June 5, 2008
Valley ‘Walk for Darfur’ raises $35,000
More than 1,400 people marched up Vanowen Street and across Victory Boulevard in West Hills last Sunday to raise funds and awareness about the genocide in Darfur. The second annual three-mile Walk for Darfur raised more than $35,000 for Jewish World Watch's work in refugee support, political advocacy and education.
Marchers carried signs and wore T-shirts that said, "Do Not Stand Idly By," based on the biblical injunction to prevent suffering and injustice. Walkers older than 13 carried a memory card, telling the true story of a Darfur refugee.
Jewish World Watch says that 400,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced because of the Sudanese government's campaign against black Africans of the Darfur region over the past four years.
"'Never again' is a slogan, a call for us to remember. 'Do not stand idly by' is a call to action," Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Temple Or Ami told the crowd as they gathered for an awareness fair after the march at Shadow Ranch Park, across the street from the Milken Jewish Community Center, where the march began.
The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance teamed up with Jewish World Watch to establish the walk last year, hoping to bring more education and awareness to the West Valley, according to Tzivia Schwartz Getzug, Jewish World Watch director. Last year, 400 marchers raised about $14,000.
She said she saw many new faces among this year's participants.
Many of the marchers were children and teens. High schoolers have been among the most active Jewish World Watch volunteers, and at the fair, several received certificates for completing Jewish World Watch's advocacy training program.
At booths run by various synagogues and schools, kids and adults wrote wishes on dissolvable paper with wildflower seeds embedded, which they planted and took home. They beaded bracelets that spelled out Darfur, signed up to have trees planted in their homes and kept watch over -- and then sampled -- rice slowly boiled in a solar cooker.
The cardboard and foil solar cookers have saved thousands of women in Chad refugee camps by eliminating the need for them to expose themselves to danger while collecting firewood. Jewish World Watch has provided $2 million in direct aid to refugees since its inception.
Getzug said dozens of synagogues and schools organized teams for the march, and the event will focus continued attention on an issue that has dragged on for four years.
"We hear that many people are feeling frustrated or are getting tired of this issue," Getzug said. "Our response is we can't give up on this genocide. We can't give up as long as the people of Darfur are still sitting in their refugee camps and the government of Sudan is still destroying all their villages."
For more information, go to http://www.jewishworldwatch.org.
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