Architectural Students Raise Money for Burmese Refugees

They say charity begins at home, but the students of the architectural technologies program at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) know that doesn’t mean you can’t spread your good works around the world. Last fall they sponsored a three month 50/50 raffle to raise funds for Burmese refugees in Thailand.

Their organization, Global Students Helping Students (GSHS), is an offshoot of Global Neighbors Canada Inc. (GNCI). The charities fund social and building projects for the refugees like schools, housing, warehouses and, most recently, a safe house for girls at risk of sexual exploitation.

GNCI was founded in 2004 to “stand alongside suffering communities in solidarity, sharing our talents, resources, and time with them, and analyzing and addressing structural causes and systems that continue to impoverish them.” The group’s basic belief is that we are all responsible for each other and that those responsibilities “cross national, cultural, and religious boundaries.”

Thailand has taken in Burmese refugees for almost 30 years. They were forced to flee an oppressive regime which subjected them to abuses such as forced labor, arbitrary executions, destruction of food crops, excessive taxation, physical and sexual abuse, and restrictions on political and economic freedom. According to Refugees International 140,000 Burmese of various ethnic groups occupy nine refugee camps in Thailand.

Raffle Winner G. Osborne

One of the social projects GNCI is involved in is the Htee Moo Draw, No. 8 Mission High School, located in a refugee camp of approximately 80,000 people. GNCI provides it with all the supplies necessary to educate the students, and also sponsors the teachers by paying their monthly wages.

Eithan Pillipow, organizer of the raffle, says his group holds fundraisers year round in an effort to give $15,000 to GNCI for its various missions. The group is responsible for the funding of site preparation on the safe house, as well as the building of the kitchen, dining room and laundry drying area of the home.

Because they’re all students, they have to fit their fundraising in between classwork and many of them used lunch breaks to sell raffle tickets to other students as well as family and friends. They promoted the campaign through Facebook and posters on campus, but Pillipow feels social media worked best.Their raffle brought in $1,600 for the charity and winner G. Osborne was awarded $1,750. Pillipow admits that planning the province-wide event was stressful, and says team work and time are key to a successful fundraiser.

“It takes a while to have proper licensing [for a raffle] and to get people excited about your cause. Give yourself a lot of time to sell tickets. Having participation is key and knowing that what you’re doing is helping and changing people’s lives definitely makes it easier to donate your time.”