Bins of donated items for the Hope program, organized primarily by Pomona College’s Asian American Resource Center (AARC), Draper Center, and Residence Hall Staff, have not been donated after several months.
Hope began last semester on October 21—Founder’s Day—to provide aid to survivors of natural disasters in the Philippines, Samoa, and Vietnam. Since then, it held at a benefit concert on Nov. 13, and made a continuous effort to collect money and goods by placing boxes around Pomona’s campus, particularly in residence halls.
“Shipping stopped after the first couple of weeks…because shipping costs made it counterproductive for us to ship goods,” AARC Director Sefa Aina said. “It was hard to start organizing right away…but with relief, things need to get done right away.”
Aina chose the Help Samoa Disaster Relief Coalition as the recipient of Hope’s collected goods, but the organization ended its online and postal donations on Nov. 13 due to a lack of space in their shipping bins.
“Clothes, cans didn’t go also because there were no takers,” Aina said. “Even the Red Cross isn’t taking stuff. Even when the Haiti stuff hit, nobody was taking material goods, only cash donations. It is unfortunate we couldn’t have been quicker.”
Aina said shipping the goods without assistance from a relief organization would be prohibitively costly, and overall a very ineffective way to contribute to the cause.
Monetary collections from Hope were more successful. Half of the monetary collections went to a grassroots organization in Vietnam run by a Buddhist temple, through a connection with Scripps graduate Tam Duong SC ‘09. Duong worked for the AARC as a student, and is currently completing a Fulbright scholarship in Vietnam. The other half of the money went to the Philippines through the international program Anakbayan, which focuses on empowering women and supporting farmers.
Although all Challah for Hunger proceeds from the benefit concert were advertised as going to relief efforts, “there was a problem accessing Challah for Hunger money,” Aina said. “The school had some bureaucracies that made it hard, and I know that participating students had busy schedules.”
Despite this setback, about $600 were donated.
The drawback to monetary donations is that the receiving organizations control how the money is spent. For this reason, Aina made sure donations went to trustworthy organizations with which he had a direct connection.
“To see tangible outcomes was important,” Aina said. “That aid actually did go to people. We were adamant about finding grassroots partners.”
Aina does not recall the AARC participating in any other resource collection programs since he became director, and suggested that inexperience resulted in a lack of coordination.
“Pomona students do want to give and support, but what [means of doing so] makes sense for them?” he said.
He added that some organizations were accepting donations of goods like timber, nails and hammers, but that college students are not situated to provide this sort of aid.
The Draper Center and RHS also participated in the collections.
“When asked to, I personally took the donations from the bin from Walton Commons to the Draper Center, and know of other RHS members that did the same with other bins elsewhere on campus,” said Andrew Halladay PO ‘10, an RA for Lawry residence hall.
Some confusion about donations might have been caused by the Draper Center’s bins, which were in the residence halls at the same time as the Hope program’s. The Draper Center collects clothing from laundry rooms for delivery to local shelters and agencies.
“Housekeeping had signs that said clothing left would be discarded,” said Frank Bedoya, senior associate dean and director of new student programs.
However, students could easily confuse the two drives due to the ambiguity of their boxes, which might have resulted in misplaced donations of non-clothing goods. This is especially possible if organizers intended the Hope drive to end, but students kept donating non-clothing goods because they saw the unmarked boxes in the residence halls.
But all was not for naught, Aina said. He found the program highly collaborative—the benefit concert received additional fundraising and organizational assistance from a number of student organizations, including the Students of Color Alliance (SOCA) and the Committee for Campus Life and Activities (CCLA). In addition, while monetary donations were limited to $600, they still had a significant impact on recipients, who receive care from grassroots organizations but who may be overlooked by larger ones.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” Aina said. “Cans are hard to collect—be mindful of how to do it.”