to the cause and described what Darfur Fast was all about. "We had a Wildcard machine, which really helped because a lot of students don't carry much cash," said Kevin Riley, president of the University's chapter of STAND. The second way the group raised funds raised was by "storming the dorms," Riley explained. "This was far more effective. Three or so members went door to door describing Darfur Fast and asking for any money that the students could offer. We raised about $2,000 by storming the dorms."
Riley said that the crisis in Darfur is an important cause that all STAND members feel passionate about. "We all know at least a little bit about the current situation in Darfur, but Darfur Fast let students know exactly how their donation could help a woman or child from rape, and potentially death," Riley said. "We had fact sheets stating how just $1 would fund the use of a propane kitchen for an internally displaced Darfurian for a day. Three dollars fund protection for an average of one person through UNAMID -- United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur -- firewood patrols. To get firewood, Darfurian women must travel outside of their camps for up to 15 hours to dig up roots and twigs. Doing so leaves the women exposed to rape and gender-based violence from Janjaweed militias. I think that once the students heard these facts and knew that they could do something to help, it wasn't hard for them to donate to the cause. It is hard to not support a cause like this.
"I think that every member of STAND here at Villanova learned that students will show a willingness to support a cause if you give them a factual reason to do so," Riley said. "We told them where their money was going and how it could help save lives. I don't believe that any person supports what is happening in Darfur, but no one knows how to individually change the situation. We let them know how they could help, and the goodness of the human heart emerged. I am proud to be a member of a campus that was on the whole very willing to listen and help."
The Villanova chapter of STAND plans to host on campus a traveling group of speakers from Darfur who have witnessed the events there firsthand. The group is called Voices from Darfur. Riley explained that the group travels around the country speaking to students and informing them of what individuals can do to raise awareness and stop the violence once and for all.