Hopes to Draw Attention to Darfur Crisis||
U.S. speedskater Joey Cheek says he is using his fame from winning
the Olympic gold to draw attention to an issue not getting enough
media coverage in the United States -- the humanitarian crisis
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Olympic speedskater Joey Cheek donated his $40,000 bonus for winning gold and
silver medals in Turin, Italy, to Sudanese refugees in Chad, he said it was a
way to focus attention on a growing humanitarian crisis in Africa.
money I donated was not a huge dollar figure for the amount of help that's needed
over there, but it was a gesture that then sparked other people to give,"
The money went to Right to Play, an organization that helps children
in underprivileged communities through sports. The organization says it has raised
more than $400,000 since Cheek's announcement.
Darfur, the western region of the African nation of Sudan, militias are attacking
civilians in what U.S. and other international leaders and aid groups are calling
At least 200,000 people
have died and 2 million have fled to the neighboring country of Chad to live in
Cheek, 26, said he became interested in the Darfur plight
while traveling for his sport in other countries, where he discovered much more
media coverage of Darfur, AIDS and other
problems in Africa than in the American media.
"I thought if I had
a moment in the sun, or in the spotlight, I would take it to try and raise awareness
[about the situation in Darfur], and this cause in particular I think is such
a massive, massive tragedy that it was the one that drew me in," he said.
is visiting college campuses around the nation to talk about what is happening
in Darfur and promote a letter-writing campaign
called Million Voices for Darfur to encourage U.S. intervention in the crisis.
He plans to be one of the speakers at the Save Darfur Coalition rally in Washington,
D.C. on April 30.
Cheek said his efforts are part of his "goal-oriented"
"I felt that if I wanted to tackle something I should
set a task, and then you stick with it until you accomplish it. And that's true
in athletic or business goals, academic goals, in anything that you pursue,"
he said at a stop in Washington, D.C. on his 21,000 mile tour to promote his Darfur
His involvement, he said, stems from an appreciation of the advantages
he has received in life.
"I think it's our obligation, being as lucky
and blessed as we are in this country to have the wealth and the opportunities
we have, to share that with the rest of the world," he said.
you were born in another country you
would want someone to do the same for you."
The world is a much smaller
place whose inhabitants are intimately related no matter where they live, he continued.
fate of someone in Africa has a direct response to the fate of someone in the
U.S. on some level. We may not see it now."
is no excuse"|
said he wasn't always tuned into global issues.
"In my past when I'm on
the road, I don't take time to vote, I don't take the time to look up candidates
and that's been to my detriment. That's been something that I aim to fix."
he said he believes, "Apathy is no excuse for having any type of crisis."
by Larisa Epatko, Online NewsHour