Heifer International and Stormy Petrels Unite

Heifer InternationalLater this week, Oglethorpe University will be the first college campus to host the annual meeting of Heifer International, a nonprofit focused on “helping others help themselves.” The Heifer Sustainability Summit will be held on Friday and Saturday, October 12-13. It will showcase leaders in the field, and showcase Oglethorpe’s growing involvement in Heifer’s mission.

The idea behind Heifer International is simple: rather than raising money and donating it to the needy, Heifer uses raised funds to buy and donate livestock (cows,  chickens,  sheep, etc.) to  groups of people in need to help to increase their self-sustainability. Not only can they rely on the animals for renewable resources like wool, eggs or milk, but when the Heifer-gifted animal reproduces, the  resulting livestock provides even more possibility for income.  The self-sufficiency people gain from having their own source of income also helps to improve quality of  life. Suddenly, a family can go from surviving to thriving; a village can go from impoverished to self-reliant. The independence that comes with a Heifer gift is often even more valuable than the gift itself.  Heifer operates in more than 50 countries and has been a driving force against poverty worldwide since 1944.

The summit will focus on the needs of a world stricken by hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation, and Heifer’s current and future plans to help. Special guest speakers will include National Center for Civil and Human Rights CEO Doug Shipman, Heifer International President and CEO Pierre Ferrari, and Oglethorpe University’s own First Lady, Betty Londergan, the wife of Oglethorpe’s President Schall.

Betty and children in a Heifer-assisted country

Heifer International has gained quite a following at Oglethorpe, due in part to  Londergan’s involvement with the nonprofit. She is on a mission to showcase the benefits of Heifer’s work through Heifer 12×12, a blog project launched by Heifer International, which is taking Londergan to 12 countries in 12 months. Since January, she’s traveled to 11 Heifer-assisted countries, including Uganda, Haiti and Rwanda, and has shared her experiences through blogs and photography.

Heifer 12x12

Betty Londergan's blog highlights Heifer's accomplishments around the world

Thirty of Londergan’s photos will be on exhibit in Oglethorpe’s Lowry Hall in honor of National Photography month. The exhibit, titled “Unforgettable Faces,” will debut during the Summit’s opening dinner reception on Friday, October 12, at 7:00 p.m. in the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art and remain open through December 9, 2012. The photographs will be available for purchase to benefit Heifer International.

But, Londergan isn’t the only Stormy Petrel hoping to make a difference through Heifer. Sophomore Ruwa Romman and a small group of OU students were inspired by Londergan’s involvement with Heifer and decided to get active. They are starting the OU Heifer Club, the first on a college or university campus in the Southeast.

“Oglethorpe’s a good place to have a grassroots initiative [like Heifer],” said Romman. “They focus on self-sustainability, on passing on the gift… We hope to get a movement going. We can’t donate huge sums of money, but if we can donate $10 for chickens and help send someone’s kid to school, that’s still huge. It’s all about giving back.”

The OU Heifer Club will officially launch during the Heifer Sustainability Summit.

OU Sophomore Folds Origami “Cranes for Cancer”

According to ancient Japanese legend, folding 1000 paper cranes will bring good luck, and might even grant the folder a wish. Kevin Summerlin, the OU sophomore behind the new on-campus charity initiative Cranes for Cancer, definitely has a wish—that his paper-folding will “[raise] awareness about the importance of thoughtfulness and goodwill in helping people through hard times.”

Students can learn the Japanese art of origami while giving back by folding cranes to sell as symbols of hope and support for those suffering from cancer. Although origami is an ancient art, the idea that 1000 cranes bring luck is still popular around the world. From the paper crane-draped Ueno Toshogu Shrine in Japan, a monument to advocate peace between nations, to the true story of Sadako, a girl who folded cranes to be granted her wish for life after battling leukemia, the symbol of a paper crane is a harbinger of peace and luck in hard times.

Paper cranes hanging at the Toshogu Shrine in Tokyo

Kevin hopes to generate enough interest and awareness to form an origami club on campus, and eventually to raise money to aid cancer patients. His goal is not just to fundraise, but to be a call to action. Oglethorpe students trying to “make a life, make a living, make a difference” can support the Cranes for Cancer initiative by attending meetings every Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Phase II lobby. All interested students are encouraged to come—from the newest beginners to the paper-folding masters—everyone is welcome!

Those who can’t make the meetings can help out by donating something a little out of ordinary—paper. Come fold cranes—for good luck and for a good cause!

Greekapalooza: Party for a Cause

OU Greeks come together to support The DRCC

Oglethorpe University’s chapter of Chi Phi fraternity raised more than $600 to benefit the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center at their annual charity event, Greekapalooza, on Friday, September 14.

Donations increased almost 100% over last year’s event, in part because Chi Phi offered a free benefit show played by local musicians, the Critty Upchurch Band, who played covers of popular songs at the Greek Row block party.

Edmund Smith, a sophomore brother of Chi Phi, says that donating to support the cause is important, but the bigger goal was to raise awareness for the DRCC. “Though we hope OU students never need it, we want people to know that there is a place they can go for help.”

OU Greeks watch the Critty Upchurch Band at Greekapalooza.

Not only did Greekapalooza raise money to help the victims of rape and sexual violence, it was also the first event of OU’s Fall 2012 Greek Recruitment/Rush. All of the Greek organizations at Oglethorpe attended to show support and to meet potential pledges.

“Greekapalooza is basically a great way for OU’s Greek organizations to come together, fraternize, and unite behind a great cause,” said Chelsea Reed ’13.  “It is the perfect kickoff for recruitment because it shows that Oglethorpe Greeks value community and philanthropy—both on campus and beyond.”

Photos by Robert Findley.

Oglethorpe University Ranked Among Top 50 U.S. Liberal Arts Colleges

Independent news magazine Washington Monthly has released its annual list of Top 100 Liberal Arts Colleges in the nation, and Oglethorpe University comes in at #49!

The magazine rates and ranks colleges in three different categories: social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs) and service (encouraging students to give something back to their community). Within the service category, OU was ranked #9 for providing a high number of staff supporting community service, the number of academic courses that incorporate service, and for providing scholarships for community service.

Members of the incoming class sort and pack book donations at Books for Africa.

Oglethorpe provides numerous volunteer opportunities for its students throughout the year. Most recently, 350  freshman and first-year students participated in the annual Orientation Day of Service alongside faculty, staff and community volunteers. The group was spread out across Atlanta, volunteering with nine different nonprofit organizations. Five groups’ efforts went to environmental stewardship, lending a hand to Grant Park Conservacy, TREES Atlanta, Southwest Atlanta Growers Cooperative, Crop Mob Atlanta and Park Pride. Three groups volunteered at nonprofits that focus on homelessness and hunger issues: Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta, Senior Citizen Services of Atlanta and the Atlanta Community Food Bank.  And, one group of 80 students helped to sort and pack books at Books for Africa.

Oglethorpe freshmen assemble beds at the Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta.

Earlier this month, Oglethorpe also was named to Forbes magazine’s list of top colleges in the nation, and for six consecutive years has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement.