Lensa Jotte ’13, a physics major, is native to Ethiopia, one of the countries hit hard by a famine declared during the summer of 2011. She started the student organization Rebuilders of the New World to raise money through campus events, fundraisers and more, to get Hiram College involved in helping the relief process.
Her inspiration comes not just from the desire to help her home country, but a greater desire to do what’s right.
“The moment you understand what is right and wrong, the moment you realize someone is suffering, you no longer have an excuse not to help them,” Jotte said.
Because the situation remains largely unheard of to students, Jotte said an important goal for the new organization is education.
The drought, which led to famine in many regions, is said to be the worst in 60 years. It is affecting more than 10 million people, and thousands have already died – more than half, children. And in places where famine has not struck, inflation has.
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“Everybody (is shocked) when they learn about it,” Jotte said. “… If people know about it, I’m positive that they will do something about it. My goal really is to make people understand what is going on.”
Jotte said she hopes every student organization on campus will chime in throughout the semester by holding some kind of event or fundraiser to help out. The first event was a soccer tournament, which began Jan. 16 and ran throughout the past two weeks. The tournament concludes Jan. 28, with refreshments, games and music.
She said the response from Hiram students and faculty has been overwhelmingly positive so far – “Oh my goodness, I love Hiram people,” she said – but it was also important for Jotte to spread awareness beyond just Hiram College. Rebuilders of the New World has partnered with Youngstown State University, Virginia State University (Va.) and Westminster College (Pa.), with the hopes of having a joint event at one of the campuses this year.
After Hiram, Jotte plans to go on to graduate school to study water engineering, and then return to Ethiopia to better the situation. But she is confident efforts like the one she is working on now can make a difference.
“One student’s donation makes a huge difference,” she said. “It really, really, really matters.”