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Students lead change with organizations

Zach Cooper/Used With Permission

When senior Philip Santiago was browsing the internet during his sophomore year, he saw the extreme poverty that the children of Cuba faced. He saw that it was difficult for them to access medical and educational resources. 

As a result, in 2021, Santiago decided to start a nonprofit organization, Project Bayamo, in an effort to raise money for the children of Bayamo, Cuba, who don’t have access to many of the resources available in the United States. 

Santiago’s family is originally from Cuba and emigrated to the United States to escape political and economic crises. However, Santiago still has relatives living in Cuba and said he wants to support them by sending medical and educational supplies there.

“There are daycares that take care of children whose parents work during the day, so I thought I could help these children (with these resources),” Santiago said.

Although many volunteer organizations keep their efforts local, Santiago traveled to Cuba during his sophomore year to continue his efforts. 

“I brought 100 pounds of medicine and educational materials to the different locations, where I got to meet a representative of an international, nonprofit organization,” Santiago said. “She helped me transport all of the materials to the children of Bayamo.”

When Santiago created his website for his project, his goal was to also spread his knowledge of how to set up a charity through online tutorials.

“I published an online tutorial for how to make your own charity which gives tips on how to publicize and start your own nonprofit,” Santiago said. “You need to reach out to as many people as possible to make partnerships.”

According to Santiago, his project has provided him with new experiences, and an understanding that he is making a difference for the children of Bayamo.

“It makes me happy knowing that I am making a difference for children who really need it,” Santiago said. 

Juniors Kai Micharandi and Oscar Anderson founded People Plates Planet in April of last year after seeing the rising food waste problem at Paly. One measure they implemented was to put out trash bins for collecting edible food around campus. 

“We aim to create a greener future by conserving the water and energy used in producing otherwise wasted food while also providing nutritious meals for the community’s most vulnerable members,” Anderson said. 

While food waste is a leading cause of the worsening climate change crisis, Anderson said many students are unaware of its climate-related effects. He said large amounts of energy, land and labor are allocated to producing food that is never consumed, which also creates harmful greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming.

“When wasted food ends up in landfills, the rotting process generates methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” Anderson said. “Yearly, 135 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions are created by American food waste.”

 The food-insecurity rate has more than doubled nationally as a result of the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, and 11.5% of the Bay Area is food insecure, Anderson said.

“We set out to recover surplus food from our school and redirect it to help those in our community with food insecurity,” Anderson said. “We began planning a system to work with campus administrators and local community partners.”

Each week, People Plates Planet donates food to the Opportunity Center which provides supportive services for homeless families and single adults. 

“Staff and residents at the center have been wholeheartedly appreciative, and the food has immediately been put to good use,” Anderson said. 

People Plates Planet operates every day during school hours by tracking the amount of food recovered from bins.

“As of last week, we have recovered over 1,000 pounds of food from Paly to feed the residents at the Opportunity Center,” Anderson said. “That is equivalent to over 870 meals donated and preventing over 2,600 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere,”

Anderson said he hopes the nonprofit’s efforts can influence students to be conscious of their food waste beyond just at school. 

“We see this as an opportunity to educate the Paly student body at large about the significance of food waste,” Anderson said. “We want to help students realize they have the power to make a difference by simply donating their unwanted food or bringing any non-perishable food items from home for those in need.”

Senior Zach Cooper founded Friendship Through Futbol, to encourage international competition and cultural exchange among soccer players. He said his organization’s contributions provide opportunities for disadvantaged soccer players and clubs to compete on the world stage. 

Cooper plays for a soccer team that goes on a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina every three years. 

“This guy got kicked out of a soccer academy down there because he couldn’t pay the fees to go to the academy,” Cooper said. “So he took over this highway underpass and created futsal courts and let anybody from the underprivileged neighborhood come play for free.”

When Cooper traveled to Buenos Aires last summer, he set up a clothes drive for the club members of Estrella de Boedo. 

“I was going to start a clothes drive for uniforms and soccer cleats while collecting money from relatives and former coaches to help my teammates be able to travel,” Cooper said. 

Cooper said he still sends donations directly to Buenos Aires, today. The donations have provided additional soccer and computer equipment to the soccer club. 

He also said that he enjoys playing with the other teams because he gets to share his passion for soccer with them. The club needs donations not only for its soccer programs but for after-school programs as well. 

“It’s more than just a soccer club,” Cooper said. “The clubs are social clubs, so these kids will get off of school and then go to this club, where they’ll do their homework.” 

According to Cooper, the idea of starting a non-profit seemed out of his reach in the beginning, but he learned that it’s possible. 

“Having a goal or a mission for my non-profit allowed me to stay motivated in my efforts,” Cooper said. “It is a fulfilling experience and I would recommend that students explore this opportunity.”

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