Hands of Latin America - Making An International Impact

Friday, March 4, 2016


Written by Pegleess Barrios

Most Guelph students have heard by now of the highly popular latin club nights, "Latin Fever", hosted by DJ Andito. Latin Fever has been filling up Apartment 58, with students from all backgrounds getting together to shake and dance to the sounds of latin music, from salsa and bachata to reggaeton and Spanish-language Top 40. But few know the inspiring story of the students who power this trending event. 

The story began with a group of friends from South and Central America, studying together at the University of Guelph. After heading to Clubs Day, they realized there was no club or support group available for Hispanic students on campus. "The idea for the club came up around second year, when one of our group members thought we could take advantage of having such a large circle of Hispanic friends," says Laura Alaguna, HOLA's social coordinator, "We are like a family and do a lot of social activities, so we thought that we could take it one step further."

Inspired by groups such as "Free The Children" and "Me to We", the friends decided to not only gather for fun, but to create opportunities to fundraise for the developing communities that many of them were aware of in their home country, or other South American countries they visited regularly. Rana Etcioglu, President of HOLA, elaborated. "[It] started as a way to use our resources and time as students wisely, and have an impact on the less-fortunate societies in Latin America."

The friends quickly got organized, and set up a club through the CSA. Each one took on an administrative responsibility, and soon got to work recruiting new members, planning events, and making fundraising goals. HOLA's mission was simple - to create a supportive community in Guelph that could work together to help the greater Latin American community worldwide.

A unique aspect of HOLA's charitable efforts is that unlike many clubs on campus that fundraise for external organizations, such as United Way or Me to We, HOLA's donations are exclusively managed by the club and 100% goes towards the purchase of school supplies and other essentials for impoverished communities in Latin America. Even members' travel costs are paid out-of-pocket, without drawing from the money that was fundraised - a very different approach than most other fundraising bar nights held in Guelph, which are often to fundraise to cover club members' flights to other countries to do volunteer work, and cover other personal costs.

Additionally, HOLA's control over the funds raised allows them to track the impact of their donations and truly know that every cent collected through Latin Fever and other such events goes to help their target communities.

"First we wanted mostly to raise awareness of a lot of the issues that Latin American countries have to face on a day to day basis (Such as hunger, lack of resources for education) but we also wanted to be able to give back." Said Alaguna, "We started running fundraisers and focusing on targeting communities that don't get much help."

HOLA's efforts have been highly successful, in their first year, they were able to donate hundreds of school supplies to small communities in Colombia, Peru, and Mexico. HOLA aims to reach communities that are missed by larger organizations and receive little government support within the country, to help support the local children in getting a good education.

The success of Latin Fever has also been thanks to a generous local DJ, Andito el Desconocido. Andito hosts several latin-themed bar nights in the GTA. When Andito found out that HOLA was not permitted to run bar events without a liquor license, he generously offered to host the events himself at Apartment 58, and donate all proceeds to HOLA.

HOLA has had unprecented success in the past year. Alaguna disclosed that the club had raised nearly $6000 before the most recent Latin Fever event, and aims to raise $10,000 by the end of the school year.

"Latin fever is a fundraiser that donates all its funds back to HOLA, at the moment it is the greatest fundraising source for HOLA and we use 100% of all proceeds to fund our cause," stated Etcioglu.
"We hope to continue Latin fever in Guelph but strive to implement different ways to raise funds and spread awareness." Now that the club has reached such a high level of fundraising, they hope to use these funds to support a deserving charity, although they are still in the process of choosing which existing charity best fits their cause.

Now, as the founding members are in their final semester and prepare to graduate, the future of HOLA is on all of their minds.

"To continue this, we are now thinking of taking HOLA with us when we graduate and making it an accredited charity. Obviously, we still hope to have the chapter on the Guelph campus." Stated Etcioglu, "From the beginning we have been very passionate about the cause, however now, it has grown so much  and we have accomplished more than we have ever imagined, HOLA has become part of our hearts and lives."

To donate or find more information about HOLA, go to http://webholaguelph.wix.com/holaguelph.


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