This semester, I’ve made it my goal to learn more about student activist organizations at UNH and I’ve used UNH Tales as a platform to teach other students about such organizations. I’ve learned a great deal about fascinating topics like animal welfare and the LGBTQ+ community and interviewed some really cool UNH students in the process. Recently, I had the pleasure of continuing to learn about important issues and meet awesome people when I interviewed Morgan Lynch, the secretary of UNH STAND.
[Genocide is] any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Unfortunately, genocide is an ongoing problem. Genocide is still a major problem in Sudan, where two genocides have taken place; one predominantly in Darfur, Sudan, where at least 176, 800 people were killed before the beginning of 2005, and the other between Sudan and seceded South Sudan. It’s also a huge problem in Syria, where at least 70,000 people have been killed. This is not an exhaustive list and I encourage anyone who knows of other cases of genocide to provide links and research-backed information in the comment section of this article.
Needless to say, genocide is a morbid subject but ignoring the problem won’t solve it. STAND gives students a way to make a positive impact on this negative issue, and Morgan cited this as one of the reasons he joined the student organization. He said that STAND allows students to get involved in something bigger than school. He also explained that STAND is great because actually going to the places where genocide is taking place would be extremely difficult, both physically and emotionally. STAND provides students with a way to help without being fully immersed in the conflict. This makes combatting genocide much more doable for most students.
So, you may be asking, how does a group at UNH combat genocide globally? It turns out the students of STAND do quite a lot. They don’t try to wage war, but to educate. This is extremely important because many people don’t realize how many millions of people have been killed, and continue to be killed, by genocide. In order to solve a problem, it’s necessary to inform others about it, and STAND strives to do so. One way that they’ve educated people is through showing powerful, touching and sometimes disturbing movies related to the issue. Morgan said he remembers watching one called “Lone Survivor,” that was very powerful.
STAND also participates in on-campus events. In the past, they’ve participated in the multicultural sorority Delta Xi Phi’s bakeoff where they competed with other student orgs to bake the best treats and win money for a philanthropic organization of their choice. STAND also put on an event called “Yoga for Congo” where students could pay a donation amount of their choice for a night of yoga with an instructor. The proceeds from this event went towards the “Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which specializes in treating and guiding the recovery of victims of rape and sexual violence in a nation where both are used as weapons of war” according to the event’s Facebook page. Last year, STAND created a display in the library, consisting of globes showing the locations of genocide all over the world from the Shoah onwards. Shoah is another term for the Holocaust, which some prefer because Shoah means “destruction” whereas the term Holocaust once referred to a completely burnt sacrifice on an altar. Because some religious communities view sacrifice as a necessary ritual, calling the genocide that occurred during World War II a sacrifice can be seen as an attempt to justify the killing. Destruction, on the other hand, does not have the same religious connotations. I was very fascinated to learn this because I had never heard the term Shoah before.
Also last year, STAND was able to bring Derreck Kayongo, co-founder of the Global Soap Project and former refugee, to speak at UNH. The Global Soap Project recycles discarded soap and donates it to developing countries so the people who live in them can improve their health by keeping clean. Kayongo spoke to students about how small actions can make a big difference. Morgan said that next year, STAND might get to visit a plant where the soaps are recycled. Morgan is also looking forward to a STAND event called “Swinging for Syria,” a dance where proceeds go to Syrian genocide survivors. Additionally, STAND is going to be involved in a toy drive for children in developing countries.
If you’re interested in joining STAND, you’re welcomed to attend their meetings, which are Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. in MUB 304. Right now, STAND has about seven or eight full-time members, and they’d love to have more. They seek members who are willing to learn, change, and push forward with a lot of drive. Students who join STAND come from a wide variety of majors and interests. For example, one member participates in swing dance while another is involved in Greek life. While attending meetings regularly would show initiative, STAND doesn’t have a strict attendance policy. All they require is a desire to make a difference.
Ultimately, STAND is a resourceful student organization that manages to put on some really cool, unique, and educational events and activities. They find fun ways to positively affect the lives of those who are harmed by genocide, a very serious issue. They attract students of a variety of interests to come together and raise awareness, and make new friends in the process. All in all, STAND is a small student activist organization at UNH that has a big and important impact.