AU Club Feature: Nourish AU aims to make impactful change on campus, in DC and globally
Community-driven sustainability organization continues fundraising projects, volunteering and group bonding even in virtual setting
Many online college students living at home, particularly freshmen who have never lived on campus, are seeking the pre-pandemic type of social connection that traditionally happens in college by getting involved with student organizations.
Nourish AU is one group whose members emphasize the importance of welcoming freshmen and others in need of a supportive community, while simultaneously putting effort toward important causes, according to President Sarah Miller.
AU’s chapter of Nourish, originally founded in 2015, is a sustainable development group committed to combating food insecurity and poverty through various types of projects such as fundraising and volunteering. While most of the group’s events have shifted online because of the pandemic, they are still working to make a difference through creative virtual activities, according to Nourish’s members.
“We've created a community in D.C. while partnering with Engage Globally, which is our partner non-profit that does international fundraising for sustainable development in other countries,” Miller said. “Being able to see the difference that we’re making both through fundraising and direct volunteering has made my journey with Nourish really fun.”
Engage Globally collaborates “with local leaders to support education, economic growth, women's empowerment and environmental conservation,” according to its website.
In addition to partnering with Engage Globally, Nourish AU is supported by its parent organization, Nourish International, which has chapters on several college and high school campuses nationwide. In collaboration with these two groups, Nourish has been able to participate in various in-person fundraising and volunteering events in the past before the pandemic.
“Last year, when we were on campus, we did two cleanup events at Rock Creek Park,” Miller said. “We were able to do some tabling on the quad to raise money towards education in Ghana.”
This school year, things look a bit different for Nourish. A closed campus means no campus events, and with members living at home, it is difficult to gather for any volunteering projects.
Still, the group has persistently adapted to an online format and put efforts toward helping those especially vulnerable during the pandemic, such as its fundraiser for Northern Ghanaian communities on Feb. 24, which raised money for quarantine resources like healthy food and soap distribution, community public health training, handwashing stations, school gardens, and rainwater catchment systems.
“We did an Instagram and social media bingo board, where we fundraised to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and donate to the families of rural northern Ghana,” said Ginger Matchett, the group’s marketing and communications director. “With that one-day fundraiser we raised $510, so that’s a huge thing that we are very proud of.”
On top of using social media platforms for fundraising, Nourish frequently posts infographics on Instagram for its “Friday awareness campaign,” which informs viewers of different efforts to combat food insecurity in countries like Kenya, Colombia and Nigeria. Raya Domian, international projects director, said that the posts help draw in new members who are interested in the topics being discussed.
“One of our goals is letting people know who we are and what we’re doing,” Domian said. “A lot of people are interested in sustainability but don’t really have an outlet where they can get involved and feel like they’re helping the planet. Ginger’s done a great job of creating infographics and getting the word out for that.”
Not only is Nourish dedicated to the work they do, but they also have a strong focus on community and maintaining close relationships with each other, according to Matchett.
“One thing we talked about as an e-board that we want to do this semester is more group bonding activities,” Matchett said. “When the weather gets nicer, we’re hoping to take a walk through Rock Creek Park, with masks and taking COVID precautions, so I’m looking forward to that and other bonding activities with members of Nourish.”
Another way Nourish supports members is by providing professional development and career opportunities, which is something that Miller said she hopes to expand throughout this semester and in the future.
“We do have a leadership summit happening soon with Nourish International,” Miller said. “We’re hoping to get [guest speakers] to talk with our club about opportunities to further a degree in sustainability. Moving forward, we’re going to provide more access to the information we have, specifically targeting freshmen and those who are unable to make it to campus.”
As AU’s campus reopens this spring for the Mid-Semester Residential Experience and looking forward, Nourish members hope to expand opportunities for safe, outdoor, in-person events, such as tabling and volunteering.
“Join Nourish AU because of the actual difference that we’re making in the AU, D.C. and global community,” Matchett said. “Even in the virtual setting, we’re still looking to meet and do activities and events and give that opportunity to students who are off and on campus. We’re making actual change, and it's always awesome to be able to make an impact on other people.”