Students camp out to aid African children’s center

Mike Cherney

The snowblowers were too darn loud. And for McCormick sophomore Christopher Lee, that was a problem.

“The snowblowers came and woke us up at five in the morning,” he said. “We weren’t sure if (the driver) was going to run us over, and snow was piling in front of the tent.”

Lee and three other student members of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship braved the bitter cold and incessant snowfall Thursday night to sleep in a tent by The Rock. Their goal was to raise funds for Chicago’s Sunlight African Community Center. The center provides after-school activities for African children 5 to 13 years old whose parents have recently immigrated.

Standing outside their tent with placards, McCormick sophomores Scott Yang and Joseph Young, Weinberg sophomore Eapen Mathew and Lee asked students to donate change for the center.

“If you’re walking by and then you see a tent outside, it attracts a lot of attention,” Yang said. “Me and a group of friends wanted to do something crazy, so this was one idea.”

The campers, who usually volunteer at the center once a week, stood their ground for 17 hours and raised $300. About 25 Northwestern students volunteer at the center, said InterVarsity Christian Fellowship coordinator Karen Liu, Communication ’03.

“If we did not have this program, children would go home after school and play in the streets and not have any positive opportunities to learn,” Liu said.

During the night, the group engaged in snowball fights and watched episodes of “Mr. Bean” on a laptop computer, but students’ primary concern was staying warm.

“We wore so much (clothing), and we had a tent and sleeping bags, but it was still pretty cold,” Yang said. “I really feel for the homeless people out there.”

Though the group did not bring food on the camping excursion, Weinberg sophomore Mina Kim supported the students’ cause by surprising them with a cake in the middle of the night. Others brought them hot chocolate to keep warm.

“They always think of others and everything they do is selfless and humble, and I only hope that I can help them on the sidelines as much as possible,” Kim wrote in an e-mail to The Daily. “Who else could think of camping out in the snow in efforts to raise money for an African children’s center in Chicago?”