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Loralyn blogs: ARK + TCNJ + FIND collabs, feeds 68 kids

By Camille - Posted on 23 April 2012

            My relationship with Advancement for Rural Kids began in October 2011. As a senior and the president of TCNJ Barkada, the Filipino-American organization at The College of New Jersey, it was my mission to elevate the club to new heights and make this its strongest year yet. In honor of October’s Filipino-American Heritage Month, we decided to invite UniPro to a general body meeting to facilitate an Usapan Discussion about Filipino-American identity. As UniPro’s mission is to create a network amongst Filipino-American organizations, they introduced us to the work of ARK and suggested we partner up with the non-profit because they recognized that our pro-active energy would be a good fit with the spirit of ARK and its members. In the past, Barkada had not dedicated itself to one specific cause or philanthropic organization. However, we felt that the prospect of devoting our time and energy into an organization like ARK would bring focus to our group and provide the opportunity to shed light on a worthy cause. As a club, our mission is to raise awareness about Filipino and Filipino-American culture amongst our members and the rest of the student body. In that same spirit, our philanthropic initiative this year and every year is to raise awareness about situations in the Filipino and Filipino-American communities that need our help. Thus, the collaboration between TCNJ Barkada and ARK began.

            While I had the support of my entire membership, I felt personally compelled to carefully nurture the partnership between the two organizations. The more I learned about the cause, the more I wanted to do to support it. Several things about ARK stood out as special to me. As a college student, I have a thirst for education and knowledge. The impact of malnutrition on education wasn’t something that I even realized the significance of, but ARK’s mission to bring attention to the relationship between adequate food and a bright future was something that I found very captivating and intriguing. The premise of ARK’s Feeding Program, that $15 can provide lunch for a kid for a year, was eye-opening and truly put things in perspective. It made me realize that with so little money, I could make a profound difference, not just in the present-day but forward into the future. It reminded me to appreciate the blessings I have been given and motivated me to lend a hand to those who are not as fortunate. Most of all, I was particularly drawn to ARK’s focus on community empowerment. They implement programs in the communities that involve the townspeople, ensuring their interest and increasing the likelihood of long-term sustainability.

            In March, I was provided with an opportunity to spearhead a project to directly benefit ARK. Together with ARK’s Ayesha Vera-Yu and Ramapo College student Alexa Lorenzo, I planned and coordinated a raffle fundraiser that was held at the FIND (Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue) Spring Conference at Drexel University on Saturday, March 31st. Our “Play to Feed” Initiative allowed the enthusiastic Fil-Am clubs from TCNJ, Ramapo College, Rutgers University-Newark, Farleigh Dickinson University, Binghamton University, Hunter College, Kean University, and the US Naval Academy, as well as UniPro, to work together while serving their Filipino brothers and sisters back in the Philippines. Organization members donated prizes, sold and bought raffle tickets, and spread word about the efforts of Advancement for Rural Kids.

            Being involved with the raffle was one of the most exciting and fun projects I have been a part of. The widespread support we received from the members of the conference renewed my belief in the mission of ARK and demonstrated to me that I was doing some good in the world. While telling others about the work of ARK, I was able to see a spark ignite in the eyes of those interested and envisioned the word spreading through network after network. The more people that know means the more people that can make a difference. While the point of the project was to raise funds, the promotional aspect of it for the benefit of ARK was what I found most profound. In the end, we were able to raise more than $1000 for ARK’s Feeding Program, which meant that we ensured 68 kids a year’s worth of lunches. I couldn’t be more proud.

            Being involved with this initiative and with ARK in general has developed both my leadership and teamwork skills. It has allowed me to collaborate with people of different backgrounds, personalities, and experiences, showing me that a good leader capitalizes on the strengths and improves upon the weaknesses of everyone to ensure the well-being of the entire team. Just as I have learned the importance of empowering those around me to better themselves, Advancement for Rural Kids employs the same principle to empower the villages they work with to develop into stronger and better communities.

Loralyn is a nursing student at The College of New Jersey.