UAA’s Heifer Club was surprised to raise 1,400 dollars at their first alterative gift fair last Saturday.
The group was hoping to raise at least 500 dollars.
“What we ended up making was amazing,” the president of the club, Meneka Thiru, said.
Organizers were amazed that everything came together at the last minute.
“Leading up to the event we didn’t have a lot of organizations confirmed. We were all a little discouraged leading up to it, but the week before, we just got a flood of confirmations,” the club’s secretary Kimberly Hewitt said.
31 local companies like AK Starfish and Spenard Roadhouse eventually donated gift certificates and clothing to the silent action. All the money raised from the silent auction was donated to Heifer International’s general fund.
The 1,400 is enough for about three heifers, which will be sent to families anywhere from Honduras to Nepal, in the hopes that the animals will give them a reliable food source and financial stability.
About a dozen other groups were also present to raise money for their respective club, including One Anchorage, Architecture and Engineering Club, Beans Café, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, and Hope Community Resources. Collectively they raised 1,100 dollars, bringing the entire fair’s total to 2,555 dollars.
How it started
The group decided to host an alternative gift fair after hearing about a student service-learning project done in Geography 101, Local Places/Global Regions. Seeing the success of this project, and encouraged by their advisor, Geography Professor Dorm Van Dermeer, the group decided to host one of their own.
On the aim of the fair, Hewitt said,
“Instead of just giving them things that’s just going into the closet, you’re giving them alternative gifts. You’re making a donation in their honor and doing something good for the community.”
Sustainability club had recipe books for a 10-dollar donation. The covers came from old calendars, and contained hundreds of recipes from old cookbooks.
GrassRoots, a local fair-trade business, was also there, selling scarfs, hats, and finger puppets.
“They’re products made from people who received fair compensation for their labor,” Hewitt said of the fair trade company.
GrassRoots also tries to connect the suppliers with the workers thousands of miles away. Sam McDonald, a GrassRoots employee, said he and a few others had used Skype to chat with the women who made the finger puppets sold at the fair.
Collectively UAA’s group has quite a bit of international experience. Deermer is returning this week from a trip in Senegal, where he scouted out the program’s effect.
Last year nine UAA students traveled to China as part of a geography class that studied agricultural development in China.
They came away from the trip believing that Heifer International, now in its 20th year, is a practical method of development.
Thiru was of the students who traveled to rural China.
“We asked them what do you need, do you want us to send more money—what works for you? And they said just tell people this works, that this way of development actually helps us. It was reaffirming.“