The Penny Wars was initially envisioned at the Youth Empowerment Program in Piercy, CA in the summer of 2013. The culmination of 31 eager students, 4 compassionate residential acharyas, and Gurudev’s grace brought out many sparks of creativity in terms of service projects and fundraisers for Chinmaya Mission West. The Penny Wars was one such idea which came about to support CORD USA.
The framework of the initiative was simple: it would be a competitive fundraiser implemented at Balavihar sessions across the continent, where students would compete with students from other classes for raising the most money, mostly in the form of change. CHYKs would facilitate the fundraiser with the help of their boards in order to help the movement gain momentum and provide a contagious excitement about it.
For the program’s first roll-out this year, 5 centers across the US were able to implement it successfully. Several other CM West centers also responded positively about hosting the initiative next year (2015). Nevertheless, between Ann Arbor, Austin, Bentonville, Dallas, and Portland, a total of $8,556 was raised! All the proceeds will go towards the Bhutanese Refugee Outreach Program (BREP), an initiative of CORD.
BREP by CORD USA is an effort to help Bhutanese refugee communities maintain their heritage while integrating into their new surroundings in the US and Canada, after fleeing political turmoil in their homeland of Southern Bhutan. BREP efforts with adults include addressing issues like health, education, awareness, and financial independence. Efforts with children include cultural integration through Balavihar, helping with school work & college entrance exams. Overall, CORD USA hopes to better understand the issues and needs of each community and empower them thereafter.
CHYK involvement was pivotal in the operation of the Penny Wars for BREP. CHYKs from each of the centers organized the logistics, publicity, and finances at their respective center. They served by communicating with the board and the Mission family about the fundraiser, making announcements at Balavihar sessions and raising awareness in other ways. They were responsible for the collection jars of each class, and encouraged healthy competition among the children in order to raise as much as possible towards the good cause.
They also found themselves in the midst of the enthusiasm at their centers. Juhi Amodwala, an Austin CHYK, mentioned that “All the classes got pretty excited especially because the class that raised the most money would get a pizza party. There was an overwhelming response from especially the younger classes that got competitive. The fundraiser was a great way to get the message about the Bhutanese community out to mission members while involving students in a fun activity!”
The fundraiser not only excited the children and involved the CHYKs, but spread awareness to parents and adults. In Ann Arbor, Shubhum Siddhar said that “The kids were enthusiastic, but the adults were also engaged once they learned about these efforts.”
It is thus no surprise that Sridhar Karra, a CHYK of Dallas, felt the strength of the strong ties of the Mission family- “It was great to see them come together to help the Bhutanese community here. Healthy competition and an innovative method of raising funds made for a memorable and effective fundraiser.”
Another fruit of Gurudev’s grace through this fundraiser was the cross-cultural awareness brought about by the initiative. Kapil Varma, 13-year-old student of Portland Balavihar, organized for the local BREP representative to speak on BREP to the other students. Everyone learned more about the Bhutanese refugees, and Balavihar students were especially keen to help.
At CM Bentonville, the initiative added to the fuel of the year. After several CHYKs attended their first CHYK camp and then hosted the CHYK West Regional Planning Conference, the fundraiser provided even more momentum to the high standards of the year. Balavihar students were very pumped for the fundraiser and are excited to compete again next year.
As all five centers expressed, the Penny Wars was a successfully run fundraiser. With gaining momentum in the coming years, and with Gurudev’s grace, more can be done for the BREP through CORD USA.
-Padmavathy Mana, Yuvaveer Batch #1