Maia Boitano’s involvement with Darfur began when, encouraged by one of her teachers, she read Elie Wiesel’s account of his Holocaust experience, Night, and attended a lecture he gave at a nearby university. Audience members were asked to submit questions for Dr. Wiesel, and Maia’s was chosen. Moved by his tragic experience, she asked him what she could do to help prevent genocide from recurring. Dr. Wiesel encouraged her to start a group with her classmates to discuss ways to end the genocide in Darfur. Maia left the lecture, immediately began learning all she could about Darfur, and devised a plan for how she could help.
Over the course of the next year, Maia established a STAND chapter at her high school that worked hard to raise awareness about Darfur throughout the school community. The group also held a number of events to raise money for relief efforts. Maia reports, “I knew it was my duty as a human being to stand up and take action when any person was being persecuted or treated inhumanely.” Maia personally made hundreds of phone calls, sent letters, and visited store managers to raise funds for a raffle and rummage sale. As a result, the group was able to donate thousands of dollars to STAND and Doctors Without Borders. The group is networking with other humanitarian organizations in the area to expand their outreach efforts and raise even more funds.