Students row for charity

By Taimi Arvidson

Two Northeastern students will row a marathon tomorrow to raise money for their trip to aid refugees in Zambia, Africa. They will be rowing right next to Wendy’s and D’Angelos.

Junior mechanical engineering major Ben Kneppers and sophomore political science major Trevor Braun will hold Row for Refugees from noon to 3:30 p.m. on the ground floor of the Curry Student Center.

Kneppers and Braun will be working at a Meheba refugee settlement this summer for nine weeks from about mid-June to mid-August. They will be traveling with the nonprofit organization FORGE, which stands for Facilitating Opportunities for Refugee Growth and Empowerment. All proceeds from Row for Refugees will go directly to projects they plan to implement in Zambia this summer. Their motto for the event is “The more you give, the harder we row.” They hope to have students pledge money to the cause, and will be selling Cliff bars donated by Trader Joe’s.

FORGE recruits students from different regions in the United States and sends about eight student ambassadors from each area to the refugee settlements. Kneppers and Braun were selected from about 150 applicants in the eastern region, along with three Boston University students, two Harvard students and two other Northeastern students. The other Northeastern students are senior international affairs major Elizabeth Vivanco and middler communications major Emily Flynn. The organization requires each ambassador to develop service projects that will address the needs of the refugees before they depart from the United States.

“I’m going to be holding workshops in the refugee camp teaching the participants how to build a Quebec-style bread oven,” Braun said. Kneppers’ project is to increase condom awareness. He has made a deal with a local soccer team that if he provides them with equipment they will work as peer educators spreading AIDS and safe sex awareness. He also hopes to implement a project related to mechanical engineering.

“The more money we raise the more money we get for our projects,” Kneppers said.

While FORGE requires ambassadors to fundraise at least $4,500 each, they are also required to raise all the money they need for their projects. FORGE suggests doing letter-writing campaigns, but Kneppers and Braun said they also wanted to do an event to raise a lot of money at once. Kneppers has always rowed and Braun works for Concept Two Rowing so they decided to use their common passion to raise money for their trip.

Kneppers and Braun have received support from the community including US Rowing, Trader Joe’s, Concept Two Rowing, Regatta Sport and the Northeastern crew team. Hudson Boat Works also donated a boat for the boys to sell and outdoor retailer Patagonia donated about $450 worth of goods.

Kneppers is friends with junior biology major Esther Chou, who has been in the refugee settlement for the past year and founded FORGE Advocacy at Northeastern. He said he wanted to work in a refugee settlement ever since he met her. Also, his love of traveling and his wish to make a difference pushed him to take the trip.

“I was always raised that if you have the ability to be doing something that’s going to really help and make a difference then you’re responsible to be taking action,” Kneppers said.

Braun, who has participated in FORGE advocacy since the beginning of the year, said he saw a poster and got hooked.

“As soon as I saw the sign I realized that’s what I wanted to do,” Braun said. “I couldn’t come up with any reasons not to go.”

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