Francesca Basinger

Francesca Basinger has written 2 posts for The Digital Bullpen

Amnesty International targets illiteracy with upcoming book drive

Amnesty International at USF hopes to have a better result at its April book drive after collecting 450 books from professors and students last semester.

Amnesty International is a global organization that fights for the rights of all human beings. They partner with Better World Books to bring literature to less fortunate communities around the world.

“I don’t know if we can ever fully eliminate illiteracy because the world is such a broken place,” said Emily Tonjes, president of Amnesty International at USF. “This book drive is a way to connect a global initiative to a local level by doing something where every person can participate.”

In order to increase the donations this semester, Amnesty is getting the word out by posting flyers at local bookstores such as Gray’s and Bookholders. The club has high hopes of getting USF more involved with the event.

“We hope that book intakes this semester will surpass those of last semester, and that’s going to be a challenge for us,” said Brittany Kurtright, secretary of Amnesty at USF.

Better World Books collects all types of books from more than 1,800 universities through book drives and more than 2,000 libraries and thrift stores.

“I want it to become a tradition for not just our organization but also for the school,” said Valerie Garcia, Amnesty at USF’s Financial Officer. “It’s not just about human rights or advocacy, it’s about education. [It is] something that we all have here at USF, and many take for granted.”

Better World Books sells the books and shares a portion of the profits with the organization that donates, and another portion with non-profit organizations that help with regional, national, and international literacy programs. Any books that are unsuitable for purchase are either donated to one of the non-profit organizations or recycled.

USF’s Project Downtown advocating relationships with homeless

An organization at the University of South Florida is advocating students to understand and to help Hillsborough County’s homeless population.

Project Downtown is a homeless advocacy program dedicated to assisting the needs and building relationships with the homeless.

Executive Board Member Sundus Alsharif said, “We have a saying here at Project Downtown which is ‘We not only feed the stomach, but we also feed the soul.’”

During last Thursday’s meeting, its members told personal stories of their experiences with the homeless and how helping has impacted their lives.

The organization encourages developing friendships with the homeless. The interaction between them and the members is what sets Project Downtown aside from other organizations at USF.

USF graduate and former member Nadir Bakali said, “Project Downtown is one of the few organizations on campus that gives you the opportunity to get involved. It’s not just a fundraiser where you hand someone a check. It gives you a chance to make a difference.”

Freshman Hiba Alqasemi agreed.

“I think the fact that they don’t just feed the poor, but they also get to know them is really cool,” she said.

For the last 6 years, Project Downtown feeds approximately 200 homeless people each week. The group receives sandwich donations from the local restaurant Salem’s Gyros and Subs that are used to feed the homeless community. The organization not only gives the homeless food, but also hands out hygiene bags twice a year and recently had a raffle for a bike giveaway.

Gregory Johnson, a homeless man who spoke at the last meeting, explained how his previous drug addiction led him to end up on the streets and although his loving family offered him a place to stay, he has chosen to deal with the consequences of his actions and change his life on his own.

Johnson is starting an event called “The Awakening” to raise awareness for the homeless population. It will collect clothing, food and other necessities for those who cannot afford to purchase the items themselves.

Johnson hopes to have an entire warehouse full of goods by next February.

Project Downtown meets every Friday at 5 p.m. in the Marshall Center and heads to downtown Tampa bringing food to people living under the bridges and all homeless shelters.

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