Just World club holds annual festival

AHS hosted its annual Just World festival on Friday, February 26, giving guests across Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia a chance to experience a diverse range of cultures and learn about current issues of global importance.

The festival, organized by the Just World Interact Club, featured over fifty presenters and exhibitors dedicated to spreading the word about their causes. Guests had the opportunity to visit school-wide workshops that ranged from informative exposés of child labor in Uzbekistan to interactive henna tattoo sessions, each one providing an in-depth look at alternative cultures or a more specialized knowledge of affairs affecting people in the world-wide community. The school cafeteria housed the Exhibit Hall, featuring various displays from different organizations, a World Café selling international cuisine and a Free Trade Marketplace that offered products made by workers who are independent from sweatshops, child labor, inhumane wages and poor working conditions.

Most striking about the festival was its atmosphere, marked by the optimism and earnestness exuded by individuals united in their interest for global peace and respect. Everyone had something to share, such as an opinion to give, a tidbit of enlightening information or a genuine excitement in their heritage. Ruoxi Cao, a representative from the Woodson chapter of STAND for Conscience, stood excitedly by her display in the Exhibit Hall as she spoke of her organization. Dedicated to preventing the reoccurrence of massacres such as the Holocaust, STAND raises anti-genocide awareness in areas such as Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

“It’s very important because genocide hasn’t been depicted until recent years,” said Cao. “It refers not only to killing people but to rape or to preventing births of a certain race or religion. We have to raise awareness because we never want this to happen again.

We can’t move on and have a future if we forget our past. Genocide is happening right now, at this hour. If we don’t prevent it, future atrocities will occur.”

“The biggest fault anyone can have is indifference. Giving back to the community and learning about all the issues featured in the Just World festival enables teens and young adults to not only understand about themselves as a component of their community, but allows them to give back to the world,” she said.

Cao’s genuine attitude as just one of the participants in the festival represented the spirit of the event as a whole. Around the Exhibit Hall, representatives from ShelterBox showed guests the inside of a massive, ten-person tent included in the survival boxes they provide to victims of natural disasters. Green tee-shirt clad PETA members enthusiastically lauded animal rights to a group of interested teenagers. AHS students were as busy as everyone else, volunteering as guides or presenting alongside fellow exhibitors. Junior Jenna Truong spread information on leukemia and lymphoma with the Science National Honor Society.

“I think it’s important because we need some kind of global awareness for what’s going on in the world,” Truong said. “With events like the one in Haiti and the situation in other African countries, it’s important to try and help them and see what’s going on in their situation.”

AHS student Ramandeep Kaur concurred with Truong’s statement. She wore a brightly-colored sari and traditional Indian ornamentation to represent her culture, which she displayed while helping with the henna workshop.

“I went to the Just World festival last year, and I wanted to present my culture and learn about others. It’s about the world, and awareness. It’s really important to make people aware of your culture and your heritage so they become more tolerant,” Kaur said.

As Director of the Global Trade Watch department of the Public Citizen organization, an advocacy group dedicated to representing consumer interests to Congress, Lori Wallach had a lot to say as a speaker in the Just World festival’s opening ceremony. She also emphasized the importance of events like the Just World festival and their effect on indifferent attitudes.

“It’s very easy for people to focus on their day-to-day, to get through their jobs or school, but for the sake of the future people need to become informed and involved so they can shape the world they live in,” Wallach said. “When I was in high school, I remember going to a couple of events that exposed me for the first time to big global issues that weren’t in my day-to-day life, but were going to effect my world. A program like Just World provides those kinds of opportunities. I can’t think of a more important place to be.”

There could not have been a more important place to be. Fast growing technological advances connect the world, forming a link and common bond between the cultures and people of the world. It is time that the connection became human, time to realize that in our global community other cultures and lives directly influence our own. By uniting our small area through a shared concern over universal issues and cultures, the Just World festival took a small step towards uniting the rest of the planet.