People all over the world have been having conversations about the best ways to get involved with causes dear to their hearts. How can we make a difference in the lives of others? What kind of volunteer goals do you want to set? One simple action you can take is to join Central Asia Institute by starting a peer-to-peer fundraiser for girls’ education.
Last year we launched a peer-to-peer fundraising program as a way for people to volunteer and support our students. We’ve had people do all kinds of activities from running races like the San Francisco Marathon to hosting wine nights to driving in the Mongol Rally. One of our most inspiring fundraisers is from a college student at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, Anna Atwell.
Anna’s peer-to-peer fundraiser, named For HER Project, St. Andrews, serves as an example that anyone can make a difference. It doesn’t matter your age, your income, or where you live, one small action can yield a huge impact.
Anna grew up in Bozeman, MT, which is also CAI’s hometown. When she was in middle school her class participated in Pennies for Peace, a CAI program that teaches children about other cultures and philanthropy through service learning. This planted the seed that even something as small as a penny can make a big difference.
Flash-forward to 2014, when Anna was a freshman at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She loved how active the community was and the endless variety of clubs, but there was something missing.
“St. Andrews is really involved in different types of fundraising and different types of charities,” says Anna. “But they didn’t have a club specifically for education or devoted to girls’ education.”
Anna reached out to CAI’s development director, Christel Chvilicek, whom Anna had interned for when she was 14. Christel set Anna up with a peer-to-peer fundraiser she could use to create a philanthropy group.
CAI’s peer-to-peer fundraising program is an easy way to achieve any goal of joining a cause you care about. You can run or ride in a race, host a dinner party, or use your favorite hobby as a fundraiser. The possibilities are endless.
Anna’s student group, For HER Project, St. Andrews, hosts events to raise money for CAI programs and spreads awareness about the need to educate girls around the world.
She formed a committee with the help of good friends to create and host the events and reach out to other students and the nearby community of Edinburgh.
“Our committee is made up of eight members,” explains Anna. “They run the Facebook page, come to meetings, run the bank account, and they’re from all over the world: Russia, the UK, Italy, France. It’s really cool to have that global involvement.”
The group began with a whiteboard campaign to start the dialogue about education. They set up a booth at school events, and as people walked by they asked them to write down why education is important on a whiteboard and took photographs with the students and their answers. Soon they had a loyal following on Facebook, and they began planning more events with other school groups and the local community.
“St. Andrews is so great for this because it’s such a global community,” says Anna. “We have people from all over the world in the community and on the campus. We’re all at university and all at St. Andrews so we know that education is important. As we move forward we can see people understanding the importance of educating girls in Central Asia and getting really excited.”
As a new group on campus, the For HER Project needed to gain at least 23 paying members (students pay £3 to join a student group) and petition the school to become an official member of the student union. Anna says they have more than enough paying members after the first semester, and the committee will file to be an official club in the spring. This will give them access to the student group mailing list and help with event promotion through the university. The goal is to spread the message of girls’ education as far as possible.
Even without the perks of the St. Andrews student union, all the events have been incredibly successful, drawing about 50 students each.
“The great thing about HER is that you can do a wide variety of events, so you attract different people to all the events. There is something for everyone,” says Anna.
Along with the whiteboard campaigns, the group has put on music nights at a local pub, co-hosted a movie screening of Girl Rising with the St. Andrews Feminist Club, and hosted a Treat Yourself night where guests were treated to traditional desserts and sweets popular in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.
Members of the committee are present at each event with fliers and information on the scholarship programs and the work CAI does for the communities in Central Asia. People are charged £3 at the door and members are given a £1 discount. All the money raised goes to girls’ education.
“One of my favorite events was our first whiteboard campaign,” says Anna. “At St. Andrews there’s this little beach, called Castle Sands Beach, by this castle built in the 1300s. We had a picnic and people came by and we talked about the For HER Project and asked them why education was important for women. We took photos of all the answers people wrote on their whiteboards and people were really excited to get involved in the campaign.”
With one semester under their belts and the potential to be recognized by the Student Union, Anna and the committee are inspired to keep going.
Along with more music and pub nights, they are partnering with the baking society to host a Bake for HER night and are working on a few more speaking events to engage other students.
“We are planning to do a conference next semester with different members of the staff,” explains Anna. “We have international relations folks who want to help us out with this. We also have people who speak Arabic who want to come in and talk about the culture.”
Anna says the best part has been seeing the reactions of students and members of the community. Especially in a place where education may be taken for granted.
“One of the things I found really interesting is when we ask people ‘why does education matter’, their first answer is ‘because it does.’ We’ve been so lucky to have access to such wonderful education and other people haven’t. As you sit down with people and watch them work through the question, you can see they understand how important education is, not just for them but for the world.”
Once people began to really think about the question, their answers were all very different. Someone who was studying economics might say it helps stimulate the economy, while another student might say that education leads to world peace.
While setting up your peer-to-peer fundraiser at CAI is easy, getting people engaged and evolved can be tricky for some people. Anna has advice for those who are just starting out.
1. Plan ahead: For HER project begins planning five weeks before each event. They have a worksheet with a checklist for each task that needs to be accomplished which includes any forms they need to fill out and people they need to contact.
2. Reach out to your community: Once people hear about the fundraiser, they are often excited to get involved. Don’t be afraid to reach out to local businesses or family and friends for sponsorship or help organizing.
3. Anyone can start a fundraiser: “That’s the great thing about HER. Whatever you’re passionate about, whatever you care about, there is a place for you. Whether it’s baking or a night out on the pub, you have a place in this movement and you have a place to help women and young girls succeed.”
Anna’s For HER Project is an amazing example of a small act of kindness taking on a life of its own. Even if your goal seems small, the benefits can ripple across the community. Through the hard work of Anna and the For HER Project committee, as well as the other people who have started fundraisers, many more girls and women will have a chance at education in Central Asia.
If you’re looking to get involved in issues you care about, starting a fundraiser is a small way to make a big difference. You can learn more by visiting our peer-to-peer fundraising page. Keep up with Anna’s group or get ideas for your own fundraiser by following For HER Project, St. Andrews on Facebook.
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