Seventh-Grader Works to Help Darfur Refugees
SCOTT SIMON, host:
There're new concerns this week about Darfur, western Sudan. United Nations Security Council voted to send a peacekeeping force to the area, but the Sudanese government rejected the idea. According to a U.N. official, Darfur is teetering on the edge of a new humanitarian disaster. In this country, Darfur has been in and out of the public's consciousness, often replaced by other international crises. But for one young girl in rural Oregon, concern about Sudan has not wavered.
NPR's Tom Goldman reports.
TOM GOLDMAN reporting:
Tacey Smith could be any 12-year-old seventh grader. A shy girl, she seems most at ease tending the family animals every morning - a horse name Monty, a few goats, and the chickens named for their colors.
Ms. TACEY SMITH (Student): Yellow, come on.
(Soundbite of goats)
GOLDMAN: But it's here in the chicken coop, collecting eggs every morning, that Tacey Smith has become a hero. That's why New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof called Tacey and other Americans who are doing what they can to save lives in Darfur. In the last 16 months, Tacey has collected over $2,000 from selling the eggs and mainly from a Sudan fair Tacey and some friends organized at Tacey's home in Gaston, a farm town near Portland, Oregon. The money goes to the American Jewish World Service, which provides aid to Darfur and lobbies to raise awareness about a region Tacey knew nothing about until the spring last year. That's when her parents let her watch the film Hotel Rwanda.
Jill Smith is Tacey's mom.
Ms. JILL SMITH (Mother of Tacey Smith): I had a feeling that it would kindle her sense of social justice, or something, that she would really respond to that.
GOLDMAN: Tacey responded scene in particular when a TV news cameraman laments that the video he shot of the Rwandan genocide won't have any meaningful impact.
(Soundbite of movie Hotel Rwanda)
Mr. DON CHEADLE (Actor): (As Paul Rusesabagina): ...atrocities.
Mr. JOAQUIN PHOENIX (Actor): (As Jack Daglish): I think if people see this footage, they'll say, Oh my God, that's horrible. And then go on eating their dinners.
Ms. SMITH: I sort of realized, if I didn't do anything I'd be doing exactly what he said everyone would do when they saw that footage.
GOLDMAN: You decided that you didn't want to be one of those who went back to their dinner then?
Ms. SMITH: Yeah.
GOLDMAN: With the help of her parents, Tacey learned about the crisis in Darfur and started raising money. She's been at it nearly a year and a half. Her persistence doesn't surprise her mom, who says Tacey is the kind of person who will carry through to the bitter end. Tacey wants others to do that as well.
Ms. SMITH: I don't know. Maybe sometime in the future we'll look back on ourselves and think we were such fools not to help with this. And I hope that sometime we do.
GOLDMAN: A spokesperson for the American World Jewish Service says people like Tacey help tell the story of Darfur most dramatically. Indeed, Tacey has inspired her friends. Some have raised money, some have asked for Darfur donations instead of birthday presents.
Tom Goldman, NPR News.