University student group Will Work For Food has raised about $3,000 in relief funds for Sudan’s Darfur region through its unique formula for fundraising and advocacy. It’s also looking to expand the model to other colleges and high schools.
The group raises money by selling Will Work For Food T-shirts. Buyers of the shirts then agree to do one hour of work for $10 and donate that money to help victims of the bloody conflict in Darfur.
Estimates of the number of people killed in Darfur range from 200,000 to 450,000.
Davidson said the funds raised will go directly to relief efforts through the American Jewish World Service, an international humanitarian group.
The group also helps students contact their local congressmen about the issue, either by phone or with preaddressed postcards, Davidson said.
This semester, Will Work For Food has been focused on working out the logistics of its group at the University and finding a systematic plan to expand the group across the country.
“We want to perfect it for a large university, because we know if we get it to work here it should be able to work anywhere,” Davidson said.
Students from universities across the country have contacted Davidson to apply for a chapter of the group at their own campuses. Davidson and LSA junior Josh Cohen, the group’s co-founder, said they hope to implement similar programs at places like Ann Arbor’s Pioneer and Community high schools, Michigan State University and Wayne State University.
Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS, will deliver a lecture tonight sponsored by Will Work For Food which highlights stories from her travels in Darfur. It will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Hutchins Hall at the Law School.
As the brutal conflict in Darfur rages on for a fifth year, the possible impact of student involvement or aid becomes even more important, said Messinger, a leading advocate for ending the crisis in Darfur.
She praised Will Work For Food for its efforts to increase awareness about the Darfur crisis and said the organization was major monetary contributor to the AJWS’s advocacy work in Darfur.
“It’s a great initiative because it encourages people to learn and take advocacy positions but also to donate money through their labor to help the current refugees and victims of genocide,” Messinger said. “It keeps our focus where it needs to be.”
Messinger said she plans to give the audience tips on how it can help end the genocide through local activism. She said she has been impressed by students’ commitment to helping people in Darfur.
“The student response to the Darfur crisis in the United States has been just extraordinary,” Messinger said.
She also said Students Taking Action Now in Darfur chapters at schools across the country were major leaders in promoting the divestment of companies who profit from the situation in Darfur.
This would include places like the University or the state refusing to do business with companies that invest in the violent Sudanese government for raw goods like oil.
But Cohen said WWFF doesn’t wish to become involved with the issue of divestment.
“Our goal is to remain politically non-partisan,” he said. “Our program is more of an initiative we want other students to take on.”
STAND and Will Work For Food have different approaches to how they present the Darfur issue to students.
“They can turn to us for more informational and ideological support,” said Emily Lardner, an LSA sophomore and the public relations chair of the University’s chapter of STAND. “We can provide the educational side while they provide a more activism-based side.”
Davidson and Cohen said they struggle with STAND’s political ideology and commitment to divestment but are looking forward to collaborating with the group in the future.
They said they hope to help STAND prepare for a campuswide fast on Dec. 5 that will coincide with a national effort. Students will have the opportunity to donate the amount of money they would normally spend on food for the day to STAND.