I wake up in the morning to the sound of my alarm clock calling me to another day of school.
This girl wakes up to the sound of cries of desperation and anguish from people around her, and the Janjaweed shouting orders through the morning mist.
I get dressed, go to school and further my education. I look forward to the different careers I can have. I can be a doctor, a lawyer, a veterinarian. I can join the Peace Corps, join the Army, be whatever I want to be.
This Darfurian girl gets up in her ragged clothing. She is weak and dying from malnutrition and disease. She had wanted to be a doctor and have a family. Now she just wants to survive. However, her chances of living to become an adult are slim. According to www.kidsforkids.org.uk, the majority of Darfurian citizens are 18 years of age or younger. If the girl we're imagining does live through the war, her life expectancy is only 42, about half the life expectancy of an American woman.
I chat with my friends on my way home from school. We smile and laugh at the littlest things.
This girl's friends are all dead. She watched them die. She tried to help, but there was nothing she could do. She hasn't smiled for ages.
I have a nutritious, warm, filling dinner and read a good book. The only thing I really have to worry about is my little brother annoying me.
The Darfurian girl eats nothing. Her body, desperate for nutrition, begins to digest its muscles and internal organs including her heart. The girl's pulse drops dangerously low, so it is a risk just to go to sleep. Her body temperature declines. The girl's books are gone, and she hasn't seen her little brother for awhile. She doesn't know if he is even alive. Her parents are dead. She had promised them that she would look after her little brother, but he was taken away. She is alone.
As I go to bed, I snuggle beneath the warm covers and drift off to wonderful dreams.
This girl falls into a fitful rest, full of nightmares. She knows that she is lucky to be alive.
Our days are so different. As I read, she is raped. As I eat, she is starving. As I smile and laugh, she is crying. As I live, she is dying.
I live in a safe, protected environment, where every day is full of love and care. The people in Darfur live in fear, in an environment full of hatred, where every day is a struggle to live, as you see the people around you dying.
The number of people affected by the fighting are staggering. According to www.stopgenocidenow.org, an Internet-based activist organization focused on Darfur and the Sudan, about 400,000 people have died so far; 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes; 200,000 people have fled Darfur and now live in refugee camps in the neighboring country of Chad.
This life is the life of 600,000 people - human beings just like you and me, who need compassion and care, who need an encouraging word, who need a shoulder to lean on.
They need the hope of a new day - a day that you and I can create together if we try. The decision is easy enough. Don't let 2006 be a year that we will remember to be full of bloodshed, a year that we regret that we did nothing for the people of Darfur.
To get more information on this terrible chapter of cruelty, hatred and injustice, you can go to these Web sites, which really opened my eyes: www.savedarfur.org and www.darfurgenocide.org.
Do you want to help stop this genocide? If so, then you can write to the government by going to the Web site www.whitehouse.gov for a full list of contact numbers, e-mail and mailing addresses. You can call for action about this horror.
Let your voice be heard. You can make a difference.
Kitty Hoffman, 14, is a freshman at South Hagerstown High School. She likes reading and writing and she maintains focus on community service.