Campaign to watch: Boston College spurs a change.

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campaign: Boston College Water for Schools 2012
raised so far: $7,111
campaign goal:$20,000
mission statement: “Bcharity: water is an initiative started by students whose goal is to bring awareness of the global water crisis while raising money to support the charity: water campaign.”

BCharity: water

When you’re in college, getting time to even study is a huge task…. but students at Boston College have added fighting to end the water crisis to their to-do lists. How’d they manage to fit a campaign into their busy schedules? We asked Kimmi, the founder of an organization on campus that seeks to give clean water to people who need it:

How did you hear about the water crisis and charity: water?
I heard about how incredibly vast the water crisis is through charity: water. I followed charity: water on Twitter to use their wallpaper for my background and very briefly researched them before my trip to World Youth Day in Madrid. My experiences in Spain on the Magis Pilgrimage prior to World Youth Day played a key role in fostering my interest in the world water crisis and charity: water.

What inspired you to start a group at Boston College to support charity: water?
It started after my seven-day pilgrimage across Basque country in Spain. During the 97-mile hike, my group suffered from dehydration and at times, heat stroke. Magis, meaning more, was a program for participants of World Youth Day from Jesuit institutions around the world. These experiences were meant to help participants find more in their relationship with God by encouraging seeing God in all things. I was all for this, but I had no idea I was going to be hiking for seven days. I thought it was a bus ride. Little did I know, I was in for a huge surprise.

BCharity: water event

The last three days of the hike were incredibly hot. It was blazing dry heat and no shade. We walked from pretty much 6 a.m. to 5 p.m… I was constantly thinking about the fact that, after the three days were over, I was gonna be back in Madrid having access to all this water — as much as I wanted. Before school started, I texted a friend who lived close by: “You know, maybe we can make a difference.”

Boston College is known for its social justice and equality movements, and it really encourages students to take initiative. We’re encouraged to be men and women for others. I showed my friend the Water Changes Everything video and he immediately supported the cause.

We chose to stick with charity: water and we came back to campus and pitched it to lots of people: Campus Ministry, the Carroll School of Management, our business school, the Office of Student Programs and many others were really supportive.

What are some ways you’ve been fundraising so far?
We wanted to kick it off with something very educational, but not so educational as to make people not want to go. It was a very casual kick-off. We had local restaurants donate food, there were performances and a student presented about the education system in Africa and how water relates to education. People were just with their friends, eating and learning a lot at the same time — not just about charity: water, but the global water crisis in general. We raised more than (I think) $500, even though our goal that night wasn’t even to raise that much money, it was just to get the word out there that we’re on campus.

Penny Pledge

Do you have other events planned during the campaign?
We have things like the Penny Pledge, where we encouraged faculty and staff to pledge or donate one penny for every dollar that our group donated. We hoped we could have faculty from all four schools at Boston College get together and say, “This is the cause that we all believe in and just something that we can all make a difference in.”

We’re also selling t-shirts, passing out Boloco burritos in return for donations, having a charity: water dance, having a show, and hosting benefit dinners.

The thing we all like about charity: water is that it’s very matter-of-fact. It’s very tangible and very relatable, so that’s the approach we want to take, too.

Have there been difficulties that maybe you didn’t expect?
Yeah, definitely. Becoming an organization on campus has been really hard. Right now, we’re an organization through Campus Ministry, but we don’t get funding. We are a start-up group and this is its first year at BC. We don’t know of any other group that has done this before, so we don’t really have anyone to ask for advice. We’ve received a lot of help, but it’s taken a lot of persistence to be able to get to where we are now.

Another difficulty would be selling the product. I think most of the people on BCharity: water’s staff are in the business school, and we know that even though these causes are very worthwhile and very important, it comes down to being able to sell the cause and sell how important it is.

The fact that we’ve already raised $7,000 amazes me. It’s far from our goal, but it makes such a difference.

Is there anything that took you by surprise doing this campaign?
It’s how generous people can be once they’re given the information, how much one person is capable of and how much eight people are capable of. I didn’t plan to have something this big. I was just thinking that I don’t want people, seven-year-olds, walking like I did — but for their whole lives.

My friends and I talk about the campaign a lot. Although it’s hard to believe that we’re making a difference, at the end of the day, we always remind each other that we are. The fact that we’ve already raised $7,000 amazes me. It’s far from our goal, but it makes such a difference. The numbers give me something to really hold on to.

Water bottle display

So do you have a vision for the group going forward?
We’re hoping to reach our $20,000 goal and really get the word out there. Our tentative plan is to have a campaign every first quarter of each year. Right now, it’s a big boom on campus, because they’ve never heard of charity: water. We definitely do want to establish a club on campus where charity: water will benefit from it.

Any advice for people who want to start a campaign?
Do it because you want to do it. For me, I experienced that dehydration and witnessed the heatstroke: it touched me very personally.

There have been a lot of obstacles where school work is tugging at me on one end and the campaign is tugging me on the other. It’s something I really want to do. Know that someone out there is benefiting from your work. It’s hard to grasp but it’s true, it’s real, and it’s worth it.

Start an organization on your campus. Host an event, make necklaces, run across the country — you can do just about anything to fundraise for clean water. Want to start a campaign of your own? Find out how here >

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