Inspiring ideas go global

SUF students team up with UNICEF for Haiti

Joanna Weinstein
April 8, 2010

Last February, UNICEF Italy agreed to take on three American students at Syracuse University in Florence (SUF) as interns for the entire semester. The students, Blair Benson, Ashley Juavinett and Samantha McQueen, explained the challenges they encountered when starting their job.


‘It's a very different atmosphere here. They speak no English and we had to be very proactive to get the ball rolling,' said McQueen, who explained how the students' first task was to raise money for the Haiti Relief fund at different hotels in the city. Instead, they proposed an entirely new campaign to achieve their goal.


The students-Benson, an international relations major, McQueen, an anthropology major, and Juavinett, a neuroscience and sociobiology major-agreed that the best way to raise money among youth in Florence was to throw a party.


On Wednesday, April 14, from 11pm to 2am, a fund-raiser will be held at Club Twenty One, on via dei Cimatori 13r, to raise money on behalf of UNICEF for the women and children of Haiti. The students teamed up with Florence for Fun, a local tour operator, to secure the venue and help promote the event. Partygoers will be asked to donate three euro at the door, and the money will go towards food, shelter, and other forms of aid for the devastated country.


On exhibit will be positive photos and facts to show Haiti's potentially bright future, provided enough money is raised to help the earthquake-hit country. Explaining why no images of death or destruction will be shown, Benson said, ‘Our main goal is to get Haiti back into people's minds. Although the disaster may be slipping under news headlines, there is still a lot to be done with this tragedy, and we want to spread the word in the most positive way possible.'


‘We just want to have this issue on people's radar. The need for houses, food, or anything in Haiti still deserves our attention,' said Juavinett.  Although the fund-raiser's main target is American students in Florence, all are invited to attend. A fund-raiser was also held as part of SUF's talent show on April 6.


The students noted that they are the first American students given the opportunity to create a project for UNICEF. Noting that their effort seemed to surprise UNICEF, the students explained that non-profits in Italy are rare. Unlike non-profits in the United States, Italy's UNICEF operates with oversight from national organizations.


‘Although we work in Florence, all of the UNICEF directors are from Rome. So many of the workers here just remain in accordance with what the directors say,' said Benson.


‘We had to build a relationship of trust with UNICEF here,' said Juavinett. The other two students agreed. ‘Still, we are fortunate that UNICEF here was willing to work with students. It is a big step,' said McQueen. The students note that this first effort with UNICEF already seems to have had an effect on Italy's branch of the organization. ‘There are many students studying here with a very keen interest in social justice policy, so this internship is destined to grow.' Although they do not have a set goal, they hope to raise at least 300 euro. ‘It's difficult to raise public interest for a cause half a world away,' said Benson. The students hope their fund-raising message will do just that.

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