Athlebrities.com founder Delinda Lombardo recently interviewed i-ACT founder and director Gabriel Stauring, who has created a soccer team made up of the best players from the refugee camps along the Chad/Sudan border.
Stauring has visited Darfur 11 times, and has spearheaded campaigns such as the 100-Day Fast for Darfur, Darfur Freedom Summer Vigils, Camp Darfur, Darfur Fast for Life, and is featured in ‘The Enough Moment’ by John Prendergast and Don Cheadle.
Explain Darfur United and what it aims to do? Boys and girls teams?
We’re creating a team from the best soccer players in the twelve Darfuri refugee camps in Eastern Chad—one team representing Darfur—and calling it Darfur United. We are working hard to get this team to participate in international tournaments, with our first and great opportunity being the Viva World Cup. We are using Darfur United to tell the story of Darfur and its people and build relationships that will provide support for a population that has lived on the margins, isolated and ignored. It will also give the people in the camps something of their own to be proud of, to root for, and just to have fun around. Through our ongoing work in the camps, we will also create more sustainable support for education and sports programs for the refugee children. For the girls, we are creating support for volleyball programs, since at this point girls aren’t playing soccer in the camps—although we are encouraging change in this area.
How does a guy from Southern California end up-not just forming a soccer team in Darfur-but start a movement (StopGenocideNow) by putting a face to victims of genocide?
It was something of a personal evolution that was in part pushed by guilt. Ten years after the fact, I was hit by the enormity of what happened in Rwanda and the failure by all of us to respond to man-made, mass-scale human suffering. When I began to hear about Darfur, I knew I had to do something and become involved. I had no idea that I would become this involved! It seemed overwhelming, so I just started small, telling others about what was happening in Darfur, and I started to look at what was missing. Why were we again failing in responding to a group of people, innocent civilians, being brutally attacked? What jumped out at me was that there was no way for people to connect at a personal level with such huge human suffering. People don’t connect with numbers, even if the numbers and statistics are horrific. It was clear to me that we had to put a face on the numbers, so, after finding others that cared, we decided to head out to the refugee camps and let people, through technology, meet the victims and survivors. I thought it was going to be just one trip. I just got back from my eleventh trip in December 2011. From those trips, we saw and heard about the many challenges and issues confronting a brutally displaced population. The refugees themselves told us that education and sports is what they saw as a key to a better future. Besides our education, awareness, and advocacy work, we decided to support the aspirations of the refugees by supporting and creating programs related to education and sports.
Do you think celebrities have a sort-of moral obligation to ‘give-back’?
More than an obligation, they have a great opportunity to have a greater than average impact—given their greater than average position in our society. In so many ways, us living in countries like the United States are so privileged. As humans, it is our moral responsibility to share with others that are less fortunate. The secret is that “giving-back” actually comes back to the giver, and it makes life more meaningful and more enjoyable than if we isolate ourselves from the challenges that others experience.
Read the full interview here.