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Pazocalo social network connects students with survivors

Published: Wednesday, June 5 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

And by putting human faces and personal friendships on the conflict, many of whom are using English and new technology for the first time, students learn to "recognize the humanity in each other."

In addition to the Darfur Dream Team sister schools, Pazocalo is also used to connect Darfuri refugees to a doctor and a nurse, an assessment expert and early childhood education experts.

Ideally, Stauring would like to use it to connect journalists, advocates and policy-makers to those most in need — all over the world.

"It's unique to the Darfuri refugee camps right now, but we've been working to reach out and have it deployed to other areas," said Stauring. "We'd like to see the CommKits be deployed at the beginning of (all) emergency humanitarian situations."

Obstacles

One barrier to such implementation is cost — according to Stauring, a single CommKit can run about $5,000. It's about $6 a megabyte to send/receive text, photos or video from eastern Chad, which can add up quickly, even with the video compression and bare-bones interface.

And refugee education can be an open-ended investment, especially in the case of Darfur, where violence has increased in recent months and the region shows no sign of refugees being able to return home. A surge in fighting has displaced another 300,000 Darfuris since the beginning of the year, and humanitarian officials worry about the strain on Chad's people and resources in the area.

But when it comes to long-term conflicts, continuous, personal interactions may be the only thing sustaining interest.

"Personal connection is the reason that interest is sustained and why those school groups don't move on to other issues," said Stauring. "I really believe that the personal issues keep those schools engaged."

And when the next generation of advocates stays engaged, and refugees are able to share their stories and keep their voices heard, there is hope for peace in the region.

In the meantime, victims of genocide can get an education that will prepare them for their lives — wherever they may lead. And who knows? Maybe one day Rahma will be president of Sudan.

EMAIL: kbennion@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: @katebennion

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