Campus Newsmakers: Student organizes Haiti relief effort

By Erica Terrini

News Editor

Williams: City Connections welcomes new members and new faces we are relatively a new organization and are extremely open to new ideas, and as far as our Haiti Relief efforts, we will be starting our week-long push Feb 1. at the hall step-off and we will be at a table in the (University Student) Commons Feb. 2 – 5 from 2 – 3 p.m.

Shortly after the earthquake in Haiti earlier this month, Nantasha Williams, political science major and president of the student organization City Connections, added to VCU’s relief efforts.

Williams joined students in the School of Medicine and the VCU Health System by establishing a fundraising event through City Connections.

The Commonwealth Times: How long have you been a part of City Connections?

Nantasha Williams: Since it started! I founded the organization along with Amanda Wilson in spring (2009).

The CT: What first got you interested in City Connections?

Williams: Well I am an out-of-state student from New York, and unfortunately out-of-state students get left out a lot at VCU because it is a Virginia state school so the majority of students are Virginia residents. I really like VCU but I must admit when I came here as a freshman I was totally lost. If it wasn’t for great friends I meet in my Cabaniss Hall dorm room, I would have felt very alone. I wanted to create an organization to improve the life of out-of-state students and create relationships (networking) through community service, social outings, hosting programs and informational forums.

The CT: How do you manage City Connections and classes?

Williams: A planner and the executive board especially the vice president, Amanda Wilson.

The CT: What are some areas City Connections focuses on?

Williams: We mainly focus on helping out-of-state students have a smooth transition in Virginia–be something like a ‘family’ away from real family. We stress community service and also host programs that might help out-of-state students in particular while at VCU.

The CT: What are some projects City Connections has done this year?

Williams: Last semester we had a can food drive and a program about transportation around VCU and surrounding areas of Richmond and the carpooling system that is run by the off-campus student services office.

The CT: Are there any personal experiences from working with City Connections that stand out?

Williams: Meeting some great friends and actually helping or supporting out-of-state students.

The CT: When did City Connections first decide to raise funds for Haiti?

Williams: The day after the earthquake, Tamara, one of our members e-mailed and expressed her interest in helping and since then we have never looked back!

The CT: Why did you feel it was important?

Williams: City Connections felt it was important to raise money because we actually have a few Haitian members, and a lot of us are also from New York City and New York has a large population of Haitian immigrants.

The CT: Why do you think it is important to donate to the Haiti relief effort?

Williams: It is important to donate to the Haiti relief efforts because Haiti is a very poor country and needed lots of help before this tragic event; the earthquake only intensified their need for resources. Americans are very spoiled and it’s really sad that people don’t have simple things that  most people take for granted such as water.

The CT: How did City Connections come up with the loose-change drive?

Williams: The loose change drive came about because, as you know, college students really don’t have any money. Many students take out loans after loans just to pay for tuition, and scramble to pay for expensive textbooks. Also, a lot of people are collecting tangible items but these items have not even been distributed so the best thing to do at this moment is collect money.

The CT: Why did you decide on collecting loose change?

Williams: With the quote, ‘If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.’ —Mother Teresa

A lot of students still want to help in some way so the loose change idea was created to promote the idea that every penny counts. So if a student is able to donate any change that they might have in their pockets then it still makes a huge difference any contribution is better than none, ‘Change for Change.’

The CT: When is City Connections planning to start collecting funds? For how long?

Williams: We plan to start collecting funds Feb 1. at the Hall Step Off! We haven’t decided whether or not it will be an ongoing thing or just a week long push.

The CT: What organization will the funds be sent to?

Williams: The funds will either be sent to the Clinton-Bush foundation or the American Red Cross. We would like to work with the university as well so where ever they are donating is where we would also donate the funds.

The CT: What other events is City Connections working on?

Williams: Our future plans are to continue to donate and help the country of Haiti and eventually collect tangible items i.e. clothes, antibacterial soap, dry food, and water. We also want to gain more members, create relationships and improve out of state student life.

The CT: What message would you tell students about the Haiti crisis and the importance of donating?

Williams: The Haiti crisis is very real and sad! If things don’t directly affect you, you don’t feel directly obligated to help. Although most of us aren’t rich, we have way more resources than the people that have been affected by the earthquake in Haiti. It is necessary to donate because you have to put yourself in their shoes and realize that it could possibly be you and you would want that helping hand if you were in that same situation.

The CT: What are your job aspirations?

Williams: I know I want to work with people and help people in need. I’m very interested in public administration and I would like to one day have my own non-profit organization or be a director for some social program, United Nations maybe.

The CT: How do you feel City Connections has affected you?

Williams: City Connections has had a great effect on me as a student and a person. It has taught me to be more organized and patient, the importance of helping others, giving back and most importantly, team work.

The CT: Do you have any additional comments on City Connections or Haiti relief efforts?

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