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An Empowering Raffle by Afiyong Onyile

An Empowering Raffle by Afiyong Onyile


In 2012, my older sister raised funds through a raffle for Student Outreach for Shelters (SOS) with the Khaled Hosseini foundation, along with a number of her peers. Hosseini is an Afghani author born in Kabul, before moving to California in 1980 when his family was granted political asylum. His works include his most famous, The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and his most recent, And the Mountains Echoed, which are all set in Afghanistan. His continual effort to raise awareness about Afghanistan and its culture, along with its withstanding refugee crisis, has led to the creation of the SOS program. The program aims to motivate students to help build shelters in Afghanistan so that refugees can have a place to return to. After studying his novels in class, my sister and her peers were motivated to get involved, leading to the creation to their own SOS club which would endure until their graduation.

The raffle would be their last major and successful event before their graduation. When the club first started, they began by asking students to donate at least a dollar, which would be represented in the form of a brick that would be stacked in a display case. Each person who donated got their own brick with their name on it, placed where passing students could see the continual growth of a wall of bricks. But after some time, the wall stopped growing. For a long time, the SOS club seemed stagnant, the wall was not growing and I had not heard of any future plans. But sometime after the club began to move again, they planned for a raffle paired with a bingo. Through this campaign, they realized just how many people were willing to help. In order for the raffle to be successful, it was imperative that there be something to be raffled off. The club was able to obtain baskets from the likes of Mary Kay and Dave & Busters, along with a number of other baskets, simply by asking businesses and sharing their cause. It was empowering to see the baskets and prizes pile up and the fundraiser take shape.

It was somewhere near the debut of the event that I also got involved. They needed volunteers to help run the bingo and raffle as the event grew immensely from when they started as more people became interested. On the day of the event, it was only then that I realized just how successful the event really was. There were people who came that were friends and parent of students who go to the school, and people who had no affiliation with the school whatsoever. People bought not only one, but several raffle tickets. And since each ticket allowed them to win specific baskets, some people bought more tickets for baskets they really wanted. The fact that this was also paired with a bingo that also gave away prizes to winners increased their motivation and willingness. It was a night of excitement, competitiveness, and just general cheerfulness.

From this event, the SOS club was able to single handedly raise enough money to build a house in Afghanistan. Of their two year run, this event had undoubtedly been the most successful. It was heartwarming to see education in the classroom turn in to empowerment and results. During this time, I had not really been knowledgeable or informed about the Middle East and the history of Afghanistan. I had only known the summarized information and what was talked about in the classroom. Three years later, the word refugees and the Middle East mean a whole lot more to me. The importance of my sister and her peers’ efforts mean so much more to me today, especially in the presence of today’s crisis’s and increasingly bigoted rhetoric. I hope for the continued success of not only the SOS program, but of other campaigns who work to not only raise cultural awareness, but find homes for the many displaced people in our growing world.

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Contributed by Afiong Onyile

December 29, 2015