The Greek community aims to bring assistance to the Baobab home in Tanzania
By Stephen Chan,
The greek community at NJIT is responsible for several distinct charities and philanthropies. From Movember, sponsored by fraternity Kappa Xi Kappa to support men’s health to sorority Delta Phi Epsilon and their efforts to help combat Cystic Fibrosis, each organization spends a lot of time working on their respective community service events.
However, until now, there had been no united effort by the community to focus on one charity.
Enter the Baobab home, a unique family-style children’s home located just outside of the town of Bagomoyo in Tanzania. The home is responsible for taking in children from broken families and providing them with a fresh start at life, including schooling, housing, and nurturing them. Quite a distance from the NJIT campus, is now surprisingly receiving a large amount of support from NJIT, and it is largely in part due to the office of the Interfraternity and Sorority Council.
Second-year Architecture major and Alpha Sigma Tau sister, Ashley Griffith, became IFSC Director of Philanthropy and Community service at the beginning of the academic year. Griffith had been involved with the home since its creation in 2004 and was responsible for bringing the Baobab home to the attention of the organization.
“My uncle was best friends with Terri Place and her husband Caito Mwandu when they started it back in 2004,” said Griffith. “They wanted to keep it small and family-style, so they reached out to all their friends. They started softball tournaments and events throughout the year to raise $300 to help them improve the orphanage. I joined in the eighth grade, when my sister started a philanthropy club in high school for the Baobab home. We tried to spread awareness in my high school, but it was hard. Kids in high school just aren’t as interested in charities.”
Griffith was pleasantly surprised when she found that college students were more interested in lending a helping hand to those in need. She especially found that true of many in greek life as she became a sister of Alpha Sigma Tau. “I realized how involved greek life is with community service and philanthropies,” Griffith said.
Griffith felt that the Baobab home and NJIT was a perfect match for a philanthropic drive. “When I was picking the greek unity philanthropy, I realized Newark was already the focus of several charities from our school and I felt that our efforts could extend globally, so I wanted to do something for a community outside of Newark. So I remembered the Baobab home,” Griffith said.
For their first major fundraising event for the home, the IFSC recently invited Mike Place, co-founder Terri Place’s brother, to speak about the home in the Campus Center Atrium. “He’s been involved since 2004, the very beginning,” said Griffith. At the dinner, Place talked about the home and the services they offer to the Tanzanian population. “I’ve never been to the home, but he’s been every summer. He knows what it’s like. To go you need twelve shots and $2000 to fly there.”
Place compared NJIT to the Baobab home in his discussion. “NJIT is underrated,” said Place. “NJIT gives you some bang for your buck, like the Baobab home. This is a small philanthropy event and the money you put in goes straight to the people that need it. It’s worth it.”
The dinner proved successful on two fronts. First, the charity made over $1200 for the home from the entry fees to the dinner, the raffles, and from over roughly $100 in donations to the cause. Then, the dinner spread awareness about the greeks’ first united philanthropy, which is one of Griffith’s biggest concerns.
“We will have more events next semester. We want the greek community to be involved, not just by donating money. We want them present at events,” said Ashley. “We want them to know what they are there for. For this dinner, we had a raffle for the Baobab home. Guests read the information on the boards we put out with information on the home and later we asked them questions about the Baobab home. If they got it right they won a free raffle ticket. We wanted to spread awareness about the home, not just collect money for it.”
The events are open to everyone who wants to come, not limited to just greek life. Non-greek students could attend the Baobab dinner and listen to Mike Place’s presentation. “It isn’t just greek life that can contribute,” said Griffith. “We want to have events in the upper and lower green so that all the student body and such can come in, see what greek life is up to, and support us.” With the establishment of more public community service events next semester, many greek organizations can be visible on the green throughout the year.
When asked about if the Baobab home would be the united greek charity drive indefinitely, Griffith was unsure. “I hope it will be the permanent philanthropy, but it can change with the election of a new IFSC Director of Philanthropy,” said Griffith.
“The home is a family oriented home—they are just like us, a community, a family, and they need people like us to help them throughout their daily lives. Us, coming together to raise the money helps them,” said Griffith.