14 March 2012

USU and Charity - Feelin’ Good

So, it’s Week 2 and if you’ve already started procrastinating in class, hiding behind your Macbook to stare at your Facebook newsfeed, you would have encountered the Kony 2012 Campaign. Apart from a slick 30-minute video on Youtube, a stylish red campaign design and all your friends changing their profile pictures to Kony, you may or may not know that the Campaign is for a charity cause to support children in Africa, raising more than $5 million around the world.

More fun facts: In 2009, an estimated $303.7 billion was donated to charitable causes in the U.S. In 2006, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie donated a whopping $8 Million to charities alone. In the UK, there are about 169,000 charities, with 13.2 million people volunteering in charities. In Australia, around $11 Billion in money, good and services is given to non-profit organizations by individuals and businesses every year, which includes 87% of Australians and 67% of businesses.

Okay, I realize I have bombarded you with enough impressive charity facts already. But why, you ask?

Well, whilst we poor uni students are no Brangelinas with millions to give away, we can still support charities or non-profit organisations in our local community, or even on campus. Charities need community support, but it doesn’t always have to cost. It can come in many forms- money, time, or influence. Time and influence are invaluable assets that allow someone to get involved

In fact, the University of Sydney Union is also a charity, sort of. As a non-profit organisation, any profit that we make from our commercial operations goes right back into the student experience. This means that when you buy a cup of coffee from the Fisher coffee cart, your money will go towards funding a club or society on campus. Currently, there are 19 clubs and societies on Campus that work towards Humanitarian and charitable causes. But The USU is going beyond clubs and societies to support charitable causes. In November 2011, the USU Board passed the motion to endorse an official charity, (changing every two years as decided by board) and put in place the student leadership position of the Charity Officer to work with the charity organisation.

This is a really great initiative on behalf of the USU and one which you, as a member, can be proud of. The USU is dedicated to growth, and to provide you with a bigger and better student experience every year, but giving back to the student community is just as important. The role of the Charity Officer offers the union a direct way to be responsive to humanitarian causes on campus, and allows students with new volunteering opportunities in community and social work.

For 2012-13, the USU has endorsed Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) as its official charity. AIME is an Indigenous corporation, a not-for-profit charity that provides a six-year Mentoring program for Indigenous Australian high school students to give them the skills, opportunities and confidence to finish high school. It has proven to dramatically improve the chances of Indigenous kids finishing school. Apart from the impact AIME has on school students, it also provides an invaluable opportunity to university students to gain hands-on experience working with indigenous high school students as mentors.

The USU’s endorsement of AIME will strengthen an existing positive partnership with the charity. As well, AIME was borne out of the University of Sydney through the Union, founded by past students! To tie it all up nicely, the work of the Charity officer will also go hand-in-hand with the development of the USU Indigenous Week.

How can you get involved? Sign up to a humanitarian or community aid club or society on Campus, or apply for one of the student positions! Currently, applications for the Charity Officer and the Humanitarian Week Directors are open, and close on the 19th of March.

And here’s why you should do it: giving back gives everyone the feel-good factor, and here’s the evidence: William T. Harbaugh, Associate Professor of Economics of at the University of Oregon has studied the neural responses linked with the act of voluntary giving. His 2007 study revealed a common ‘warm glow’ felt by subjects when they were given $100 and asked to decide where the money should go. Increased satisfaction was linked directly with the act of voluntary giving!

Astha Rajvanshi
Board Director

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