Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Siblings foster awareness of Darfur

Events in Ketchum attract many to cause


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

The plight of Darfur, Sudan, was a subject on the minds and lips of many people here over the past week. The Sun Valley Center for Arts threw open its doors Thursday night for a reception to promote "Darfur: A Call for Compassion," a multidisciplinary presentation that ran through Monday.

Gretchen Steidle Wallace, 32, and her brother, former U.S. Marine Capt. Brian Steidle, 30, discussed and signed their book, "The Devil Came on Horseback," and screened a film of the same name on Steidle's time in Darfur as one of three U.S. military observers for the African Union.

The Steidles' father is Rear Adm. Craig E. Steidle, USN Ret.

The tour's appearance here was sponsored by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, the Wood River Jewish Community and by Wood River Valley residents Edgar Bronfman Jr., Larry and Rebekah Helzel, Alan and Wendy Pesky, Judith and Richard Smooke, and Kiril Sokoloff.

At a reception Thursday, March 15, at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, several Wood River High School students peppered Wallace with questions. Michael Heidrich, a senior at Wood River High School, asked about going to Darfur to help. Wallace's advice: If you go, be careful. She said the most important thing people can do is divest from companies who do business with the Sudanese government, and send han-written letters to your members of Congress asking them take action.

Wallace, who co-wrote the book "The Devil Came on Horseback" with her brother, founded Global Grassroots after graduating from Tuck Business School at Dartmouth University. Her organization is working on the ground in Africa with victims of genocide.

In 1999 at Tuck, New York and Ketchum resident Alan Pesky made a presentation on the Lee Pesky Learning Center, based in Boise.

"I was fascinated about why more businesses where not more socially responsibly," Wallace said. "Alan challenged me to design a summer internship that dealt with corporate responsibility."

After working for Ashoka, a global association of the world's leading social entrepreneurs, she realized this was what she wanted to do.

"I had an idea in me—the spread of social entrepreneur-ship," she said. "When Brian went to Sudan in 2004, I had just left to go to Africa to see what work was being done on HIV/AIDS. This is where Global Grassroots really coalesced."

When she returned to the U.S., Steidle told her about Sudan. They made plans then to work on that region. "It's been really inspiring working with Brian," she said. "He's a huge advocate for our work during this tour on Darfur."

"Women bear the greatest burden," she continued. "Women are raped and many are infected with AIDs. It is a tool of war. It breaks apart families. Children are infected. In Darfur, it's especially risky for women. They are jailed for having illegal intercourse and pregnancies. Then they are assaulted in jail."

In Chad, the neighboring country to Darfur, Global Grassroots is helping to implement projects in a refugee camp.

At an orphanage, 60 widows who are genocide survivors care for 227 children, a third of whom are orphans. Global Grassroots has launched five projects with this group.

"Everything has a social purpose," Wallace said. "The refugees have great dreams. We want to fill niches that other organizations are not creating. The refugees need to see their own ideas take fruition.

"When they see their own projects succeed it's a powerful tool. Strengthen a woman and you strengthen a whole society."




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