Monday, December 05, 2005

I've been ranting a lot over the past few days, and I thought it was about time I posted something useful again. I've finally had the chance to plough through most of my blog emails over the weekend, and am somewhat overwhelmed by the feedback that everyone has been sending.

Above all, everyone seems to be wondering "What can I do to help the people of Darfur?"

So I thought I'd post a few suggestions:

Find out more. The conflict in Darfur may be complex and the context somewhat daunting, but it's hard to help when you're ignorant about the issues involved. It's going to be a lot easier for you to help the people of Darfur if you try to understand the situation and use your knowledge to take certain actions (see the following points) or to influence others. No matter how good your intentions, uninformed opinions or arguments will not take you very far. Reading Darfur news (for example on Alertnet or Sudan Tribune) or the work of Darfur activitists and academics like Eric Reeves is a good start.

Give money. Yes, in some cases throwing money at a problem does help. Particularly if you are throwing it into the hands of a respectable and effective aid agency.
The UN HAS (Humanitarian Air Service) desperately needs some cash to ferry around the aid workers in their helicopters and planes, while the UN JLC (Joint Logistics Center) is running short on funds for things like plastic sheeting, blankets and soaps. Then of course, there's always us NGOs - and we always need money. You might have your own favourite organsition already, but if you don't it's hard to go wrong with some of most long-standing and reputable outfits like the ICRC, MSF, Oxfam or the IRC.
In addition to supporting the organisations who are providing relief on the ground, you might also want to support human rights and policy groups like Human Rights Watch or the International Crisis Group so they can continue to carry out research and advocacy work on Darfur - unlike the aid agencies working on the ground, these groups are not as restricted in what they can say about the situation, and they often make concrete suggestions on political solutions.
The African Union, as I pointed out yesterday, also need support - they haven't got enough cars, fuel or even ammunition (and there are people like the folks at the Genocide Intervention Fund who are doing direct fund-raising for the AU troops).

Nag the politicians - and the newspapers. Politicians rely on you for votes, and they actually pay more attention to emails, letters and phone calls than most people think - particularly if these arrive en masse. Writing to your political representatives to highlight an issue - and to your local media outlets to demand they dedicate more coverage to it - can be an effective way of putting pressure on those who make the decisions.

Join an activist group. wear a wrist band, support a divestment campaign, join a student group. There are many people out there who are interested in Darfur and can give you ideas on how to take action.

Be creative. The ideas I've listed here are nothing new. People who want to make a difference sometimes need to be a bit more innovative, like the students who founded the Genocide Intervention Fund.
If you're a filmmaker you might be inspired to make a documentary about Darfur, if you're a priest you might want to discuss the issue with your congregation. You might even decide to use your existing skills to come and work in Darfur - I've had many emails asking if this is possible, the answer is absolutely, as long as your skills can be applied usefully over here (for example, medical agencies always need trained doctors and nurses, major aid deliveries only arrive with the support of pilots, mechanics, and skilled logisticians, and pretty much any aid operation can use experienced and effective managers with relevant overseas experience). Darfur jobs are usually advertised on Reliefweb - if you're qualified for a job, apply.

So there's a start. Hopefully, readers of this blog will add to this list with some of their own suggestions?


At , Blogger MarkDM said...

These are great suggestions. Thanks.

I can think of just one thing to add - write a letter to the editor of your local paper. At least in the U.S., where I work in a newsroom, international news still often takes a back seat to local and national news. As a result, a lot of papers don't give Darfur the attention it deserves. (It's not all the newsies' fault - news space is shrinking all over as papers try to find ways to cut costs, and there just isn't space to do the whole world justice.)

A concise, well-informed letter - ideally spelling out the ways the Darfur situation differs from the other awfulness people are inundated with - can do a lot to raise awareness.

At , Blogger Christy said...

THANK YOU! Helping seems so far beyond the reach of us mere mortals without political clout. I appreciate your response.

At , Blogger kristin said...

I heard about your blog from Save Today they are urging everyone in the US to call congress in National call in day for Darfur - Dec 6th. Here is the information if you are a US citizen.

From the email:
Experts from the State Department, NATO, and leading think-tanks have repeatedly said that funding the African Union is absolutely critical to stopping what both the President and Congress have declared to be genocide. Unfortunately, $50 million intended for African Union troops in Darfur was cut out of the recent Foreign Operations spending bill. There is, however, one last chance to get that funding back before the end of the year. An effort is underway to include those funds in the Defense Appropriations Conference Report when Congress comes back into session next week. It is vital that we do everything we can to make sure that Congress knows that their constituents are paying attention to this bill, and that we expect them to include these funds. Please call your Representative and your two Senators and make your voice heard on this incredibly important issue.

A sample call script is below, and you can find contact information for your elected leaders’ Washington, DC office by clicking here, or by calling the Capitol operator at (202) 224-3121 and simply asking to be connected to your Representative and Senators. Please forward this along to any friends, family, or coworkers who you think may be interested, and again, thank you for taking the time to pick up the phone and help the people of Darfur.

Sample call script:

Hi, this is ___ calling from ___. I’m calling to urge Congressman/woman/Senator ___ to do everything he/she can to make sure that $50 million for African Union peacekeeping troops in Darfur is included in the Defense Appropriations conference report. Experts from the State Department, NATO, and leading think-tanks have repeatedly said that funding the African Union is critical to stopping what both the President and Congress have declared to be genocide. Please tell the Congressman/woman/Senator know that his/her constituents care about Darfur and expect Congress to fund the peacekeepers. Thank you.

Contact information:
- To subscribe, enter your email address under "get email updates" at
- To unsubscribe, please reply with "unsubscribe" in the subject line.
- For other correspondence, please write to
- Please visit us at

At , Blogger justin said...

Thanks for publishing ways that we can help. That is very useful. Ever since my professor told me about you blog I have been passing the word. So many people have no clue what horrors on going on there.

At , Blogger Vasco Pyjama said...

Ta muchly for this, babe. I'm going to stick this onto an e-community that I'm on.

At , Blogger Ruby said...

Thanks again and again -- this time for all of the suggestions on how to help.

I think about you often these days -- and then I think about all the people that thinking about you makes me think about -- and so it goes, on and on -- and then I think about the ways in which the world is connected and how strangers can feel so much empathy because of this thing called a "blog" but I also wonder in the same thought, how can war continue?

At , Blogger RandallJones said...

This article by Keith Harmon Snow
will provide you with additional information about the Sudan, that the maistream media will not discuss.

In the second to the last paragraph, Snow writes what Americans can do to help.

At , Blogger keith harmon said...

Eric Reeves is the problem.


Oil in Darfur? Covert Ops in Somalia? The New, Old Humanitarian Warfare for Africa

keith harmon snow

At , Blogger Mandino said...

Actually, there are a lot. I could also think of providing my labor as a means to help the people there. Labor would be like building structures like homes and schools. I do happen to support one cause too.

The Emma Academy Project
This project will be building a school there in Sudan. To be built in Leer, Sudan, the school will be fostering the children and at the same time nurturing the minds of the young children there. This school will be for the children of Sudan, keeping them away from the effects of war. This school is in honor of Emma McCune, the angel who saved the WarChild. To help build a school, we would need to support this cause.

At , Blogger jimmi said...

Thanks for sharing useful information about how can we help other....... I really appreciate your efforts......... Cheap Flights to Accra

At , Blogger Kelsey C. said...

Thank you for posting useful information to those of us who are interested in helping Darfur. I think that type of trip would be so life changing and give you a whole new perspective on life. It would hopefully make people more appreciative for what they have, and how good of a life they have. I was wondering what prompted you to go visit Darfur? Also, did you go through any type of agency or with a group, or did you go on your own expenses by yourself? Thanks again for the input.


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