The Human Rights Watch Student Task Force (HRWSTF), a student-run club on campus, is currently in the middle of their 2011 campaign: Protecting the Right to Education.
Samo, along with 12 other schools in Southern California, is focusing on this campaign, which focuses on bringing educational materials to refugee camps in Chad.
“The basic premise of the Human Rights Watch organization is to promote awareness of human injustices around the world,” sophomore club leader Rachel Kiekhofer said. “The Human Rights Watch focuses on one human rights issue in the world, and this year we’re focusing on education in refugee camps in Chad.”
The Samo branch of the Student Task Force has five leaders: junior president Cami Speyer, junior Chloe Cohen and sophomores Linda Gordon, Max Gumbel and Rachel Kiekhofer. These five students have different tasks in the group, each contributing in a different way to help the club move forward.
“I feel like it’s really important to learn about issues that are present in the world that we really don’t hear about because of the stuff that’s happening locally. It’s a really worthwhile thing to do,” Kiekhofer said.
Currently, the Student Task Force’s main goal is to fundraise as much money as possible by Nov. 6, their deadline, which is when the materials will be sent to Chad.
“We partnered with another organization called i-ACT. It’s a really small private organization and the two people in charge have traveled to the refugee camps in Chad ten times, so they’re going to be the ones bringing the materials to the camps,” Kiekhofer said.
According to Speyer, Gabriel Stauring and Katie-Jay Scott, the two i-ACT representatives, became interested in Darfur on their own, and it was Stauring’s brother who got him involved in Human Rights Watch.
“Gabriel’s brother, Javier, works really closely with Human Rights Watch, and he led the campaign last year, which was Juvenile Justice,” Speyer said.
On Nov. 6, Stauring and Scott will be returning to Chad, this time armed with educational supplies for what they call “mobile libraries.”
“A mobile library is a chest full of learning materials,” Kiekhofer said. “It’s going to be transported through the camps on a donkey.”
According to the HRWSTF website, each mobile library, also called an R23 library, will contain three Kindles, 10 spiral notebooks, writing utensils, three talking dictionaries, two two-inch binders with worksheets, maps and other visuals.
“There are other organizations that are [raising money for food], but where this whole push for education comes from is whenever Katie-Jay and Gabriel visit them, the people always ask for the same things: they need more food, they need more water, they’d like more shelter, but they always ask for more education, because they are completely convinced that if their kids are educated, they will be able to go back to Sudan and create a better government,” Speyer said.
According to Speyer, most of the kids in the refugee camps only make it to sixth or seventh grade; after that, they usually work to support their families. Most of the children are interested in education, but have other priorities.
“This one kid that we watched a video of, he sits down and reads the dictionary in English for fun, and he doesn’t speak English. He’s taught himself just from sitting down and reading the dictionary for fun,” Speyer said. “So if they want to be educated, we should be giving them [the materials].”
In addition to raising money for the mobile libraries, HRWSTF must create materials to include for a better educational experience for the children, but have not had much time to do so.
“We went to a leadership meeting in the beginning of September, and that’s when we were introduced to what we would be working on this year, so we’ve had no time,” Speyer said. “I feel more pressure on our school because Samo’s so big that Human Rights Watch expects us to bring in a lot more revenue and make a lot more money than Wildwood and Crossroads because they’re so tiny.”
According to Speyer, the directions given to the club on how to create the materials were ambiguous, but said they should focus on teaching the kids both English and basic human rights.
“While teaching the kids how to read, [they are also] teaching them about human rights, because one thing they remind us of all the time is these kids don’t know what their basic rights are,” Speyer said. “It’s so normal to us, like we have the right to freedom of speech, we can write whatever we want, we can say whatever we want, but these kids, some of them don’t have these rights, some of them don’t even know they have the right to have shelter, or food, so we have to educate them about that as well.”
The club is primarily focusing on how to educate kids by means of the mobile libraries, but once the campaign is over, their plan is to start educating locally on these global problems.
“Right now we’re focusing on the task at hand. We have this movie that we’re trying to screen as a fundraiser, so we’re trying to rent the Aero for a day and show it there,” Speyer said. “I’m not really concerned with educating the community right now because of our bigger goals.”
After Nov. 6, HRWSTF will still be focusing on some aspects of the campaign because this is not the last time Stauring and Scott will be going to Chad.
“These people, they have nothing,” Speyer said. “They have barely enough food to survive, they have no shelter, all they ask for is education, which is so cool, and we can provide that.”