E.O. Smith hosts 'Ending Apathy' to raise awareness of world social and environmental issues

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Storrs - posted Tue., Mar. 26, 2013
E.O. Smith junior Martha Sherman offers a variety of hand-made jewelry, proceeds from which were slated for 'Ending Apathy' causes. Photos by Melanie Savage.
E.O. Smith junior Martha Sherman offers a variety of hand-made jewelry, proceeds from which were slated for 'Ending Apathy' causes. Photos by Melanie Savage.

On March 23, the sun-filled atrium of E.O. Smith High School was transformed into a colorful marketplace featuring items for sale, as well as booths highlighting different areas of social and environmental concern. The occasion was "Ending Apathy," which included a community service fair, the purpose of which was to raise awareness about social and environmental issues in the world. It was organized by several E.O. Smith students.

One of the student organizers, Tristan Bock-Hughes, said that he was profoundly affected by the first “Ending Apathy” event held at his school during his freshman year. “It was very influential in my deciding to go into human rights,” he said. Bock-Hughes has decided to study non-profit business management and human rights at college next year. But he was also inspired to put on his own “Ending Apathy” event before he left E.O. Smith. “It’s an unofficial continuation,” said Bock-Hughes. “Basically, I’m hoping to make it a tradition.”

He was assisted in his endeavor by numerous people, including fellow E.O. Smith seniors Alicia Dobbyn, Claire Westa and Dani Wrubel. Dobbyn organized the Community Service Fair, which brought together some of the local organizations that incorporate volunteerism in the community. Westa ran the coffeehouse, which brought together student talent for an evening of performance. Wrubel organized a book drive “to allow children in underprivileged countries an opportunity to learn English, and to develop a love for language that will provide them with many opportunities in the future,” she said.

Hatha Yoga/meditation sessions were offered, and booths focused on issues such as the plight of Haiti’s poor and domestic violence. A main feature of the day-long program was a series of speakers, including Chad Bissonnette, founder and head of Roots of Development, a non-profit that works to help Haitian communities become self-sustaining.

Leigh Duffy, director of the Windham No Freeze Shelter, talked about the tremendous need and opportunities for volunteerism closer to home. Amy Raina focused on art and anti-violence curriculum. And Glenn Mitoma, assistant professor in residence at UConn’s Human Rights Institute, talked about the utilization of film to further human rights causes.

Part of Mitoma’s moving presentation included an actual clip of BBC footage introduced to Western audiences during the Ethiopian famine in 1984. “It is tremendously disturbing,” he said, “but it was a milestone in the story of human rights.” The footage showed a compound in Korem, a town in northern Ethiopia, where more than 40,000 starving refugees had converged seeking help. It showed stick-thin bodies, dead and dying babies and children, and it documented bodies being brought out at the beginning of the day. Mothers and fathers wept and mourned over their lost children.

“That report landed, as you might imagine, like a bombshell in living rooms and dining rooms all over the country,” said Mitoma. The footage prompted Bob Geldoff to get on the phone to friends in the music industry, said Mitoma, and resulted in “Feed the World” in the U.K., and its equivalent, “We are the World,” in the U.S. Live Aid, a dual-venue concert held in both the U.K. and the U.S., followed in 1985. It was one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time, with an estimated global audience of 1.9 billion, across 150 nations.

“The amount of food aid that poured into Ethiopia, as if a spigot had opened, was tremendous,” said Mitoma.

Other initiatives, such as Witness, founded by Genesis former front-man Peter Gabriel, similarly operate under the maxim of “a picture is worth a thousand words,” said Mitoma. With a tag line of “See it, film it, change it,” Witness “empowers human rights defenders to use video to fight injustice, and to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools that can pressure those in power or with power to act,” according to the organization’s website. For more information, go to www.witness.org.


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