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Bringing African plight home to the Valley

It's happening thousands of miles away, but three Valley residents have found a way to bring it home.

On Sept. 25, Isadora's Books and Cafe in Snoqualmie will host a special presentation about the current conflict situation in Darfur, Sudan.

"We were just kind of looking for a way to make a difference," said Grace Hall, 21.

"We're all a part of a global community. We would want people to know about it if it was happening in our own back yard," she added.

She, along with Valley locals Susie Geiermann and Riley Patterson, both 25, wanted to raise money and awareness with this event. (All three are Mount Si High School graduates.)

"We want to raise awareness in the community," Hall said.

Hall, who recently graduated from Beloit College in Wisconsin with a degree in international relations with an emphasis in conflict resolution, wrote her honors thesis on the Darfur situation.

"It was something that was going on right now," she said of her thesis selection. "I feel like often times people study things that already happened and I was interested in what was going on right now - I wanted to feel connected to the world that I'm living in now."

Once outside of the classroom, she said she found herself having to continually explain about the conflict in Darfur, so she thought a public forum for education and questions might be a way to bring attention to the issue.

"People don't really know what's going on, it's hard to follow everything out there," she said. "Aid organizations need to see that there is international support behind them."

After expressing this sentiment to her friends Patterson and Geiermann, the three decided a public forum could help educate and raise funds.

"It was like, now that I know about it, what can I do about it?" Hall said. "We decided the biggest things we can do is raise awareness and raise money for aid workers in Darfur."

Americans are a part of the global community and this issue affects the global community, she added.

"When it's actually happening, nobody pays attention, but then, looking back at it, we say we wish we would have done something about it," she said. "This is a way to engage people to ask questions and learn about it as it's happening."

For the past three years, the conflict occurring in Darfur, a region of western Sudan, Africa, has been one involving the Sudanese government's alleged support of a paramilitary group against local farming villagers, according to the online encyclopedia, "Wikipedia."

Though publicly the government has denied supporting the militia group, called the "Janjaweed," it has, in fact, provided the group with arms and assistance in attacks against other rebel groups and civilians, according to the nonprofit Web site www.savedarfur.org.

According to the Coalition for International Justice, at least 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict with millions more affected by it. The conflict has been described by the United States (but not by the United Nations) as an act of genocide.

Hall said the conflict is complicated, but that at its core, it concerns religious, representation and geography issues.

Hall will be presenting her thesis ideas along with an objective analysis of the situation at the presentation, she said. There will also be time for questions.

"It's a way to support your local and global community and learn something," Hall said.

All funds donated will go toward at least one of the nonprofit organizations with which Hall has partnered: Oxfam International, Caritas Internationales and Doctors without Borders.

"If we can raise any money, that's something," she said. "It's really dangerous for them to be there [in Darfur]. Support organizations are having trouble, their aid workers keep getting killed."

The free presentation on the conflict in Darfur will take place at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25, at Isadora's Books and Cafe, 8062 Railroad Ave. in Snoqualmie. For more information, call Isadora's at (425) 888-1345.

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