Blue mats sit quietly in the cafeteria, out of place in the noisy, bustling lunchroom. Halfway through lunch, two kids walk up to the mats and get into pushup position. More and more students gather round, curiosity and excitement spreading throughout the cafeteria like wildfire. They count out loud as the contest goes on.
“Eighty one! Eighty two! Eighty three! Eighty four!” the small crowd chants.
Finally, one of the students drops. The victor, Jesse Greaves, stands up, to tumultuous applause.
Last month, to help the Philippines recover from what has been called the worst typhoon ever recorded, three clubs joined together: Amnesty International, UNICEF, and Red Cross. All these clubs worked together to make a three-part fundraiser.
It started off when Amnesty International, being a new club, decided to team up with UNICEF to gain more experience and to get more attention than they would if they did a fundraiser by themselves.
Sabrina Ho, co-president of Amnesty International, said, “We sided with UNICEF and we also knew they wanted to fundraise for the Philippines like we did. So once we joined with UNICEF, we realized that they were already aligned with Red Cross, so it became a giant group fundraiser.”
The collaboration made it much easier on all participating groups, with more volunteers and more ideas. However, it was difficult to coordinate, because Red Cross Club meets on Tuesdays while Amnesty International and UNICEF meet on Thursdays. The main parts of the fundraiser were adonations drive(with contributions deposited in a collection box in the school lobby), the Believe Bells telegrams sale, and a push-up contest.
As many readers may know, Super-Typhoon Haiyan (nicknamed Yolanda) struck the Philippines on November 8. It continuously battered the islands for three days before retreating back to the waters, leaving in its wake an estimated 5,924 people dead and thousands more missing. The typhoon, which followed a 7.2 earthquake, was category 5 strength, making it the most dangerous typhoon possible. Fourteen million people were impacted and at least 4 million were displaced. As of now the Philippine government is feeding only about 1.4 million people a day. Most survivors have lost their homes. Fresh water is scarce and people on the streets are forced to drink whatever contaminated water they can find, which spreads malaria and other dangerous diseases. Children are especially susceptible to these diseases. Basic aid is so scarce that police have had to control mobs of people desperate for food, water, or a way out of this devastation.
“Many people are still struggling because of what happened, dying because of starvation,” said Christine Ronquillo, a sophomore who moved from the Philippines and has friends affected by the typhoon.
The push-up contest, which took place Thursday, December 12, in the cafeteria during all four lunches, was not a huge success, raising only around $10. Contestants paid $1 to participate in the contest. The winners, Nick Wall, Jesse Greaves, and Vincent Camin, each won a Dunkin Donuts gift card. While at some point, a crowd was gathered around the contestants, very few people actually participated. This event raised publicity, but not money.
Adam Weinreb, a member of Amnesty International, said, “The drive didn’t get many participants because people didn’t want to embarrass themselves.” It is certainly true that not many people could beat 84 consecutive pushups. The clubs were hoping that more people would be willing to participate in front of the cafeteria in its entirety.
However, another part of the fundraiser was so successful that they had to restock. Amnesty International and UNICEF sold Believe Bells—bell ornaments with telegrams attached to them. They were inspired by the bells in “The Polar Express,” which only rang for those who believed. The idea is that if we all believe, we can help the Philippines. Each bell cost $1, and were available for purchase during all four lunches from Thursday, December 12, through Wednesday, December 18. The first 180 of the telegrams were delivered to their recipients on Thursday, December 19, and the remainder were to be distributed after winter break. Some of the bells were just taken at the time of purchase, to be hung on the Christmas tree as an ornament or attached to a backpack as a keychain. All of the profits, about $175, will go straight to the Philippines during break. In the Philippine currency, this is 7778.75 pesos.
“I feel very happy that the school is helping the Philippines,” said Ronquillo. “It’s going to help a lot of Filipinos; it’s going to make a huge difference.”
By Emily Hilman and Gauri Narayan