Thomas List | New Brunswick, New Jersey| University of Rutgers
My main in goal in life, albeit very broad, has always been to help people. At the University of Rutgers, I have been studying Criminal Justice and Religion and desire to enter the field of Social Work once I graduate. I realized I needed an internship to further my career but I didn’t want to be an intern that just gets coffee for someone doing actual work. I wanted an opportunity to actually show my skills and make a real impact. This is exactly what Friends of Orphans Uganda (FRO) presented me with and for that, I would like to immediately thank Ricky, AJ, Andrew and everyone else that made it possible.
I wanted to incorporate aspects of my life into the work I did for FRO. Immediately at the start of the semester, I had the idea to have something I could constantly have on my person that would allow me to provide information to people I would meet throughout the school year, possibly a pamphlet of some sort. But I myself received a pamphlet from a here un-named organization that sat in my backpack for a few days, unread, until I eventually threw it away. I didn’t want the same for the work I was doing. I also realized I was more moved and/or convinced by an organization when an actual person was telling me their mission, not just lifeless words on paper. Originally, I had planned for one of my fundraisers to incorporate my love of mixed martial arts. I had planned with my Joshua (instructor) for him to come to Rutgers and teach a basic self-defense seminar for whoever wished to attend. I had flyers made up and the date set, but unfortunately, reserving the space proved more difficult than imagined and our plans fell through.
I began to notice that around my campus an initiative to help Eric LeGrand and injured football player, by selling rubber bracelets with his name and a small slogan on them. It was massively successful raising funds for his medical operations and everyone knew his story. This is what I wanted to achieve, and I realized it fit my earlier criteria for something small that I could generate income from, have a mass quantity of, and use to dispense information, so I set out to replicate their success. I ordered a couple hundred bracelets that said “Uganda – A Friend of Orphans.” I sold these to people for two dollars each and at the same time would tell them about the crisis and FRO using my own knowledge. It was a rousing success, with my classmates, fraternity brothers and sisters, professors and random passerby’s buying them. One major success was when I attended a social work seminar and sold the bracelets there.
At Rutgers, I am a member of a co-ed fraternity called Gamma Sigma and together we all have a strong desire to help others, at home and internationally. One of my fraternity sisters was the editor of the Rutgers Review and she said I could write an article they would publish. So I took that offer and wrote a commentary detailing the Lord’s Resistance Army, the international reaction to the crisis, and what FRO aims to accomplish. It was published in February and is still featured on the website here: http://rutgersreview.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/friends-of-orphans-organization/
Undeterred by the collapse of my previous fundraiser I decided to plan another fundraiser of a type that had proven successful within the Greek Fraternity community at Rutgers – a bake sale. I baked, with the help of my parents and friends, a number of treats and some items were even donated from my fraternal brothers and sisters and we also had lemonade and tea. It was massively successful and we generated a lot of income for FRO with very little cost. We also made a poster for people to read while they ate that explained the mission of FRO and what they were doing to rehabilitate former child soldiers.
Overall I would say that my time as a Campus Intern for FRO was very helpful not only to the organization but myself. I learned a lot about myself and grew stronger through the trials that appeared. I also think that the liberty that FRO offered me in my internship was very good. It allowed me to fail, learn from that and rebound stronger. The fundraisers that did work generated a lot of income and the costs were very low for both. Teaching people about the crisis was also very rewarding and most people seemed generally moved and had a desire to help. The most rewarding experience was at the social work seminar. A man from the Congo was in attendance and we chatted briefly about his experiences and what I was trying to do. He thanked me for what I was doing, one of the most genuine thanks, I have ever received and it really let me know that I was making a difference, that I what I was doing mattered in some small way. And for that, I can only thank FRO and the opportunity and trust they gave me. Thank you FRO, Ricky, AJ, Andrew, all my brothers and sisters (especially Valerie, Amanda, Jill, Arrianna, and Kristine), my parents, and everyone else who helped me, from the bottom of my heart and I can’t wait to continue working in this area.