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Do it for Nico

December 9th, 2010

I made an academic debut of sorts this past Sunday night. At the “Peace for Sudan” panel in Donahue Auditorium, I spoke between Dan Griffin, the Sudan adviser for Catholic Relief Services, and Nico, one of the 27,000 “Lost Boys” of Sudan who have been displaced or orphaned by the Second Sudanese Civil War. What made me qualified enough to share the stage with these amazing gentlemen?

Absolutely nothing.

Either of them could have easily said what I said in much more detail. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to get a conversation started here on campus among the student body about the events going on in Sudan. And what better way to connect with the student body than through a student?

So I went up there, in front of a packed crowd of 87 people, and spent ten minutes talking about what I thought people should know about Sudan. Toward the end of the panel, we had a Q&A session, and one of the students asked what they can do to help Sudan. Don’t ask me how, but I had been appointed the moderator for the Q&A, and to be honest, the question caught me a little off-guard. I quickly looked at the others on the panel and handed the mic to the first person who looked like they had something to say.

But if I ever get asked that question again, I now know exactly what I’d say…

The violence that has taken place in Sudan is too gruesome to accurately portray in words. Pictures can do the job a little better, but the only way to truly understand the reality of what has happened there is to live it.

Before the panel began, Nico, who now attends Kent State University, showed me some of the pictures he had from when he was on the run from Sudanese government soldiers. He told me how his dad had been killed by the soldiers when he was just a boy, how he walked hundreds of miles with only his bare feet, how he can still remember the sound of the Russian-made airplanes of the Sudanese Air Force that attacked them on a regular basis, and how he was given so little food and firewood at the refugee camps that he could only eat one meal a day, and often had to pool his rations with others.

Then we talked about soccer, and how he thinks American football should be called “handball” since it didn’t involve kicking (I didn’t tell him I was on the football team). We also talked about college and how exams were coming up for both of us. For having such a traumatic childhood, I was struck by how he was still able to seem so normal.

When the panel was over, Nico came up to me with a huge smile on his face. He shook my hand and told me how much he appreciated my help. And that’s when it hit me. By educating others about what’s going on in Sudan, about what Nico had been through, I was promoting social awareness of the situation. And social awareness is absolutely necessary for social action to occur.

So on page 10, we have a whole page dedicated to the conflict in Sudan. Read it. Educate yourself about the conflict. Then educate others. Promote social awareness of the situation so that social action to help Sudan is possible. Do it for Nico.