1. WRITE A LETTER TO YOUR SENATOR OR REPRESENTATIVE
Every time Valentino and Dave talk to experts on U.S. policy on the Sudans, they ask what citizens can do to help. These experts always insist that one of the best things is to write a letter—an actual, personalized letter—insisting that this representative or senator do something about the ongoing genocide in Darfur, and about the gross misconduct of the Sudanese government in Khartoum. Remember that in 2005, the U.S. brought to bear great influence in brokering the peace between the north (Khartoum) and the south (the Sudan People's Liberation Army). When the U.S. wants to influence the Sudanese government, they surely have the power to do so.
After writing a letter, call 1-800-GENOCIDE. This free hotline will ask for your zip code and then connect you to your governor, your senator, or directly to the White House switchboard. For some ideas of what to say to your elected officials, read on.
2. TELL WASHINGTON THAT TRADING INFORMATION FOR LIVES IS UNACCEPTABLE
Many experts believe that one of the primary reasons Washington is dragging their feet in doing much about people in western and southern Sudan is due to Khartoum's help in their War on Terror. To back up: In the 1990s, Osama bin Laden spent six years in Khartoum. Sudan is where he built his network of terror. While being hosted by the Sudanese government, he provided Khartoum with millions of dollars. In the late 1990s, after the bombings of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the U.S. exerted great pressure on Sudan to expel bin Laden. They did so. (Again, the U.S. can have great influence in Sudan when they want to.)
After 9-11, the Khartoum government became a very cooperative partner in the War on Terror. The U.S. could count on Sudan's intelligence community to provide information about any suspected terrorists who had worked with bin Laden in Sudan. Because the Sudanese proved themselves useful in Washington's terrorist hunts, many experts believe that the Bush administration was loath to push Sudan too hard on the genocide in Darfur, lest Khartoum cease to be helpful in the War on Terror. These same experts believe strongly that the U.S. need not be so timid. The Obama administration has an opportunity to change U.S. policy in Sudan; Washington can still exert pressure on Khartoum without fear of losing a partner in intelligence-gathering. And even if they do lose this partner, we believe that trading the lives of hundreds of thousands of Darfuris is not worth whatever bits of information we're able to glean from Khartoum's intelligence.
3. SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS THAT SUPPORT SUDAN
A number of nonprofits are aiding refugees and are working for peace in the Sudans. This is by no means a complete list, but these organizations have assisted Valentino and Dave, so we'll start with them:
Save the Children: When Valentino and Dave traveled to then-southern Sudan in 2003, they stayed in the compound of Save the Children's base in Marial Bai. Save the Children is involved in many efforts to aid the Sudanese who have suffered as a result of civil war, and has been instrumental in bringing former slaves and abductees back to their villages of origin.
Concern: In 2003, Valentino and Dave flew on a Concern cargo flight back to Marial Bai. Concern brings food and supplies to war-ravaged areas. Their work in Sudan and South Sudan now focuses on nutrition, water sanitation, and shelter for people affected by the war.
The UNHCR: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees maintained the refugee camps at Pinyudo and Kakuma mentioned in What Is the What. The agency is now working to help refugees return to their communities in South Sudan, and to make the reintegration process a safe and sustainable one.
International Crisis Group: This is a worldwide think tank that monitors, analyzes, and suggests solutions to conflicts and humanitarian crises around the world. This group is home to John Prendergast, one of the foremost American experts on the Sudans—and the expert on whom Valentino and Dave continually rely. We believe that their work in the Sudans, and on U.S. policy toward Sudan, is crucial.
4. SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS LOBBYING FOR AN END TO GENOCIDE IN SUDAN
Just a few of these organizations:
ENOUGH: The ENOUGH campaign seeks to unite and strengthen the efforts of grassroots activists, policy makers, advocates, concerned journalists, and others by giving them up-to-date information from on the ground in the Sudans and offering practical pressure points to end the violence.
The Save Darfur Coalition: The SDC includes more than 170 organizations working toward more international involvement in combating the killing in Darfur. Contributions allow them to continue raising awareness in the media and directing pressure toward policymakers.
United to End Genocide supports African Union peacekeepers currently on the ground in Sudan by channeling private donations into the resources they need and catalyzing government support for the peacekeepers. They also started the anti-genocide hotline 1-800-GENOCIDE.
The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation aims to empower war-affected Southern Sudanese communities by constructing schools, increasing access to quality education, improving girls’ enrollment in school, creating new teacher-training programs, and promoting literacy for children, women, and men.
In May 2009, the Foundation opened a secondary school in Valentino's hometown of Marial Bai, South Sudan. It is the very first secondary school in the entire region. In December 2012, the school honored its first class of graduates. Donations to Valentino’s foundation go directly to the Marial Bai Secondary School and its campus, which supports:
Female and male dormitories that together house nearly 200 students.
Teachers' living quarters
A community center for local organizations and cultural events, offering programs in literacy, vocational training, community health, and hygiene
A farm, which serves as a practical component of students' agriculture classes, as well as a supplement to the nutritional program for students and teachers, and from which the school recently reaped its first harvest
A library offering study space, computer literacy programs, and shelves of books
Sports facilities and programming for youth enrichment.
The nine-classroom secondary school featuring a science lab, computer rooms, and solar power.
Now that the school is built, we need your help to keep it running and to finish the educational center; please consider making a donation .
To donate by mail, send your tax-deductible check to The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, 849 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110. You will be sent a notice confirming the donation and a tax receipt.
6. SUPPORT SOUTH SUDANESE COMMUNITIES IN YOUR REGION
There are South Sudanese all over the United States, and it doesn't take long to find a community near you. Volunteer at a local non-profit organization that helps refugees, such as the International Rescue Committee, or use search tools like Volunteer Match. Rest assured that communities of exiles and refugees near you can use your help—financially, logistically, and with the many other adjustments to life in the United States.
7. PRESS FOR PUNITIVE MEASURES AGAINST THE SUDANESE REGIME
The same government prosecuting the genocide in Sudan is the one that was primarily responsible for two million deaths in then-southern Sudan. How long are we going to allow this to occur without imposing some kind of cost? In July 2009, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity-but much more can be done by the international community to enact punitive measures against Sudan. In your letters to members of Congress, you should demand that they support U.N. sanctions on responsible Sudanese officials and their businesses, and demand that the U.S. declassifies and shares its considerable intelligence with the International Criminal Court to accelerate indictments against those officials.
8. JOIN AN ORGANIZATION
Many advocacy organizations are already working to help end the suffering in Sudan. Here are just a few resources available to you:
For students: With over 600 college and high-school chapters across the nation, STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur) is one of the largest grassroots efforts advocating an end to the genocide in Darfur. Students should visit the STAND website to find out how they can get involved.
For congregations: If you belong to a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple, get your community involved in Sudan advocacy. Many national religious organizations have taken up the cause, but it is more meaningful when a local group contacts their congressperson or senator and tells them that this issue is important to them as voters and as people of faith.
For communities: Local groups have played a critical role in pushing for action on Darfur. At the Save Darfur website, you can search for community organizations in your area, or learn how to start your own group.
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History of the Foundation
Founders and staff
Community development in South Sudan
Working with the South Sudanese diaspora in the U.S.
Advocacy on South Sudan policy
Comments from other authors
Interview with Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng