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Arts & Culture

HOPE brings student groups to stage for fundraiser

Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere raises money for Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere held an event called “Change for Change,” a fundraiser featuring performances by several student groups as well as speeches by leaders of the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project from the Providence community, Oct. 7. The funds raised from ticket sales will go to RIHAP, where they will be used to buy goods for distribution to the homeless in Rhode Island.

Brandon Dale ’17, community fellow for HOPE, said that hosting the event “came out of a necessity, in the sense that all the organizations we work with are nonprofit or completely volunteer, and very resource-limited in terms of finances.”

Event co-organizer Jonah Blumenthal ’18 saw the fundraiser as a means of both securing needed funds and raising awareness about homelessness and RIHAP. “You can do a fundraiser online, but that doesn’t necessarily get your name out into the community,” he said.

“I remember hearing that a bunch of these groups had been trying to put something together, but nobody had the planning capacity to make that happen,” said Blumenthal, who interned with RIHAP over the summer. Sensing an opportunity, he and other HOPE members reached out to various student groups, with eight ultimately performing at the event.

Barbara Freitas, a member of RIHAP, opened the event with a personal anecdote. “My husband John and I were homeless for six years, so all of this is very personal,” she said. She mentioned some of RIHAP’s past successes as well as a current initiative to establish baseline shelter standards. She also lovingly acknowledged her husband, who died this past January, saying that he “adored and admired all you students.”

Various HOPE members and other student group leaders went on stage and continued to discuss the issue of homelessness between acts. While the audience waited for an act to come on, event co-organizer Gabriel Zimmerman ’17.5 gamely took the stage and delivered a brief history of homelessness, recounting the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill in the 1970s and ’80s.

Though Zimmerman’s address and the other spoken interludes between acts were delivered in a relatively off-the-cuff style, they were included to bring the event’s focus back to its central theme, Dale said. “Throughout the event, we’ve been pretty intentional about trying to make sure that people are aware of why we’re having this,” he said.

The performances were varied and crowd-pleasing, featuring groups such as Japanese drumming troupe Taiko, trombone group the Bear Bones and dance troupe Impulse. Pirate-themed a cappella group ARRR!!! ended its set with a song thanking audience members “for supporting this cause” and imploring them to help “the people on the streets.”

The performing groups competed for a $150 cash prize, which was raised through a GoFundMe campaign, Blumenthal said. The winner, decided using a decibel meter to measure the audience’s applause, was Taiko.

Dale touted the event’s ability to procure funds for a profound political issue while engaging audience members in the realities surrounding that issue through entertainment. “Ultimately, what we want is more than just money,” he said. “We want people who are interested and dedicated to this cause and (to) changing society’s norms.”

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