Hi, my name is Julia and I have had the amazing opportunity to intern for iACT the past two summers. I live in Hermosa Beach, California, and will be a senior at Mira Costa High School this fall. My family and I first became involved with iACT in 2011. My mom, Alex Nuttall-Smith, became the Darfur United Men’s Team (DU) medical trainer, or “Doctor Alex,” as the Darfur United players call her. When traveling with the DU team to the tournament in Iraq and the 2014 CONIFA World Cup in Östersund, Sweden, she would show pictures of my sister and me playing soccer to the players. During middle school, I would write letters and send photos to Darfur United, wishing them good luck in their games. I would also volunteer at iACT equipment drives to collect gently-used uniforms, soccer balls, cones, etc. for the children in the refugee camps to play soccer with. When I started high school, I founded the club Mustangs4Change. I brought on Micaela Tomaro and Amalia Lohuis as my co-presidents and together we started raising awareness of the global refugee crises, geared towards the high school level.
Mustangs4Change started off small, but soon we had over 80 high schoolers huddled together in a small chemistry classroom. We began with signing petitions for the iACT campaign Restore2100 and calling the White House, petitioning for more action towards the Darfur crisis. We hosted various bake sales in the South Bay area, raising money for soccer equipment we would donate to the refugee children and for learning materials for the Little Ripples preschool curriculum. To date, we have donated over $1,300 ! Mustangs4Change was also tasked with helping host iACT’s annual One Strong Kick events. Our volunteers helped with checking in guests, organizing the raffle and silent auctions, collecting donations, selling gear, and educating guests on iACT programs. This is by far our club’s favorite event of the year and we love being a part of One Strong Kick’s growth. Mustangs4Change has also done incredible work with hosting its own equipment drives, raising money on campus during Club Day, and presenting to the Model United Nations and history classrooms during International Genocide Awareness month. This coming fall, we hope to host Camp Darfur, iACT’s educational exhibit, on the Mira Costa campus as well as other local middle school campuses. As a club, we hope to provide a successful program for other schools across the nation to model after. We hope to bring genocide awareness to our youth so future generations can shape our world.
Outside of iACT and Mustangs4Change, I am an active club member in the Children of War club, Action Against Hunger club, and UNICEF club. I am also a part of the National Honors Society, and am a California State Ambassador for the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS). I am a co-captain of the varsity lacrosse team at Mira Costa and, so far, a three-year scholar athlete. Since freshmen year, I have been a part of the Model United Nations debate team and will continue to compete during my senior year. I have participated and won awards in the 2016 Paris International Model United Nations conference as well as the national conferences: BMUN at UC Berkeley, RHSMUN in San Francisco, and CMUN at University of Chicago. I won the “Best Delegate” award at the Surf City MUN conference and at the New York National High School MUN conference. I have also chaired my own debates at the Los Angeles Invitational Model United Nations conference for the past three years. In the spring of 2018, I plan to take a cultural immersion trip with my AP Spanish peers to Spain and Portugal!
No one deserves to be forgotten. If I were to ask a majority of my peers today, “Where is Darfur?” or “What is the Darfur genocide?” most of them would respond with blank, empty stares. Genocide awareness has been forgotten by the public, the media, and the school curriculum. We have become ignorant to the violence and desperation of those less fortunate than we are. The Darfuri people have been forgotten by the international community and it starts with our action to catalyze aid and awareness for these Darfuri refugees and refugees worldwide.
You can follow Mustangs4Change on Instagram @mustangs4change or see us published in the Hill Section Life magazine at here.