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Teens raise $7,000 for aid to war-ravaged Darfur

By: Alex Zener

March 22, 2008   

The targeted genocide in Darfur presents a defining moral challenge to humanity. It is estimated that more than 60,000 men, women and children have died and over a million driven from their homes as a result of the conflict between government-backed Arab militias and Africans in western Sudan.

Although government leaders around the world have tried to end one of the world's worst humanitarian crises to no avail, a group of students from Corona del Sol High School is taking a stand—a One Night STAND, as it were—in support of a solution. 

On April 4, “Students Taking Action Now: Darfur,” or STAND, will host a benefit dinner and silent auction from 6 to 9 p.m. to raise funds and awareness.

The students are out to prove that each and every person can make a difference in the life of someone else and to show what a group of individuals can achieve when they unite for a common goal.

“We hope to raise thousands of dollars for’s Backpack Project, as well as continue to raise awareness of the plight of the people of Darfur,” club president Melissa Garcia said.

“It will be a great evening for an important cause.”

“The students and sponsors have dedicated hours of their personal time to make (the event), a reality, from soliciting donations and scheduling speakers, to hiring caterers and promoting the event,” CdS faculty co-sponsor Kori Mandelbaum said.

The school’s STAND chapter, started a year and a half ago, has raised nearly $7,000 toward the Darfur cause through a variety of fundraisers and projects, including Thankful Thoughts at Thanksgiving, a Guitar Hero competition at Corona’s Bonfire and a variety of candy, cookie-dough, candle and dip-mix sales, among others.

“The Guitar Hero competition was one of our first ideas at the beginning of the year during brainstorming,” said member Jared Stenerson.  

“Our only problem was we couldn’t find anyone to help us get actual guitars and PlayStations. Just before the competition, DeVry (University) donated the use of a videogame car with a Guitar Hero 3 in the back which had only been released two days earlier.

“DeVry also gave us three PlayStations. It was a great success, except we almost melted the equipment!” 

 “We have close to 30 members but a handful of students deserve most of the credit for our success,” Mandelbaum said.

STAND hopes to boost the Darfur funds by $3,000 at One Night STAND. Guest speakers at the dinner will include the Arizona Lost Boys of Sudan, who were orphaned during the civil war in Sudan in the 1980s.

A relatively large number of Sudan refugee boys have settled in Phoenix over the years. One of their main goals, after being educated and finding jobs, is to inform the public about the genocide in their country.

In addition, Congressman Harry Mitchell will speak, and a surprise local band has agreed to play a few songs to honor the refugees.

Several impressive items will also be auctioned at the dinner, scheduled to be held in the Corona cafeteria.

“The students have solicited from local vendors and received generous donations that will be available in the silent auction,” faculty co-sponsor Brandy Walker said.

“Donations include a flight lesson, a signed copy of John Prendergast’s Not on My Watch, a signed football by a member of the NFL Giants, golf lessons by a PGA professional, artwork, jewelry and much more.”

Money raised by STAND finds its way into hands that can put it to best use, say members of the group.

“We have sent most of the money to organizations that give direct aid to the people of Darfur,” Mandelbaum said.

“Specifically, we have contributed to the Solar Cooker Project and the Backpack Project. Both of these are through We keep a small amount of money in our account to cover some expenses, such as new T-shirts, but those costs are minimal and recouped.”

“In addition to fundraising, student members have worked hard to raise community awareness about genocide in Darfur through activism,” said Mandelbaum.

For 25 years, civil war has raged in the poor, arid country of Sudan, pitting the Arab ruling elite in the north against the African south.

In 2003, the fighting spread to Darfur, where a murderous militia backed by the central government has killed, raped and displaced farmers. Since then, Sudanese government forces and rebel groups have been fighting all over the country.

The war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more from their homeland. These distraught and homeless millions seek refuge in camps where it is estimated several hundred die every day from hunger.

STAND began its effort to raise awareness by creating T-shirts that define genocide because, its members say, many teenagers are not aware of what genocide is.

“It is amazing how many people do not realize what is going on in Darfur,” Garcia said. “Some students haven’t even heard of genocide, but when we tell them and explain what is happening…they may pay more attention.”

Corona students who belong to STAND and the Lost Boys of Sudan are not the only ones taking a stand against what is happening in Darfur.

Only recently, film director Steven Spielberg withdrew as an artistic adviser for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, saying he felt that China should be doing more to pressure Sudan into ending the human suffering in western Darfur.

The One Night Stand silent auction and benefit dinner will be held in Corona’s cafeteria from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 4. Cost of admission is $30, and the benefit dinner will include a choice of chicken in roasted red pepper sauce or vegetable lasagna.

A maximum of 250 tickets will be available for purchase in the Corona del Sol bookstore during regular bookstore hours through Friday, March 28.

For more information about One Night STAND or the sponsoring the student organization, contact co-sponsors Brandy Walker at  or Kori Mandelbaum at .



Photo by David Stone


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