Greatness lives among us. Nick Anderson, a teenage from Conway, Mass. approached Oxfam about going to Darfur after co-founding a successful national high school challenge to raise awareness and funds for Darfur by using the social networking site, Facebook.
As the co-founder of a highly successful fundraising initiative, Nick helped to raise more than $300,000 for the people of Darfur. But not content to stop there, he approached Oxfam with an idea: If he could visit Darfur he could help create a vital link between a growing group of youth activists here in the United States and Darfur teens forced to spend years in the camps.
As premier international organization committed to creating lasting solutions to global poverty, hunger, and social injustice, Oxfam readily agreed. Before Nick left, Oxfam, asked him what the single most important thing was that he wanted to accomplish on this mission.
He said he hoped to bring back an experience that would touch the hearts of American teenagers. He wanted to find a way for his friends—and teenagers like them—to identify with the youth of Darfur and feel moved to help them as peers.
In late July, Nick Anderson left for a one-month mission to Dafur as Oxfam Humanitarian Youth Ambassadoron. What Nick found was sobering. More than four years of fighting in that remote western region of Sudan has forced 2.5 million people from their homes.
Many of them have flocked to overcrowded camps for safety. Others have squeezed into towns bursting with displaced people. Yanked from their homes and villages—and the social and civic framework those places provided—Darfur’s youth are now growing up in an environment riddled with fear and boredom.
Nick heard about their hunger for places to gather, for simple pleasures like balls with which to play sports, for basic improvements to health standards, for books, for safe ways to get to school—and the list goes on. Returning with first hand accounts on what it’s like to live in Darfur, Nick says more Americans—particularly young Americans—must learn about the ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis in Darfur and help support those who will be struggling to rebuild their lives and their homes.
“Wherever I went you could hear the sound of gun shots. There were armed men around every corner,” said Anderson. “I couldn’t understand how violence like that could be so routine.”
Commenting on conversations he had with a local he was traveling with, Anderson noted, “to me it’s a disaster, to him, it’s life.” In Kebkabiya, a small town that has seen its population swell to over 60,000 people after thousands settled there to escape attacks on their own villages, he spoke with young people, ranging in age from 14 to 20, who had been displaced from their homes and are living in temporary shelters.
He asked them all the same question: “If there was one thing you could ask Americans to help you with, what would it be?” Anderson found that the responses varied little regardless of whom he asked.
He heard two things consistently —the need for health care and technical training for jobs. The health care Anderson heard about is not what immediately comes to mind in the U.S. “They need shovels to fill in holes and ditches in their schoolyards because during the rainy season, stagnant pools of water form and become breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry infectious diseases like malaria.
In addition, many of the young people in Darfur are looking for training in technical skills—things like carpentry and metalwork so they can get jobs and help to rebuild their communities,” said Anderson.
Also, he observed that young people did not have any way to become active participants and leaders in their communities, to have a voice in what was happening around them. Now back in the U.S., his personal goal is “To define us as a generation that takes action and one that cares about such important causes as the one in Darfur.”
Check out Nick’s You Tube video here. Now, get into action, and consider supporting this important cause.
Greatest lives among us.