Those words penned by John Lennon in 1969 as part of a song to focus attention on the war in Vietnam are about to become part of a peace campaign by a new generation, courtesy of Seabreeze High junior Kyle Bogdan.
Kyle wrote the words and Lennon’s name on a canvas square Wednesday that is expected to become part of a tent to shelter refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The United Nations estimates 400,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million left homeless since the Darfur conflict began in 2003 between rebel groups claiming years of discrimination and the Sudanese government. The deaths include those from disease and malnutrition as well as combat.
“I feel Darfur should be told about,” said Kyle, who first learned about the conflict in a history class last year, where teacher Michaela Norman drew comparisons between what is happening there and the death of millions of Jews in World War II at the hands of German Nazis.
“It’s the same thing; it’s genocide,” Kyle said of the Darfur conflict.
The Seabreeze National Honor Society project to provide tent squares with messages of peace, love and hope was the outgrowth of another class assignment.
National Honor Society President Sarah Hart was so affected by a book by Ishmael Beah she read in English class last year that it inspired her to enlist other students in supporting “Tents of Hope,” a national campaign to draw attention to the genocide in Darfur.
The book, “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier,” told the story of a boy from Sierra Leone who was forced to join the government army at age 13 and was later rescued by UNICEF, rehabilitated and relocated to the United States.
“It really opened my eyes to what is going on in Africa — the persecution going on against civilians,” said Sarah, a Seabreeze senior.
So, when she was elected president of the Seabreeze and Volusia District National Honor Society, it was natural for her to propose an African-related project for the service organization to adopt.
Sarah found out about Tents of Hope through Internet research and sold her fellow Seabreeze students and National Honor Society leaders at six other Volusia high schools on the idea of joining the program’s efforts.
Between Honor Society members and other students who have paid $3 each for a tent square and markers to decorate it, Seabreeze has completed 300 squares and hundreds more are being finished at other schools.
It takes 320 panels to complete one tent, said Sarah, who plans to deliver the local contributions to Tents of Hope organizers in Washington next month for shipment to the African nation of Chad. There, they’ll be stitched together at refugee camps for delivery to Darfur.
Hundreds of schools, colleges, churches and community groups from 48 states are participating in the tent project, national coordinator Tim Nonn said in a telephone interview Wednesday from California.
But Nonn said he’s been especially impressed by the Volusia students’ “global consciousness.”
“The young people remind us it’s actually more natural for them to feel compassion and recognize we’re all part of one human family than to accept arbitrary divisions,” Nonn said.
Students decorating tent squares in the Seabreeze courtyard at lunchtime Wednesday echoed his comments. “It has opened my mind to what’s going on in the world,” senior Logan Perakis said.
Marta Grassi, an Italian teen attending Seabreeze this year, contributed a tent square with a peace message in her native language as did other exchange students from Finland, Japan and Brazil.
The tent project, Marta said, is a good way to expand American students’ global knowledge. “It makes people think about the world,” she said. “The world is bigger, not just America.”
Campaign wraps with D.C. display
The yearlong Tents of Hope campaign will is set to wrap up with an event at the National Mall in Washington on Nov. 7-9 that will bring together thousands of project participants from across the country. More than 350 tents made by community groups for Darfur refugees will be set up on the National Mall that weekend to draw attention to the ongoing conflict in that part of Sudan.
The event will include a film festival, concert and panel discussions on Darfur and an interfaith worship service the morning of Nov. 9. Tents of Hope also is encouraging prayers for Darfur that weekend at churches, synagogues and mosques around the country.