Archive for January, 2009

January 27th, 2009

Collaboration: Help or Headache?

Guest post by Elham Bidgoli

When we first started the UofT chapter, we jumped at any opportunity to collaborate with other student groups. Amnesty? We’d love to help with your bake sale. International Health Program? We want a table at your conference. Bollywood Association? We’ve always dreamed of working with you.

When you are new and unknown on campus, especially one as vast as UofT, collaboration opens up tons of opportunities. It can mean sharing in resources you otherwise would not have access to, and meeting lots of new people with whom you can share your message. It can open up new avenues of ideas for creating a buzz around campus. But as I’ve learned over time, it can also mean one huge headache after another. Here are my three tips on when collaboration can cause more hassle than opportunity.

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January 26th, 2009

Want to help stop a genocide? Make it easy.


You are in a crowded room near home surrounded by your mother, father, aunt and uncle, their kids and some close friends. The doors are locked. You hear men’s voices outside. You know that they have guns. You are scared and wonder, “what is going to happen to me?” Now, you hear banging on the door. You have no delusions about their intentions: they are here to kill you.

The reason? It’s nothing you did. It’s just because of who you are.

You are waiting, hoping, praying for somebody to protect you.

You wish you could call 9-1-1. But this is Darfur. Here, twice the population of Toronto don’t have anyone to call. They face almost certain death, rape, or the loss of an eye or an arm. Many Darfuri men, women, and children hoped for help, but it never came. Like the Armenians in 1910s, Jews during the Holocaust, Cambodians in 1970s, Rwandans and victims of Srebrenica in 1990s they have been left alone.

The results have been devastating.

“The story of the eldest girl who was sent to get needed firewood for her mother and young brother, but was raped”, “The story of the young boy who awoke in his hut to the roar of engines, only to look outside and see family and friends running from bombs and armed men on horseback” and “The story of the woman hearing ‘now your babies will be Arab’ as she’s being violated” are a stories that paint a picture of life as a victim of genocide.

These stories are maddening. The images of these people’s experiences sear into our minds. If you believe, as I do, that no man or woman should be a target simply because of his or her ethnicity, that every children born into this world should never have to see men on horseback rape their mother and kill their father, that no person should ever be victim of genocide sixty years after the “lesson” of the Holocaust, then these actions are an affront to your beliefs.

These attacks against your entire worldview, stir your emotions. You feel, as I do, sadness, fear, rage and most importantly an urgency to “do something” about it.

But – unfortunately for victims – too often, our outrage is followed by a sense of helplessness. I experienced this four years ago. I was riled after reading a story in the New York times about a woman who was told ‘now your babies will be impure’ while being raped. But I was stuck.

“What can I do? This is a genocide – the crime of all crimes. This is happening so far away. The situation seems so complicated. The names of key players are hardly pronounceable. “

“Yes,” we say, “people are dying. But it is so big and so far away. I have to work today and pay my bills. What can one person actually do?”

We all get stuck.

This is the true challenge that the world faces with Darfur: how can we, the mass of people who care about Darfur, overcome the set of obstacles that prevent each one of us from acting to end genocide in Darfur?

Collectively, we have the manpower, will, influence, and money to end the crisis. We have put a man on the moon, ended cold wars, defeated fascism in Europe, and freed millions from apartheid in South Africa, and so too we can end a genocide. But feelings of apathy and powerlessness, a lack of information and motivation prevent us from tapping our world-changing potential.

Enter Stand.

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Posted in The Activist | 3 Comments »

January 26th, 2009

Pursuing a world without genocide

It has been four years since one moment changed my life.

Acol Dor, a Sudanese refugee, stunned an audience of 200 young people with her story of Darfur. As the crowd sat silenced, one student stood up and said “I think we all agree. We need to do something about this.” That was the flap of the butterfly’s wing that started the hurricane that is Stand and Canada’s Darfur advocacy movement.

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Posted in The Dreamer | No Comments »

January 25th, 2009

Back From Sudan – Anne Wagner

I’m sorry to have been so derelict in my blogging duties of late, but luckily there are many Stand’ers out there doing really interesting, inspiring things to cover for me. The blog post below was written by Anne Wagner, a Stand leader who just returned from her second trip to Sudan. Anne is consistently one of the loudest voices for action in Darfur and has accompanied Members of Parliament to the region to see first hand the results of the genocide. She has found that visiting Sudan turns MPs into stronger advocates and supporters of Stand’s message.

If you would like to hear more about her trip, you should stop by the South Dining Hall of Hart House at the University of Toronto at 7 PM on Monday, January 26th.

I returned from Sudan last week – an inspiring journey that motivates me to continue advocating for change in Darfur and strengthen Canadian policy on genocide.

I interviewed Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), tribal leaders and camp administrators. Notably, I was also very fortunate to track down some of the people I interviewed last year. Here is Amou’s story:

Last year, I interviewed Amou as she was surrounded by her six children. Two of her children, infant twins, did not look strong enough to survive. Amou described to me the atrocities she had survived—her husband was killed in Darfur, and she had to lead her children here to the camp, where they did not have shelter, or enough food or water.

Twelve months later, I ran into Amou again during my first walk around the camp. At first, she was shy to talk to me, but her face lit up as soon as I asked her about her children. She was amazed I remembered she had six. I was surprised and thrilled to find out all of her children were still alive. The resilience of the people in the camp, who found enough food, water and shelter to sustain Amou’s family, had ensured the survival of these children through the harshest of conditions.

The people in the camp witnessed nearby floods that ruined crops; they received very little aid and an influx of new residents. They are still surviving. I told Amou that I had been showing the picture of her and her children back in Canada, and was explaining to people what I had seen in the camp. She asked me what I planned to do this year.

What do we plan to do this year? This is where you can help me, Stand supporters! What will Stand tell Amou and her children next year?

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January 24th, 2009

Never Again….Again

Stand’er Josh Scheinert has an opinion piece in the Canadian Jewish News that is a must-read. The Stand blog has it in all its glory. Thanks, Josh, for spreading the word!

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Posted in The Activist | 4 Comments »

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