Activists seek students’ help

By Mas Rahman

Many colleges are filled with organizations that promote student activism.

Activism, however, doesn’t appear to be the focus of the majority of students at Oakland University. The few activist groups that are present are scattered and not very visible on campus.

Whether it’s due to lack of interest, lack of time, lack of knowledge or something else, is unclear.

Two of the groups that do exist, though, are trying to raise awareness in global issues and get students involved in taking action, with mixed results.

 

Schools for Schools

Rhiannon Zielinski, a junior political science and journalism major, started an OU chapter of Schools for Schools this semester. She said she already found six members willing to help.

The group’s first project is to raise money to help rebuild schools in Uganda that were destroyed during war, buy supplies and pay for teachers for the schools.

“Our job is to fund the schools there because they can’t do it themselves,” Zielinski said.

She said one of the things they will do is hold bookdrives at OU where students can donate items like textbooks and OU’s Schools for Schools can sell them on a website and give the proceeds to Invisible Children, which will undertake the schools’ rebuilding.

Zielinski brought Invisible Children members to OU on Tuesday, Oct. 6 for a movie screening of “Invisible Children: The Rescue,” and students and the public were invited to attend, but less than a dozen people showed up.

“The Rescue” was a documentary made by Invisible Children. It chronicled how many young children in Uganda were abducted by soldiers of rebel leader Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army and forced to be child soldiers.

It also had a call to action for viewers to get involved in ending the war and rescuing the child soldiers.

Invisible Children started the program Schools for Schools, to “rebuild schools in war-torn northern Uganda, with help from people just like you.”

Students at all schools and colleges are encouraged to start their own chapter of Schools for Schools.

According to its website, so far this year 1,027 schools have participated and raised $29,651 toward the project. There are ways to raise money for the project listed on the Invisible Children.

Zielinski said she found a couple interested people at the screening and some others who emailed her after seeing her email listed in the screening’s flyer.

“I also forced some friends into it,” she said.

She said the group is trying to increase membership, and trying to get official status recognized by OU’s Center for Student Activities to get funding.

She said Invisible Children does a good job using social media to get young people active in global issues, and that the cause should appeal to high school and college students.

Zielinski doesn’t want the OU chapter to focus solely on Uganda’s child soldiers or schools, however. She also wants to group to eventually take on other issues such as the genocide in Darfur.

 

U.S. Campaign for Burma

 

Sai Myint said he is disheartened by the lack of interest he found from OU students to help him in his mission to help with the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

“The e-board I had bailed on me,” he said. “How am I supposed to recruit members without an e-board?”

Myint, a sophomore biology major in the secondary teacher education program, said he was born in Burma. After having lived there for 11 years, moved with his family to the United States.

He said although he and his family have not personally experienced any corruption or oppression, a lot of people in Burma, especially people in rural areas, experience human rights violations committed by the military dictatorship.

“It’s a nasty situation there,” he said.

Myint has a poster of Aung San Suu Kyi on his dorm room’s wall, and stickers saying “Free Burma” and “Free Aung San Suu Kyi” on his laptop.

Suu Kyi was democratically elected as Burma’s prime minister in 1990, but has been under detention on and off by the government since 1989. In 1992, she won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.

 Myint said he started a chapter of the U.S. Campaign for Burma at OU last winter, but hasn’t been able to find hardly any dedicated people interested in the cause who have the time to participate.

He said he educated himself by going to the Campaign’s website.

He also raises money for the cause by using goodsearch.com instead of other search engines like google.com or yahoo.com, because it donates a couple of pennies to a cause of one’s choosing each time the site is used.

So far Myint estimated he raised about $3 himself for U.S. Campaign for Burma, and according to goodsearch.com, about $866 was raised so far for this cause.

He said he hasn’t tried to do any recruiting after welcome week this fall, because “reality hit me.”

“Some students just want to do schoolwork,” Myint said.

He said he considered quitting because it’s hard for one person, but isn’t giving up yet. He wants to hold a bake sale, raise awareness and recruit members.

“You can’t half-ass it,” he said, warning that it may not always be fun being a member of the group. Ideally, he wants the group to write to congressmen and other people to raise support for the international community to put pressure on the Myanmar government.

 

For more information about Invisible Children and Schools for Schools visit www.invisiblechildren.com. To join the OU chapter, e-mail Zielinski at [email protected]

For more information about the U.S. Campaign for Burma, visit www.uscampaignforburma.org. To join the OU chapter, e-mail Myint at [email protected]