Elyse "Vyvy" Trinh

Month-Long Focus on Darfur Raises Nearly $14,000 to Aid Refugees in Sudan

Originally setting out to improve conditions at a home for street children in Honduras at which she had volunteered, Elyse “VyVy” Trinh of Fremont, California, switched gears when she realized communication with that institution was almost impossible. Feeling inspired by her peers at the Take the Lead program, which she says “opened [her] eyes to how much potential we young people have,” VyVy looked instead to her own school to create change. She dreamed of mobilizing the student body to raise funds for important causes. The specter of hunger and violence in Darfur, Sudan, was foremost in her mind as she set out to create a new tradition at The Harker School in San Jose.

Thanks to VyVy’s determined energy and hard work, six activities during the school’s Global Awareness Month raised a total of nearly $14,000 for refugee camps in Darfur. That was $12,000 more than VyVy had anticipated. Global Awareness Month is expected to continue annually at the junior’s school because of a new coalition that VyVy spearheaded. The World Awareness Committee brings together student activists and those in other student groups at the private school with similar goals.

To raise funds, the Green Ribbon Project was launched in March at Harker. Students purchased a $1 ribbon to wear in support of Darfur aid. Funds were designated to provide chickens in the refugee camps because eggs offer consistent protein and chickens are difficult to capture during raids. An oversized poster at the school tracked the fundraiser’s progress; the “Darfur Chicken-o-Meter” added an illustrated green chicken for every fifteen ribbons sold. Another event, “A Lunch in Darfur,” simulated refugee-camp fare by serving rice and beans in the school’s gym to students who skipped their regular cafeteria lunch and donated the cost of the missed meal to the cause. During this event, Santino Majok Chuor, one of the Sudan’s “lost boys,” spoke. A letter-writing campaign got 10 percent of the student population to urge their Congressional representatives to take more action helping Darfur. And a promotional concert featuring a student-created CD was also organized. Called Art with a Heart, the CD included many student and faculty musicians with proceeds benefiting Oxfam America’s water and sanitation projects in Darfur refugee camps. Also in March, VyVy helped organize a school dance whose proceeds sponsored a child in Honduras through the organization World Vision.

VyVy’s work has not gone unnoticed. Already she has been selected as the director of activism for the 2006 Northern California region of the Junior State of America, which links more than seventy high schools. VyVy and her fellow students are now organizing another Darfur month for October involving many schools in her state.

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