For the past eight years, the country of Sudan, in Africa, has been ripped apart by violence. More than 250,000 people in the Darfur region of Sudan have fled their homes and settled in 12 refugee camps in neighboring Chad. Popular children’s authors are using their storytelling skills to help. They have put together a collection of stories called What You Wish For: A Book for Darfur. Money from the sales of the book will be used to build libraries in refugee camps in Chad. Refugees are people who flee their homes to other countries for safety reasons.
On October 17, authors including R.L. Stine, Cornelia Funke and Meg Cabot, came together at the United Nations headquarters, in New York City, to discuss the crisis in Sudan as well as What You Wish For. A trio of relief organizations—the Book Wish Foundation, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the U.N. Office for Partnerships—hosted the event.
The discussion began with stories of families who, for their own safety, were forced to leave behind the homes they loved. “People literally left their homes with nothing,” said Grainne O'Hara. She is the senior policy advisor for UNHCR. O'Hara also said that the environmental stress on a town usually populated by 20,000 residents, that must now care for 145,000 refugees in camps, is enormous.
The Power of Books
The authors of What You Wish For spoke about the importance of books in their lives. Author Sofia Quintero talked about growing up in a poor neighborhood in New York City. Despite all of the danger outside, “the one place I could go for safety was the public library,” she said. Author Meg Cabot talked about how happy books always transported her into another world, a world that made her feel better, even when she was going through hard times. She said she was “thrilled” to join the What You Wish For project, and to help make others' wishes come true.
So, how can children in the United States help children in Darfur? Author Jeanne DuPrau expressed the hope that when children in the U.S. learn about what is happening in Darfur, they will be inspired to organize fundraisers to help build libraries in refugee camps. Mohamed Yahya, a former refugee, says kids can do something as simple as donating pencils and pens.
Event organizer Logan Kleinwaks says he hopes that people will simply buy What You Wish For. “[Buy the book] to read and love, and also to give hope and make dreams come true for Darfur refugee children,” he told TFK.
To learn learn more about What You Wish For, go to bookwish.org.