Walking for Darfur awareness

Over the course of eight years, approximately 400,000 lives have been claimed by the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. This is the equivalent of approximately 100 times the population of AHS. In addition to the immense number of deaths, over 2.5 million inhabitants of Darfur have been displaced over these years.

On the brisk early morning of April 9, roughly 50 students, staff and faculty and other members of the AHS community gathered near the check-in table for the fifth annual Walk for Darfur event. After filling out medical papers for cautionary purposes and paying their $5 entry fee, walkers and volunteers socialized in groups, keeping close together to get warm. As per tradition, IB students sold spray painted green T-shirts for $5 in support of the cause at the check in table.

Once it seemed as though nobody else was arriving for the walk, IB community service coordinator Meredith Hedrick grabbed the microphone. After briefly welcoming the crowd, she explained that the event was put together by all of the IB junior and senior candidate students, with voluntary help from Key Club members. IB sponsors included English teacher Catherine Gibson and IB Anthropology teacher Holly Miller.

“I love the fact that IB encourages teenagers to make a difference in our world,” junior Carolyn Hartley, who is an IB student and an editor in Key Club, said.

Hedrick then handed the microphone to Deng Juac, a genocide survivor who was born in Salam, Sudan during the civil war. He explained his personal experience walking with the Lost Boys of Sudan, a group of children who were orphaned or displaced due to the genocide.

“That sound of the gun fire I never forget,” Juac said. “It destroyed my world.”

He also told the story of his struggles with his lack of education, which he was eventually able to receive at a school in Kenya. He also shared some insight to his organization Mayom Primary School (mayomprimaryschool.com), which is a school he hopes to build in Sudan.

“The thing I like about [the Walk for Darfur] is you guys contribute and choose where the money goes to,” Juac said.

Each year, IB students choose a different genocide organization to which they donate the proceeds from the Walk for Darfur. This year total amount of $503 which was collected from the walk was donated to the Mayom Primary School.

“[I participated because] I just wanted to help out the best way I can,” sophomore Linda Le said.

Following Juac’s speech, the walkers began their 3.8 mile hike through the trails of Lake Accotink Park. While walking along the trails, which were covered in a fresh, thick layer of mud form the downpour of rain the day before, participants passed by white signs staked in the ground. These signs had graphics and brief facts, such as “90 percent of these killings have been against innocent civilians and executed by militia groups instructed by the government.” Once the walk was finished, participants were treated to a buffet of snack foods and drinks.

“I think that it went very well,” Gibson said. “I think the weather may have scared off a few people, but all and all I think it went off without a hitch.”

“It makes me feel good that my actions are impacting someone across the world,” Hartley said.