As the end of the quarter draws near, Cal Poly students who stash away school supplies have the opportunity to help students in Namibia, Africa, carry books in something more secure than plastic bags on the seven-mile journey they make to school everyday.
Raise the Respect, a Cal Poly Student Community Services program, is hosting a donation for new and used backpacks called “Backpacks for the Bush” on campus. The goal is to reach 500 backpacks by the end of the quarter.
“I talked to my sister, a teacher in Namibia, Africa, last week for the first time in four months and she poured her heart out about having these backpacks,” Raise the Respect director and social science sophomore Katie Gluck said.
Raise the Respect is dedicated to helping people in need by promoting social justice. The program holds film screenings and presentations at Cal Poly throughout the quarter.
Gluck said because AIDS and alcoholism are serious problems in Africa, many of the students are unable to receive sufficient support at home.
“Showing them that they’re not alone and that people care is really important,” Gluck said.
Social science senior and co-director Linley Park said that anyone who donates a backpack in the barrel outside the Student Community Services office (University Union 217) is encouraged to fill out a small identification card.
“Students in Namibia will send out ‘thank you’ cards for all the backpacks they’re getting so you can see a little kid who you helped,” she said.
Park said the book drive program held last quarter was a huge success. Now the children just need something to carry them in.
“I feel like it will give these students pride in going to school. When you’re a little kid you can get excited to buy school supplies; these kids don’t even have that opportunity,” Park said.
“I feel like people at Cal Poly are eager to help and volunteer. I just think they need to know their opportunities,” Gluck said.
Another campaign that Raise the Respect established this quarter is called Exposed, which highlights problems in criminal justice system to the community. Gluck and Park were inspired to start a series of the criminal justice educational events after attending an Amnesty International Conference in Boston. At the conference they learned about political prisoners, interrogation, torture and the death penalty.
“The conference opened our eyes about the prison system. When we came back we wanted to disperse this information to people at Cal Poly because we feel that they need to know about it,” Park said.
The first event of the four-part series, “Exposed: Erasing the Myths,” featured professor Chris Bickel outlining the U.S. prison system. The second event, a film screening of “Road to Guantanamo,” will be held at 6 p.m. May 6 in UU 220.
During the week of May 11, Raise the Respect will bring awareness to Troy Davis, a man who has been on death row for over 18 years. Davis’ supporters claim he was convicted of murder with no evidence. Raise the Respect will conduct an on-campus signature campaign and an informational booth will be on display during UU Hour on May 14.
The program’s fourth and final event will encompass projects from the entire quarter. The event will host a prison system panel comprised of professor Bickel, Jane Lehr and a former prisoner, as well as representatives from “Get on the Bus.” Poems from Guantanamo Bay will be read by slam poetry artists and a short Troy Davis film will be shown. Visual representations of the U.S. prison system and a photo display of the death penalty from Amnesty International will also be featured in the event, at 6 p.m. on May 20 in UU 220.
Raise the Respect extends an invitation to campus for new members and support. Contributions from new people will allow the spread of more ideas and organization of bigger events, Park said.
Park added the program promotes events at UU Hour every couple of weeks and holds active meetings with the intention to bring peoples’ attention to certain places and groups of people around the world that they may not have known about before.
“Sometimes you don’t really think about something until you go see a documentary and it really changes you, which makes you more aware of what’s going on. If we’re all one, why is it that we’re at Cal Poly, healthy and getting an education, and someone across the border is suffering?” Park said.
Gluck said that Raise the Respect is a great way for students to easily make a difference.
“Many people don’t have the opportunity to be educated or even to have enough food and clothing. There is a world outside of our campus, and more importantly, there is something we can all do to change the world,” Gluck said.