The kitchen spread into the whole café on Sunday November 14th as Students Against Genocide, led by thesis student Erica Lindegren, descended on the Four Winds to begin a baking spree. Over the course of six hours the six girls involved made a slue of apple, pumpkin, and pecan pies. These pies were sold through the café. For four dollars students could get a piece of pie along with a complimentary hot tea or coffee. Fifty percent of proceeds went to charity.
MADRE is the charity in question. As the name would imply, MADRE is an organization that focuses on woman’s rights in the international community. Lindegren, who is writing her thesis on the organization, explained how MADRE is a bit different from other charitable bodies: “MADRE specifically targets countries that have been negatively affected by United States policy which I think is really important. They go against the grain in many ways: they don’t accept government funding and they try not to speak for their partner organizations but let them have a voice.”
MADRE’s website emphasizes their focus on their partner organizations: Unlike many international organizations MADRE resolved not to open offices in the countries where we work. Rather than bringing in ‘outside experts’, we support existing women’s organizations, ensuring that skills and resources remain in the community for the long term. By working in partnership with MADRE, our sister organizations are able to build programs based on their own initiatives and perspectives.”
Students buying a slice of pie can be reassured that more proceeds are going to local initiatives rather than the upkeep of some American office. Proceeds from the pie drive at New College are being sent to Madre’s sister organizations in Haiti and Sudan. Both places have been stricken in the past years, by earthquake and genocide respectively. While these areas received significant media coverage and aid while things were at boiling point, Lindegren expressed concern that people would not consider how the aid is being used or might even forget that there is still work to be done: “I think that Sudan has sort of been forgotten about because everyone thinks of Darfur and they don’t think of all of Sudan. So there’s been millions of dollars co-opted by the government in many capacities. A huge problem in Sudan right now is that the Sudanese government have formed their own non-government organizations (NGOs) that are loosely affiliated. They receive international funds through those NGOs that they just siphon off for their own political interests. If there are any local NGOs that are on the ground that speak against the government they shut them down.” The hope is that through MADRE’s focus on building up the local sister organizations funds will more likely be sent to the people who need them.
This is especially vital in Haiti where a recent cholera outbreak has sent the country reeling. There is still not adequate housing as the country has not yet recovered from the violent earthquake that rocked Port au Prince in January of this year. Many of the displaced are still living in camps that, according to MADRE’s website, encourage spread of the disease: “In the camps established since the earthquake, latrines are shared by large numbers of people and are often in poor condition, greatly increasing the risk of waterborne diseases. Poor sanitation and flooding during the rainy season contaminates the water supply and leads to illnesses such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid.”
In a compelling blend of indulgence of charity, the Pies Against Poverty initiative brought joy to both New College students and victims of circumstance. Many students, excited both by the pie and the aid, may be saddened that it was only a one-week one event, but with the success of the first run who knows when another pie drive could take place.