Paper clips for peace


POSTED: Friday, April 24, 2009

Eighth-graders at St. John Vianney School say 300,000 paper clips are what they need to illustrate the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, and instigate U.S. action to stop it.

“;Each clip represents one soul,”; said Zach Busekrus, the student body president, who is leading the charge. “;The clips are just a visual aid for people to imagine what 300,000 looks like. We're hoping (President) Barack Obama will hear our cry and help us,”; he said yesterday at an assembly of Punahou School eighth-graders.

More than 300,000 people have been killed or died of starvation—and 2 million have been forced from their homes—in the five years that ethnic African rebel groups have been fighting the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, according to the Associated Press.

So far, the 24 eighth-graders at the Enchanted Lake school, under English/history teacher Carlyle Cameron, have reached about a third of their goal. They are appealing for more clips during presentations to the media and schools.

At the end of the school year in May, they will send a photo of all the paper clips they've collected to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging U.S. action to help end the genocide. Clinton's staff suggested simply sending a photo instead of mailing the heavy metal load as originally planned, he said.

Cameron said she had originally assigned just a research paper last fall, telling students first to go out into their neighborhoods to collect 1,000 paper clips. She knew they would find out how unaware adults were about the Darfur violence.

“;What we discovered shocked us,”; said Busekrus. “;The public didn't know what we were talking about. Some people literally slammed their doors in our faces, or asked, 'What is a Darfur?' It was heartbreaking to know that people didn't know what was happening.”;

With this incentive, the assignment snowballed into a bigger initiative, Project Paperclip, steered entirely by the students, who have also produced a video, Cameron said. So far the schools they have visited have responded positively and sent about 2,000 clips, she added.

Students who accompany Busekrus to school presentations include Dustin Baldwin, Tyler Stokes, Carly Akiona and Ku'ulei Rezentes, who shared what they have gained from working on the project.

Baldwin said, “;Every life is valuable, and nobody has a right to take it.”;

Considering that people in Darfur are homeless, starving and without health care, Stokes said, “;I appreciate what I have more. I used to get mad when my parents didn't give me what I wanted, but now I'm grateful for what I do get.”;

Rezentes added, “;I don't grumble about small things.”;

The students' Web site is at www.projectpapercliphawaii.synthasite.com.