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April 22, 2011

RSOs show talents, raise funds

It's the show that made Susan Boyle famous and now its winning format is being brought to Mandel Hall. UChicago's Got Talent, in the vein of the popular show America's Got Talent, promises to please with seven of the university's top performing RSOs, Rhythmic Bodies in Motion, PhiNix Dance Crew, Raas Team, Balle Bhangra, Men in Drag, Voices in Your Head, and Off-Off Campus. “It’s going to be exactly like America’s Got Talent. The audience votes for their favorite act by texting,” said fourth-year Prakiti Mishra, one of the event organizers. The winning RSO will receive a $100 prize. “We want it to be really big. We invited as many different RSOs as we could,” added fourth-year Nadia Ismail.

However, UChicago’s Got Talent isn’t just about entertainment; the event’s two main organizers, JAPAN Relief & Rebuild and UChicago for Pakistan, are raising money to provide relief for the two disaster-stricken countries. UChicago for Pakistan, a student coalition which formed this year to raise money and awareness after the devastating floods in Pakistan this summer, will donate the proceeds from the show to the Human Development Foundation. They hope to raise $8,160, enough to rebuild a school in Pakistan.

Ismail, a member of UChicago for Pakistan, originally came up with the idea for a large-scale variety show after the success of the Students for Justice in Palestine’s Justice Café in February. The event featured a variety of student poets and musicians. Inspired by its success, Ismail decided to collaborate with Mishra and third-years Gulrana Syed and Maha Ahmed to spearhead a similar event. “When we were offered Mandel Hall for free, we decided to go big,” said Mishra.

JAPAN Relief & Rebuild is also hoping to generate enough money to meet their own target of $10,000. Formed after the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, JAPAN Relief & Rebuild is a subcommittee of the Japanese Student Association. They plan to send their donations to students at Iwate University in Japan who were directly affected by the tsunami that hit the area. “We’re going to try and cover some of their tuition expenses,” explained second-year Kei Kuwahara. Nearly a quarter of the students at Iwate lost homes and families and now cannot afford tuition.

UChicago’s Got Talent is just one of many collaborative events that JAPAN Relief & Rebuild has done to raise money. “We partnered with SASA and held a raffle; we’re collaborating with MODA right now, selling t-shirts,” Kuwahara said.

The process has been slow going. “It’s difficult to keep momentum after the initial push,” Kuwara said. “There comes a point when everybody says ‘I’ve already donated.’ Also, it’s difficult for people to give up their time to volunteer because of the rigorous nature of our school.” But regardless of donor fatigue, JAPAN Relief & Rebuild is hoping to get a significant amount of money from the show.

The coordinators promise the show will be lively. Second-year Joseph Dozier will host, and there will be a number of opportunities to win prizes. The house that brings the most people to the event will win a prize, as will the fraternity and sorority that bring the most people. During intermission, UChicago for Pakistan and JAPAN Relief and Rebuild will give presentations on the disasters in both countries. But the main emphasis is on the entertainment, according to Mishra: “We just really want people to have fun.”

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