400 students lobby on Capitol Hill for Darfur

GW STAND joined with hundreds of students from chapters across the globe last weekend for the National STAND Conference called “Make This the Year to End Genocide.”

“The Senate is too focused on Iraq (and the senators are) forgetting about Darfur,” said Sean Redding, communications coordinator for GW STAND.

About 400 students from 40 states and several countries – including Sierra Leone and Liberia – came to D.C. on Saturday to learn about ways they can impact the United States’ efforts in Darfur. The conference focused on advocacy and the media’s coverage of Darfur.

“As a freshman and sophomore, I found other groups (for Darfur) were focused on intangible goals, but STAND’s goals are really tangible,” said Jeff DeFlavio, a senior and a member of STAND. “This will affect the lives of many real people.”

About 150 students met with members of Congress Monday to discuss divestment from companies in Sudan. In about 75 meetings, students lobbied congressmen and aides to support the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act. This act passed in the House of Representatives earlier this summer but took a backseat to issues in Iraq once the Senate reconvened.

“I love lobbying; it’s great to get the ear of these people,” said Laura Harris, a student at the University of Virginia. “This is more of a matter of education, since it’s not too controversial.”

The act suggests the need “to require the identification of companies that conduct business operations in Sudan, to prohibit United States government contracts with such companies and for other purposes.”

“It’s not cowboys and Indians of the past. It’s scary how this could happen here,” said Luke Walker, a senior at the University of Minnesota.

Many students at the conference are the founding members of the STAND chapters at their school, as it is a relatively new organization. The GW chapter was founded in 2003.

“STAND is new at my school but strong,” said Brett Gentile from Roger Williams University. He said STAND allows the youth to be active the political process of the United States, while helping a great cause.

This year, GW’s chapter of STAND is continuing to expand and reach out to more students. The group plans to hold a torch relay called “Dream for Darfur” in December and to hold fundraisers. STAND members at GW have also been sending applications to about 500 contacts in the Darfur region to advertise the Banaa scholarship program, a program that will allow two Sudanese students to enroll at GW for free next year.

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