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November 13, 2012

Speakeasy fundraiser jazzes up Uncommon Fund project

Students lindy-hopped through the night at Speakeasy for Change, a fundraiser to raise money to combat sex trafficking through education in Cambodia, last Friday in Ida Noyes.

Speakeasy for Change, which included a live jazz band and dinner, was funded by a grant from the Uncommon Fund last spring.

Organized by second-years Olivia Myszkowski and Orly Farber, the ’20s-themed live-jazz lounge is part of their joint effort to raise $15,000 to build a school in Cambodia. They are working through World Assistance for Cambodia, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the youth of that country.

Myszkowski and Farber were inspired to begin this project after reading Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky, a book about the international oppression of women and girls that recommends donating to World Assistance to promote education as a method of preventing oppression. According to Kristof and WuDunn, the most common victims of sex trafficking are illiterate girls.

Despite their tangible goal, Myszkowski and Farber find it difficult to drum up interest.

“[Sex trafficking] is an issue that gets very little publicity. It’s difficult to generate political will to care about people who are suffering a world away, ” said Myszkowski.

They raised $2,000 prior to the event through donations by people in their hometowns and plan to keep fundraising toward their goal by partnering with other RSOs and organizations in Chicago with similar motives. Based on the substantial turnout at Speakeasy, they might consider hosting another event.

“[The event] was a pilot to see if we could reach out to students at UChicago and spread the word about our project and what’s going on in Cambodia,” said Farber.

In addition to raising awareness for the rights of Cambodians, Myszkowski and Farber hope the attendees of Speakeasy see that efforts on campus can have an impact.

“There are resources that are available. Combined with action, you can make a change,” Myszkowski said. “There is something aside from sitting and waiting for these issues to be addressed.”

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