by Jillian Atelsek
Participants of UMD’s Do Good Challenge gathered in Stamp Wednesday evening for Impact Night, an event focused on refining communication skills to help students share their ideas and goals of potential service projects with a wider audience.
While many universities have service projects or charitable drives, the Do Good Challenge is unique to Maryland. It is a team competition that occurs every spring, where “students compete to have the most social impact that they can – through volunteering, fundraising, starting your own social enterprise [or] starting your own nonprofit organization,” explained Rebecca Hiemstra, a first year student in the Public Policy graduate program and coordinator of the competition.
The challenge culminates with the students submitting a detailed report on what they have done. The top 15 teams then advance to semifinals, where they verbally present their projects. From there, the top six teams go to the finals, and the winners win up to $5,000 for their cause.
Due to the nature of the competition, students need to be well-versed in writing and speaking in order to win. The goal of Impact Night was to ensure that these students were ready to effectively communicate the main ideas of their team project to the judges.
The event attracted students of all backgrounds who were working to solve many different problems. Tiana Howell, a senior architecture major, is a member of the Love Blanket project, which creates blankets from recycled t-shirts to be sent to Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.
“We came tonight to see how we can focus more on the ‘impact’ side of things…and develop from an idea to actual words to promoting [the project] and trying to get more awareness for it,” Howell said.
Hargeet Singh, a sophomore public health major; Alice Li, a sophomore neurobiology and physiology major; Eileen Chang, a senior biology major and Shina Min, a senior biology major, came to the event to represent their team, “Miles for Smiles.” The group creates dental kits to be sent to rural Honduras. They also raise money through a 5K race to buy more sophisticated equipment, such as instrument sterilizers, for Honduran health clinics.
“All the dentists who work there are volunteers,” Li said. “We wanted to bring more current technology that could be used, otherwise they’re working with very limited supplies.”
A group called “No Taboo. Period.” was also present at Impact Night. Mina Al-Saliha, a senior biology major, explained that her team’s goal was to collect feminine hygiene products for the homeless and impoverished women in the D.C. area. Last year, the group was a finalist in the Do Good Challenge.
“It’s definitely something that people don’t talk about,” Al-Saliha said. “Menstruation is really often forgotten about when talking about homeless women.”
Throughout the evening, students participated in workshops on presentation, pitching and measuring their social impact.
“I think it’s awesome,” Howell said of the diversity of teams and projects represented in the room. “It shows that UMD has a focus on doing good for the environment and producing fearless Terps who want to go out and be better people and help others.”
While it is Hiemstra’s first year working with the Challenge, she said that she has enjoyed it because “every student who participates has some kind of social cause that they really care about.”
“It’s not everyone who has that drive in them, who takes the time out of their day or life to be working on social causes,” she said. “That’s the kind of thing you need to cultivate in people, and that, to me, is really inspiring.”