Local Darfur hero's driving passion

March 6, 2009 7:15:57 PM PST
A Bay Area teenager with a big heart and some big ideas has been honored for his efforts to help the people of Darfur. Pleasanton is a long way from the ravaged region of Africa, but not too far for Jon Brian to think he could make a difference.

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18-year-old Jon Brian has a couple of passions; one is cars and the other is helping other people.

"It feels good when you help out and also you get a lot of support," said Brian.

Today he's working alone on his dad's Mustang in the garage of their Pleasanton home, but two years ago he had the help of Willie, Andrew, Justin, Mitch and Brett on a 1998 Chevy Camaro. Their plan was to fix it up, auction it off, and donate the proceeds to the Save Darfur Fund. Brian founded the non-profit.

"A car for Darfur." He also had a Web site, flyers and t-shirts. They didn't quite get the car to auction, instead they ended up selling off the parts raising $2,000 and a lot of awareness.

"A lot of people hadn't heard about it, so we wanted to pick a cause. So even if we weren't successful in our original goal, we could still spread a lot of awareness about," said Brian.

For that, the Save Darfur Coalition honored Brian as a Darfur hero.

The Pleasanton Unified School District also singled him out. Brian created his Car For Darfur Project to fulfill his community service requirement at Amador Valley High School.

"As far as being a hero goes, I like to think of the group together. I don't want it to be focused on me, I want it to be about the people who helped out because so many people put so much time into this," said Brian.

"The need is enormous. There are at least four million Darfurins entirely dependent on humanitarian aid for their existence out of a population of six million when this genocide started," said Martina Knee, a San Francisco spokesperson from the Save Darfur Coalition.

The Save Darfur Coalition is an alliance of 180 faith-based advocacy and human rights organizations. Knee says the Pleasanton teen's work is not only important for aid and awareness, but for politics, too.

"All teenagers are somehow connected to adults who vote and the most important next step is to create the political will to end this genocide," said Knee.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 people have died over the last six years as a result of ongoing genocide in Darfur, the western region of Sudan.

Brian hopes his efforts can serve as an example for others.

"Hopefully it will inspire people to pick a cause they're interested in and find a way to help that cause that fits them," said Brian.

And so we salute, 18-year-old Jon Brian, for the youthful passion and drive that make him a local Darfur hero.

If you would like to nominate a local hero: click here

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