Passion & Determination Pay Off

Students and the campus community band together for a purpose

By: Becky St. Clair

Junior media major Cas Anderson has fun with some of the children from Murwira Orphanage who will benefit from Mission: Zimbabwe.

In January 2008, two of WWU’s largest student clubs, Amnesty International and ASWWC (the associated students), took on one of the largest projects in the history of WWU.

The project was called Mission: Zimbabwe, and its goal was to raise awareness of the situation in Zimbabwe, as well as $15,000 to support Murwira Orphanage in Zimbabwe.

Their first goal was to let the campus know about the project, and to educate them about the situation in Zimbabwe. During Week of Worship January 14-18, ASWWC and Amnesty showed informational videos after each daily meeting.

ASWWC and Amnesty also organized a special information session, during which WWU student Lwazi Moyo-McCune shared his story of being forced to become a child soldier in Zimbabwe. Several other students told of their experiences volunteering at Murwira Orphanage.

What the campus learned was that Zimbabwe has almost the worst performing economy in the world. Its unemployment rate is 80 percent, and it has the world’s highest inflation rate. The nation also faces a mass exodus of an estimated 3.4 million Zimbabweans - at least a quarter of the population - into neighboring countries and abroad, as natives struggle to survive.

With the lowest life expectancy in the world in 2006, Zimbabwe men live for an average of 37 years; women a mere 34 years. According to UNICEF, Zimbabwe also has a higher number of orphans per capita than any other country in the world. Most of the cases are a result of parents dying from AIDS.

This newfound knowledge really spoke to the WWU campus and surrounding community. Hundreds participated in the fundraising events organized by ASWWC and Amnesty. The first large event the two clubs organized was a date auction.

As student bachelor after bachelorette was auctioned off to eager single students, the dollar amount raised for Murwira Orphanage climbed higher and higher. At the end of the event, the total amount raised was over $6,500.

Another fundraising event was the Zwim Meet, which required participating swimmers to have sponsors. Dozens of people participated, including WWU president John McVay, and VP of Academic Administration Ginger Ketting-Weller. Both swam 8 laps in 10 minutes.

ASWWC and Amnesty also held an early morning run with an entrance fee of $5. In spite of the early hour (runners gathered at the starting line shortly after 7 a.m.), dozens turned up to show their support for Mission: Zimbabwe.

“When we first set our goal of $15,000, we thought it was a lot to ask for,” says Janelle Walikonis, president of the WWU chapter of Amnesty International. “It is very inspiring to see other people rally around a cause that has been such a close part of those who have been involved in it from the very beginning.”

At a special University CommUnity meeting on February 5, representatives from ASWWC and the WWU chapter of Amnesty International took to the platform and announced that total funds raised as of that morning had reached over $26,000. Currently, their total funds raised is at nearly $30,000.

“We are amazed at the generosity of WWU students, and by the overwhelming compassion that has swept over this campus,” say Contessa Mensink and Becca Parshall, ASWWC Social VPs. “God has blessed beyond our wildest imaginations. From the near $7,000 date auction to watching some of our administration swim in the Zwimathon to opening donation envelopes to find large personal checks from students--we stand in awe. This project has been a testament to both God's power and to the goodness on the WWU campus. We cannot wait to someday ask God where the money traveled to and who it touched... or saved.”

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