This story is part of an on-going series spotlighting student-run clubs at FIU.
Dance performances, Filipino cuisine, live music, a Chinese yo-yo act and more caught the attention of students venturing through the Graham Center Nov. 26. But as students took a closer look, they realized it wasn’t just for show – there was a cause behind it all.
Just four days earlier, Typhoon Haiyan had made landfall in the Philippines, wreaking havoc on a country composed of thousands of different islands. It became the deadliest storm in the country’s history, killing close to 6,000 people and displacing millions from their homes.
That’s when UNICEF@FIU, the university chapter of the non-profit United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, stepped in.
It was an effort club president Lorraine Apolis was invested in personally. A native of the Philippines, she still has family living in the country.
“We stay up to date with current events, and we do a lot of fundraisers based on what is happening around the world,” said Apolis, a junior majoring in political science and international relations. “We are an international university. It can’t just be a name. We have to live up to it. UNICEF encompasses all types of people and issues that affect almost every area of the world.”
Teaming with other student organizations such as the Asian Student Union, Music Saves Lives South Florida, and Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Health Honor Society, UNICEF@FIU put together a benefit show to help raise funds to create and deliver food packs, medicine kits and other vital necessities for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
The show lasted approximately four hours and raised a total of $1,944 for the Philippines relief effort. Coupled with the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF, which matches funds raised by UNICEF campus initiatives, the total raised came to more than $3,800.
A BANNER YEAR
The typhoon fundraiser was just the most recent example of the club’s growing presence on campus. After a slow start in 2009, the club has been gaining momentum. Membership stands at approximately 30 students and club activities are on the upswing. National leaders have noticed, and UNICEF@FIU received the 2013 Rising Star Club of the Year honor at the organization’s Campus Initiative Summit in New York in October. The award honors a new campus initiative that shows growth and demonstrates creative ways to support UNICEF’s mission.
“As the only campus initiative in South Florida, it was great recognition for us,” Apolis said. “Winning the award makes us legitimate.”
Advocacy, fundraising and educating students on a number issues facing children locally and internationally are the club’s main functions, according to Apolis. The club launched campaigns for a wide variety of causes this year, including human trafficking, global poverty and clean water for children in underdeveloped countries. In October, the club held a “Trick-or-Treat For UNICEF” campaign that raised funds to help children struggling in the political turmoil in Syria.
“IT’S AN EYE-OPENER”
Members like Juan Carlos Nobrega, club treasurer, have gotten the opportunity to occupy leadership roles in the club, helping plan and organize events to raise funds for a wide variety of causes on a local and global level.
A junior majoring in psychology, Nobrega has learned a great deal about issues affecting children around the world through helping plan events and fundraisers for different issues, such as human trafficking.
“It really makes you reflect on these issues. It’s an eye-opener,” he said. “It’s also great to see the changes in others as they get more involved and are motivated to make a difference.”
According to Apolis, it’s all about taking that first step.
“I think everybody wants to help out in one way or another. When you become a part of the solution, you’re responsible now for it,” Apolis said. “Sometimes you need a little push to go out and do something.”
Other FIU student club stories: Taekwondo club members learn strategy over strength