September 12, 2010

Student Org. Aids African Orphanage

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Last Wednesday and Thursday, thanks to the work of a nonprofit foundation started by two undergrads, 120 orphans in Ndola, Zambia, received new black leather shoes that enabled them to complete a mandatory uniform that is a requirement for children to attend school.Signature Donations, the nonprofit organization that made the purchase of these shoes possible, was founded by Richard Panzer ’13 and Alexander Friedman ’13. Though each came with different expertise –– Panzer with a background in community service and Friedman with one in entrepreneurship — the two found a solid connection in their mutual desire to “fight the causes and effects of poverty and address the ‘signature needs’ around the globe through a nonprofit,” Panzer said in an e-mail.While they were searching for the “signature need,” the two came across an administrator of an orphanage in Zambia –– a family friend of Panzer’s –– who informed the two about the struggle of the orphans at the Haven of Hope Orphanage. Black leather shoes were part of the mandatory uniform required for the children to attend school, but were often too expensive for them to purchase themselves. This discovery struck a chord for both students.“Alex and I related to th[is] need because we live in a country that guarantees its citizens an elementary to high school education.  Hearing that these children struggle to receive even an elementary education was troubling, and we decided that we needed to help these children in their battle,” Panzer said.Much of the $2,100 raised by Panzer and Friedman was done in their home states of New Jersey and California, respectively. Though a number of funds were donated from local rotary clubs that supported the effort, Friedman and Panzer developed innovative ways to raise money within their own communities.Friedman –– a student in the Hotel School –– orchestrated garage sales in his native California, while Panzer, a computer science major, created a number of fundraising teams in New Jersey. The teams were led by local high school students that Panzer actively supervised and taught fundraising skills.“In my view, not only was this first effort a success in the fact that we provided orphans with black leather shoes, but we also provided youth from our local areas with leadership experience of leading teams and fundraising in a more ‘real world’ atmosphere,” Panzer said.Because Signature Donations was founded in the spring of 2010, Friedman said that the two were not able to “coordinate and direct fund raisin events on [Cornell] campus.”The money raised was wired to the administrator of the orphanage, who placed the order for the shoes at a shoe factory in Ndola. The two worked closely with the administrator, even scheduling for the children’s feet to be measured to ensure that the shoes were made to fit properly.“We had the shoes manufactured in Zambia because we wanted to help stimulate the local economy,” Panzer added.In the future, Signature Donations is planning to continue raising money, hopes to begin another project in Zambia that will again focus on helping to provide education for the youth.The two are considering the idea of founding a school in the area to help alleviate the large class sizes common to Zambia, and are also looking to expand their efforts to the University by recruiting students to help brainstorm ideas and help with fundraising.“Now that we are here at Cornell, it is time that we take advantage of the resources this Ivy has to offer,” Panzer said.

Original Author: Cindy Huynh