Friday, November 27, 2009

Fundraiser a Huge Success!

Parishoners and visitors to St. Mary's Episcopal Church enjoyed authentic Sudanese food, drumming, and singing on November 15th as part of a fundraiser that netted over $2,000 for Darfur refugee assitance. Most of the money will be used to help Darfuri refugees currently living in displaced persons camps in Africa purchase Berkeley-Darfur Stoves®. These super efficient stoves help decrease Darfuri women and girls' exposure to violence by reducing the amount of time they must spend away from the relative safety of the camps to gather firewood. The rest of the funds are being donated to Church World Service, a highly respected and effective non-profit organization that provides refugee assistance.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Legislation Update

HB 92, the Sudan Divestment bill, has moved out of the House State Affairs Committee and on to the House Finance Committee!! This is one BIG step farther than last year's bill got, but a long journey remains.

1. Bill to be heard in (and moved out of) the House Finance Committee.
2. It then goes to the House Rules Committee, which schedules it to go back to the whole House (House floor).
3. In the House, it's in second reading when more amendments may be made.
4. It is forwarded to third reading the same day, debated and voted on.
5. Now it starts all over again in the Senate in the new World Trade Committee. (The Senate can start this process without waiting for HB 92 to get through the House...hopefully, they will!)
6. On to Senate State Affairs.
7. On to Senate Finance.
8. On to Senate Rules.
9. On to Senate Floor second and third readings.
10. If the Senate bill is different than House bill it goes to joint committee then back to each body.
11. When passed it goes to Governor for signature (but can become law without it).

Let's keep the pressure on our representatives, senators, and our Governor. We don't want this bill to stall anywhere in the process.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How You Can Help the Sudanese Families Displaced by Recent Fire

A duplex fire in late February destroyed the homes of two Sudanese families. Sixteen of the family members are children. Tor Gach, the father of one of the families, says that as of today he and his family have found housing, but the other family has not. Nyaret Yoang and her 8 children are staying in a hotel until permanent housing can be found. If you know of a 4-bedroom home for rent, please call 907-980-1473. Nyaret does not speak English well, but her son, Delang, can translate for her.

Besides housing for Nyaret and her children, Tor says their greatest need is furniture. To help meet that need, the Moose's Tooth/Bear Tooth folks are collecting monetary donations at their home office. The money will go directly to the two families to buy replacement furnishings.

Your checks can be mailed to the address below. (Cash should be dropped off there.)
Brooke VanVeckhoven
Fresh Ale Pubs Office
1317 W. Northern Lights Suite 8
Anchorage, AK 99503

Please make the checks out to one of the family representatives:
Nyekan Bichiok
Nyaret Yoang

Thank you for your support, prayers, and well wishes!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sudan Divestment Bill Scheduled for Hearing

On Tuesday, February 24, between 8 and 10 AM, the House State Affairs Committee will discuss House Bill 92 and determine whether or not it will continue its journey toward enactment or die in this Committee. Backed by Governor Palin and members of both parties, this year's Sudan Divestment legislation is more palatable to the state's investment advisers. Even Permanent Fund Executive Director Mike Burns, who testified against divestment legislation last year, told the Juneau Empire that "he'll recommend to the trustees that they no longer oppose the [Sudan Divestment] bills." This is great news and we offer our gratitude to Mr. Burns.

Click here to read more about this year's legislation and the change of heart its fostering in our investment advisers. Then, please call the State Affairs Committee members listed below (and your state representative) to voice your support of the legislation. And, if you're in Juneau on the 24th, attend the hearing and SHOW your support!

Committee Number: 465-4963
Bob Lynn, Chair: 465-4931
Paul Seaton, Vice-Chair: 465-2689
Carl Gatto: 465-3743
Craig Johnson: 465-4993
Peggy Wilson: 465-3824
Max Gruenberg: 465-4940
Pete Petersen: 465-4939

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sudan Awareness Week Kick-Off Full of Celebration

There was standing room only at Grassroots - A Fair Trade Store on February 15th for the Sudan Awareness Week Kick-Off Event. Debbie Bock, a dedicated and super hardworking member of Save Darfur Anchorage, started the 2-hour celebration by providing a great overview of the current situation in Sudan. Sudanese refugees then shared their experiences living in Sudan and their takes on the political situation. The event wrapped up with an hour of traditional Sudanese drumming, singing, and dancing. What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Scheduled Feb 22nd Sudan Awareness Week Events

On February 22nd, Save Darfur Anchorage members, Debbie Bock and Nance Blake, will lead Sudan Awareness Week events at the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and Palmer's Church of the Covenant, respectively. Both will show a power point presentation they developed about Sudan's history and current situation. Debbie's presentation will begin at 9 AM and Nance's will start at 9:30 AM. Sudanese refugees now living in Sudan will attend the Anchorage event to meet with the public and share their stories.

Letters for Justice will meet from 10:45 to 11:45 AM in the basement of Holy Family Cathedral to write letters to Governor Palin encouraging her continued support of divestment from Sudan. To learn more about the Divest for Darfur effort, visit the Sudan Divestment Task Force website.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sudan Awareness Week

Sudan Awareness Week, February 16th through the 22nd, provides an opportunity for Alaskan communities -- faith-based or secular -- to honor the plight of the people of Sudan. Ravaged by war for decades, and the site of the ongoing 6-year-long genocide in its Darfur region, Sudan offers little but suffering for many of its people. During Sudan Awareness Week, Alaskans will recognize the people of Sudan and the incredible hardships they face because of the Government of Sudan's destructive and criminal reign.

To kick off Sudan Awareness Week, Grassroots - A Fair Trade Store, located at 1300 West Northern Lights Blvd (in the REI strip mall), is dedicating the whole month of February to Sudan. The store will display a sculpture by local artist, April Boles, that depicts the plight of women in Darfur. On February 15, a power point presentation summarizing the situation in Sudan followed by a question-and-answer session will begin at 2 p.m. Sudanese refugees will be on hand to field questions and to tell their stories. Beginning around 3 p.m., some of the refugees will showcase their culture through traditional drumming and singing -- a treat for all!

Friday, January 30, 2009

5 Bills Call for Alaska's Divestment from Sudan

We've come a long way, Baby!! There are now 5 bills in the Alaska Legislature that would require the Permanent Fund, the state's retirement systems, the State of Alaska Supplemental Annuity Plan, and the deferred compensation program for state employees to divest holdings in companies that do business in Sudan. The bills would also prohibit future investments in those companies for as long as the Darfur Genocide continues.

The bills in the House include HB 5, HB 45, and HB 92. HB 5 is sponsored by Representatives Bob Lynn and Les Gara. HB 45 is sponsored by Representatives Gara, Gardner, Petersen, Kerttula, Guttenberg, and Gruenberg. HB 92 is being put forth by Governor Palin. The Senate bills are SB 37, sponsored by Senators Hollis French and Johnny Ellis, and SB 81, which is the Governor's companion bill to HB 92.

Each bill offers a cost-effective and efficient protocol for divesting the targeted foreign funds. The additional burden to the investment managers would be nominal -- just as divestment would have a nominal effect on our Permanent Fund dividends.

Please continue to let the Governor and your state senator and representative know that you want him/her to vote in favor of divestment. Go to the Alaska State Legislature home page to get contact information for your legislators. Governor Palin's contact information in Juneau is P.O. Box 110001, Juneau, AK 99811-0001; Phone 907-465-3500; Fax 907-465-3532.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Darfur Genocide Legislation Filed January 9

Many thanks to state representatives Les Gara, Berta Gardner, Beth Kertulla, and Pete Petersen for reigniting the state divestment effort by filing legislation on January 9th to stop the State from investing in foreign companies that are complicit in the 5-year-old Darfur genocide. Although the 2008 divestment bill never made it out of committee, we are hopeful that the 2009 legislation will be better received. The legislation has Governor Palin's support and more Alaskans, including legislators, are aware of the Darfur genocide and understand how easy and cheaply the divestment process can be. Please contact your legislators and the Governor and let them know that you back their support of this legislation and that you hope it will move smoothly through both the State House and the State Senate.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

January 1 Celebration

Some Alaskans probably "celebrated" the first day of the New Year with a soft pillow, drawn curtains, and saltine crackers. Many of our Darfuri friends, however, celebrated with music, balloons, and birthday cake. Yep, birthday cake.

It seemed the fitting way to ring in the new year seeing how several of the Darfur refugees now living in Anchorage have January 1 as their birthdays. No, they weren't actually born on January 1. Birthdays aren't traditionally celebrated in Darfur, as is the case for much of Africa, nor are they recorded in any consistent fashion, so the Darfur refugees don't actually know what day of the year they were born.

This is a problem, however, when you're trying to leave your country. You can't exactly get a passport or immigration papers without a birth date. Some of the Darfur refugees were given the option to choose one, but most were simply assigned January 1. A recent article by The Boston Globe states, "It is unclear when the practice began, but more than 31,000 of the 203,566 refugees admitted to the United States over the past four years have been assigned the Jan. 1 birthday."

Fake birthdays or not, the party that occurred on January 1 in a small Mountain View apartment was most definitely real. Laughter, drumming, traditional Sudanese songs, and of course cake and balloons, filed the place. Jokes were told, wishes were made, tears were shed, and all felt gratitude for life.