By: Alexander Kenny

The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) and student-run humanitarian clubs kicked off a fundraiser earlier this month in support of the thousands of people forced from their homes by raging wildfires in the interior.

The society, along with the SFU Red Cross Club and UNICEF SFU, is aiming to raise $5,000 in support of the wildfire relief fund by the Canadian Red Cross. Between a donation table set up on campus July 17–21 and an online donation portal, as of last week the organizers were still working toward their goal.

The president of the SFU Red Cross, Cheryl Hsia, said the fundraising has “gone well, better than I expected it to, just because it was very short notice.”  

The team has exceeded $1,500 in donations, according to Hsia.

Throughout the summer, the BC interior has been ravaged by dozens of forest fires and, as of last week, tens of thousands of residents were still unable to return home.

Hsia said she has witnessed an increased response amongst SFU students to the fundraising initiative, which she attributes to how close the crisis is to home, the ongoing press coverage of the events, and the number of SFU students who come from the province’s interior.

She mentioned that while they were selling freezies by donation, she was “quite delighted to see how many people were willing to drop in a $20 [bill] without taking anything.”  

The club had hoped to raise $1,000 a day over the five-day span they spent collecting in-person donations, but ended up around $1,400.

Hsia admitted the goal was ambitious, saying that it is “hard to do in person, with students.”

The SFSS vice-president of student services, Jimmy Dhesa, noted that the idea to fundraise was originally raised by society staff and the student board jumped at the idea.

“It was something that everyone agreed to right away and [we] thought [the] Red Cross [Club] was initially the right group to approach and then expand further,” explained Dhesa. “Red Cross was the one group that everyone knew that was already providing relief.”

Hsia stated that it was an initiative that was put together on very short notice.

“It was very quick. With the wildfires happening right now, we did want to raise funds quite quickly,” she said.

Dhesa also noted that the SFSS reached out to the university administration, who were eager to help. “They said that they would distribute the donation link and tell people, their colleagues and staff, to consider donating if they were able to,” he said.  

Hsia commented that the member overlap and close ties between the club and UNICEF SFU meant that it “seemed like a natural thing” to bring both clubs under the SFSS on board with the initiative.

The SFU Red Cross raises funds for a number of humanitarian efforts, assisted by having liaisons within the Canadian Red Cross.

“The work that a lot of these clubs do is tremendous,” said Dhesa. “They end up raising a lot of funds, and it just goes unnoticed.”

“They don’t do it to get appreciation for it, they do it because it’s in the goodness of their heart, they believe it’s the right thing to do, and they’re passionate about it.”

Hsia said that the door is not closed on further fundraising, but the club’s executive team has yet to decide on whether or not to continue live fundraising. They’d like to raise more funds, especially with the wildfires still ongoing. In the meantime, there is still an online donations page.