I came to Ireland in part hoping to expand STAND, a student movement dedicated to the abolition of human suffering in areas of conflict and gross human rights violations. When I boarded the plane, I had no idea if the success of STAND could be replicated in Ireland. Today I find myself inspired by the Irish commitment to transform conflict and end crimes against humanity.
Departing to live abroad for my first time, I quickly saw my first sign of hope in the Irish hospitality. Sitting next to one of the rugby players of Munster—I later learned how popular the team is—on the flight I spoke with him as if we were old friends even though, to his surprise, I had to ask him why so many people where wearing red. Later, on the bus ride to Galway, an old woman offered me her sandwich, explaining she regularly brought more than one.
During my time here, this initial welcoming has proven the rule. From my classmates to my fellow Mitchell scholars, to the directors and supporters of the scholarship, the people have been overwhelmingly generous.
Unsure of how my efforts to bring a student activist movement would be received, I reached out to my fellow students in the human rights law course. In no time we had founded STAND in Ireland, recruited more than 350 students, and been featured in the student newspaper. What impressed me most was how Irish students were making the movement their own, planning events and campaigns that drew from Irish culture.
It didn’t take long for us to try to expand STAND to nearby secondary schools. The first school we spoke with, a community school in Gort, left me impressed with their dedication and depth of knowledge, grilling me on intimate details of the conflict. The events they are planning show incredible creativity and speak volumes for the next generation of leaders.
A few days ago a colleague of mine from Nigeria summed up the success of STAND in Ireland better than I could. He told me that STAND is not about one person or thing, it is all of us. The devotion is shown from the grassroots interactions of STAND to the members of parliament (TDs) and the cabinet who have committed to our signature event—DarfurFast—and who have committed resources and troops to the protection of civilians.
With the help of U.S. Ireland Alliance, I had the privilege recently to meet with the Foreign Minister of Ireland before he left to Sudan and Chad on a mission to renew peace talks. Despite a very busy schedule he still made it a priority to take a few minutes to discuss STAND, our upcoming events, and the situation facing the region. The meeting was one of the many highlights of my time in Ireland and gave me additional hope that the people of the region will find protection and peace.
While STAND has been a large part of my experience in Ireland, the friendships I have formed with my classmates and fellow Mitchells has distinguished my time here. From the pub to sports like Gaelic football, rugby and hurling to debating politics to sightseeing my time here has been amazing. Not only are the Irish incredible people, but the experience of the Mitchell, made all the more extraordinary by the zealous efforts of Trina Vargo and Mary Lou Hartman to support the scholars.