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PEPYND fundraises for school

Rohan Anand | Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A group within the Student International Business Council (SIBC) hopes to raise $1,000 at a fundraising dinner tonight to help a not-for-profit organization build a school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Notre Dame Class of 2002 alumna Daniela Papi helped found Protect the Earth Protect Yourself (PEPY) Ride, an organization that supports education projects in developing areas and encourages adventure travel. Senior Tim Rann met Papi while he was volunteering in Cambodia two summers ago, and he decided to establish a PEPY chapter at Notre Dame within the SIBC.

“Our Notre Dame chapter helps PEPY by providing business consulting, financial statements and ideas on how to improve their operations,” Rann said.

PEPYND held a fundraising dinner in December and raised nearly $850 to fund this new project. Since then, the organization has increased that figure to approximately $19,000. Rann said he hopes to raise roughly $1,000 more during tonight’s dinner to reach their goal.

“We’re grateful for the very generous donors who have come forth helping us raise the money for this project,” Rann said. “Now, we’re relying on the students to help us out and 100 percent of the proceeds from the dinner will go toward the fund.”

Cambodia is a country with a high population of impoverished and uneducated children. Seventy-five percent of them do not complete school beyond fifth grade. But through fundraising and volunteering initiatives, PEPYND has already helped build one school for children in Siem Reap, about 40 minutes outside Phnom Penh.

Rann and nine other members of PEPYND will visit Cambodia during spring break to oversee the start of the project – building a second school – as well as to interact with Cambodian children. When he first marketed the idea back at December’s dinner, Rann said he received 30 signatures from interested students.

“We got the process rolling back in January and we’ve helped build an itinerary leaving on Friday, the ninth of March and returning the following Sunday,” he said. “For the most part, we’ll be splitting time between Phnom Penh and Siem Ram, the location of the first school.”

Each volunteer will be spending approximately $850 in airfare to travel to Cambodia, plus an additional $300 for their personal expenses during their stay. Although this may seem a little steep – especially in lieu of pursuing a vacation back at home or at a popular beach destination – the volunteers are nonetheless excited to go. Freshman Sahil Rajvansh said the trip will be expensive, but is for a good cause.

“I have huge expectations for the trip, and I’m looking forward to working with the kids,” Rajvansh said. “It’s also incredible that Tim’s done everything from scratch, and so I know we’ll be able to work together comfortably.”

Rajvansh, who is from New Delhi, India, said he has seen the poverty and orphans that exist in his native country. Still, he thinks that it will be interesting to compare the situation he’s seen in India to what he will experience in Cambodia.

“I want to see if the conditions vary in attitude and intensity in Cambodia,” he said. “Even though I live in an exotic country, I think that visiting Cambodia will be just as culturally interesting.”

One of the major projects that the volunteers will tackle includes taking 40-50 of the children to see Angkor Wat, a pristine Buddhist temple considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

“It’s a symbol of pride for Cambodia,” senior volunteer Alex Harty said. “It’s sad that these children are so close to it, but cannot afford the journey to visit it. I’m glad that we’re going to help them see something that will teach them more about their culture.”

The dinner will be held in the Sorin Room in LaFortune from 6-8 p.m. tonight. A $5 donation is suggested.