Students often don’t realize the power they wield with major corporations.
Student populations, when united behind a cause, can push companies to change their business practices. That’s the driving force behind Matt Vendeville and others’ drive to make Mercyhurst University a Conflict-Free Campus.
For those readers who don’t know this phrase means, Vendeville has the explanation: “Our mission is to advocate the problems that are happening specifically in the Congo, but all over Africa.”
While conflicts and civil wars are raging across parts of Africa, like the Congo, Mali or Guinea, there is an economic opportunity of which the belligerents are taking advantage.
“There is a need for diamonds and minerals in the world, which are used for electronics. The people in these countries are being forced to mine these minerals by the rebels or by the corrupt governments,” Vendeville said.
All of the economic benefits which come from controlling these minerals and diamonds are going to these rebels and corrupt governments. In other words, the dollars which American consumers spend are fueling the bloodshed in Africa.
Given that more than 5 million people have died, including 2.7 million children, it is imperative that students take a stand against this kind of violence. And the start of any change begins with education.
“We’ve put up posters for Valentine’s Day, giving list of companies which sell only conflict-free diamonds,” Vendeville said.
They also use similar tactics for Black Friday and try to educate people about which electronics companies use conflict-free minerals in electronics. Some companies which were not conflict-free have become so because of the efforts of this nationwide Initiative.
“Apple is on the list of conflict-free companies,” said Vendeville. “They spent millions of dollars going back along their supply chain, getting rid of these conflict minerals.”
But education often spurs people to action, and so if students want to get involved, they can go online to Enough.com.
“Do what you’d do for your own problems,” Vendeville said.
For students who wish to get involved more directly with the group, their first meeting will be on Feb. 21 and will be open to the public. For any further information, contact Matt Vendeville at firstname.lastname@example.org.