While clearing underbrush and bagging debris from obliterated houses, Youssef Soras, a first-year graduate student in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, joined Rosally Sapla, vice president of communications at New Yor
k-based start-up DramaFever, to brainstorm ways for students across the nation to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy.
This post-Hurricane Sandy trip to the Rockaway peninsula, volunteering with a group of young army veterans from the disaster relief organization Team Rubicon, was the inspiration behind DramaFever and Team Rubicon’s fundraising campaign Operation: Winter Break.
DramaFever, an online video platform that streams primetime TV, worked with Team Rubicon to design a campus-wide fundraising campaign for hurricane relief in the days following the storm’s landfall.
Under Operation: Winter Break, students can contribute donations until Jan. 6 by creating an online profile to share with friends and family or by purchasing a yearlong subscription to DramaFever. One hundred percent of the money raised will go directly to hurricane relief.
“We want to get people involved,” Sapla said. “If they want to volunteer with their hands, [they can]. If they want to volunteer by raising funds, then this is what Operation: Winter Break is. Here you have idle weeks of time … We thought, that’s the best audience to talk to … make a huge difference.”
Team Rubicon and DramaFever view tech-savvy and socially active college students as the target audience for raising funds and quickly spreading the word. DramaFever’s audience is roughly three million monthly viewers; a large proportion of the audience is college students. Using outlets like Facebook and Twitter, students play an integral role in reaching a wider audience in the hopes of exceeding the campaign’s $15,000 goal, though the public can pitch in as well.
“Young people should be aware of [giving back] because if they are aware of this … then they will teach it to their kids and their grandkids and it will keep on growing,” Soras said. “If we don’t start here, I don’t know where else is a good place to start.”
Jennifer Shin, Steinhardt junior and former DramaFever intern, plans to fundraise once she completes final exams. She sees the campaign as an opportunity to build a community that extends further than the NYU campus.
“The ultimate goal is to get students together for a greater cause because something like this really hits home especially when it’s so close to us,” Shin said. “Hopefully it will create some sort of sense of community so we can all help, so we can all do something.”
Soras described the current state of the Rockaways as a condition where families struggle to recuperate and where the devastation is a clear indicator that the need for assistance is still strong.
“If there was no street sign, I think you wouldn’t know that you were in America,” he said. “You would think you were in a third-world country.”
Part of the reward for the person who raises the top funds is a guided tour of a Team Rubicon volunteer site. Visit fundraise.teamrubiconusa.org for more information.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Dec.11 print edition. Kristina Bogos is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.