I often see the same Margaret Mead quotation used over and over in STAND: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” While perhaps overused, it is an extremely appropriate sentiment for what STAND is. We describe STAND as the Student Anti-Genocide Coalition. As individual students, we have an incredible ability to bring about change, advocate for policy, educate our friends and raise money for the survivors of mass atrocities. When we come together as chapters, we become many times more powerful and are able to bring the cause to many more people in our campuses and communities. Altogether, we form a coalition of chapters with the ability to end genocide.
I know this claim is often hard for even us to believe. When we write our letters we know in our minds and hearts that we are making a difference, but sometimes it is easy to get jaded and have doubt that belief. When we organize events we may be rewarded with great optimism, but we also run the risk of feeling ineffective and becoming jaded. Whenever that happens, I want you to think about one annual event coming up next week: STANDFast. Every year over the past three years, STAND has put on an annual fundraiser, previously called DarfurFast, but this year extended to help the people of Burma as well as the people of Darfur, we are calling it STANDFast.
The original and enduring concept of this day is that for a simple sacrifice, perhaps a cup of coffee, students anywhere can donate a small amount of money to make a tangible difference for civilians faced with mass atrocities. This year, the Civilian Protection Program of the Genocide Intervention Network has estimated that $3 can protect a woman collecting firewood for a full week. This firewood enables her to continue cooking food for her family and in turn keep many alive and strong while they wait and hope for peace in the Internally Displaced Persons camps. As students, very few of us have the luxury of wealth, but all of us can do our part once a year by donating $3 dollars.
By reaching into our own wallets and asking others to join with us, over the last three years we have raised over $500,000 dollars. In STAND, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. $3 dollars is a small amount for most, but to the people of Darfur or Burma, it is astonishing.
Let’s make this year count.
Let’s continue to add to the civilian protection program so that is can keep civilians safe while our advocacy continues to push for the conditions of peace. Remember that our voices are heard, our letters are read, and our events make a difference. If you ever doubt these truths, just remember STANDFast. You may not be able to contribute much, but you made a difference, your chapter made a difference, and together we are fighting genocide. The sum is greater than any individual portion. On December 3rd, STAND committed against genocide, and we will continue to change the world.