Darfur Fast for Life

We fast in solidarity with the hungry and starving in Darfur and for lasting peace in Sudan

Joey Cheek

Joey Cheek is co-founder and president of Team Darfur, an international coalition of athletes committed to raising awareness about and bringing an end to the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. Joey was invited to be a Member of the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative, where his member commitment was to create a coalition of athletes committed to raising awareness about Darfur.

Originally an inline skater from North Carolina, Joey quickly mastered the ice and became a world record-setting speed skater. At the 2006 Turin Olympics, Joey represented the United States as a member of the men’s USA Speed skating team. After winning gold in the 500m race and silver in the 1000m, he donated the $40,000 awarded him to Right To Play, an international aid organization focused on bringing the benefits of sport and play to the most disadvantaged children in the world. Joey’s donation inspired his sponsors and other athletes to collectively donate over one million dollars to children in Darfur.

After his Olympic press conference, Joey was elected by his teammates to carry the US flag into the closing ceremonies, and Time magazine named him one of their “100 people who shape our world.” Joey is the recipient of the DHL Olympic Spirit award, the 2006 National Sportsmanship Award, and the inaugural Heisman Humanitarian Award. Joey was also featured on a Wheaties Box. Joey has spoken at countless corporate and non-profit events. Recently, Joey was prominently in the media when the government of China revoked his visa to attend the 2008 Olympic Games.

Joey is currently a junior at Princeton University where he studies economics and Chinese, and regularly attends Princeton Tigers football games.

Day 2:::

June 21, 2009 By: cory Category: Joey Cheek

A few months after my final Olympic Games in 2006 I was invited to travel to Chad to visit with refugees with the American Red Cross. We traveled from camp to camp, and although the heat of summer had long since passed it was still dry and hot in that region of the world. We visited a camp of more than 30,000 people, mostly women and children from Darfur. The children laughed and followed us around giggling and smiling for pictures (they loved to see their images reflected back on the tiny LCD screens of our digital cameras). When we asked why there were so few men in this camp we were told that some of the men had stayed behind to fight for their homes, and try and raise crops on their native lands in case it became safe to return. Many more had been killed, leaving behind their wives and children who had walked miles through the desert to arrive in this camp alone and with nothing.

While we were in this camp we were invited to the distribution tent where rations from the World Food Program were being handed out. The women patiently stood in a long line and as they wove through a giant tent they collected their share of grain (sorghum or wheat), legumes, salt, and oil for cooking. Each amount was carefully measured out and then poured into well worn bags or jugs then placed on the women’s head and she would walk back to the tiny little square of land in the camp where a plastic tarp was the roof of her and her children’s home. They told us that the women would mix the grain and legumes and oil and make something like a cake that would be the family meal, twice per day.

Today I ate something like the equivalent of those rations. A handful of rice and beans in the morning and the same for a small dinner. All told this was just about 1000 calories. Refugee rations will keep someone alive, but it will also keep someone from ever reaching their potential as a person. At that level, children will not grow to the size they are meant to be, the brain doesn’t develop to the level that it could, and no one is never really satisfied. Of course, it is a much better alternative than eating nothing at all.

We know that one of the most effective tactics used against the millions of refugees and internally displaced people within Darfur is attacks against humanitarian groups who bring in these life giving supplies. It is a despicable act of cowardice against defenseless women and children and those that would aid the innocent. The thing that struck me about that camp was not that the people I met were in imminent danger, but how very vulnerable they were. There is no where to go from these camps. If the food does not make it in to the camps, it is only a matter of days before people are starving. Recently reports have been trickling out of Chad that in addition to back and forth attacks by Chad and Sudanese governments, there have been attacks on refugee camps containing these tens of thousands of women and children.

I am grateful that today I got my rations, I hope our political leaders can find a way for the millions of innocents to at least get theirs.

– Joey

June 20th, 2009

June 21, 2009 By: Admin Category: Joey Cheek

The sun is now setting on world refugee day and the clock is quickly closing in on my first willing 24 hours without eating. I’ve almost completed day one of my three day fast for Darfur. I realized today, that with the exception of an occasional stomach bug, I’ve never in my life gone more than a few hours without eating. What a remarkable thing… That I have spent almost 30 years on this earth and never known what it feels like to go to bed on an empty stomach. I know that tonight across America there will be millions unwillfully going hungry, and worldwide more than a billion will do so. I know that I am blessed for having never faced a hunger for the very basic needs of humanity. That is what makes this fast so important to me.

When this fast was first mentioned to me I really didn’t see much merit in my participation. I have spoken out about the suffering in Darfur for a number of years. I have felt an activist’s frustration in pouring your heart in an issue to see little. and sometimes even negative, progress. I have also seen some of the most brilliant and caring individuals who have spent their life trying to end these atrocities against our fellow man. As a now former athlete in a small sport, my media star does not burn quite as brightly as it once did, so I was not sure that my fasting would really have any impact in the world other than me being somewhat cranky (I am renowned amongst my family and friends as being INTOLERABLE to be around when I haven’t eaten). But over the last few days I have begun to think about this fast differently.

I sent out notes to friends and family and told them I would be participating in a fast for Darfur, leading up to my 30th birthday. Almost instantly word began to trickle in from athletes, friends, people who followed me as a speedskater but that I have not met, that they would be joining with me as I fast. Each of these people are willing to make a sacrifice for people they have never met, simply because they feel it is the right thing to do! There are many terrible things that happen in this world, and the murdering in Darfur must end, but I constantly find my faith in people renewed. This fast itself may not help to end suffering, but I guarantee it will make us more aware of the injustices around us. Once people become truly aware, then the world begins to change.

These people in Darfur, our brothers and sisters, can be saved – lets keep up the fight.


PS – Apologies for any spelling/grammatical mistakes, I’m not the most careful editor even when my head is totally clear!