In the early 1980s, a communist militant group named Shining Path gained power in Peru, attracting a large number of followers and taking over territories in the countryside. In the process, the group became extremely violent. Members assassinated political rivals, community organizers and peasants who opposed their beliefs. They also killed innocent civilians by planting deadly bombs in shopping malls, banks, and on the streets.
Nicholas Cabrejos, Darfur Women Action Group’s (DWAG’s) Outreach Intern, was only two years old when terrorist attacks became more frequent in his city of birth, Lima. His parents were terrified. They feared that their child would grow up in a violent environment and without access to a good education. After considering their options, they made the difficult decision to leave the country and moved to the United States.
In contrast to the violent environment in which he was born, Cabrejos — or Nick, as he likes to be called — now exudes peace and tranquility to everyone around him. “I hate conflicts of any nature,” he says, “I believe that progress is hindered when energy is spent on fighting”. This aversion to hostility led to an interest in working to end conflicts across the globe. To that end, Cabrejos is studying political science at Marymount University, and he plans to acquire a master’s degree in conflict resolution in the future.
It was at Marymount University that Cabrejos first learned about the Darfur genocide. In the beginning of 2016, he attended a panel about Sudan that featured DWAG’s president and genocide survivor Niemat Ahmadi. Nick was struck by Niemat’s powerful presentation about the ongoing genocide in Darfur, and how it has affected more than 400 thousand people over 13 years.
Cabrejos was so struck by the situation in Darfur that he approached Ms. Ahmadi during the panel’s coffee break. “I remember eating a sandwich while anxiously waiting for the right moment to approach her,” he recalls.“I asked her if there was anything that I could do to help.”
Since then, Cabrejos has been a fixed presence at DWAG’s office in Washington, DC. His job as an Outreach Intern is to make connections with individuals and organizations that can advance DWAG’s cause and projects. According to Cabrejos, the best part of his work is reminding important people — such as members of the United States Congress — that there is an ongoing genocide in Darfur. “They are very busy with other issues, so I am proud to be the one who educates them about the urgency of the situation,” he says.
The benefits of his internship might go even further. In the future, Cabrejos wants to apply the knowledge that he is acquiring in international relations and conflict resolution towards improving life in his home country. “I want to improve education for children in Peru, especially in the countryside,” he says. “But I will always take the Darfur cause with me, for the rest of my life.”