Stuyvesant Holds Yuda Band Fundraiser to Help Youth in Guatemala and Zimbabwe

The Stuyvesant Key Club partners with the Yuda bands organization in order to sell Yuda Bands and send a kid to school.

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By Janice Tjan

On a small table near the Stuyvesant entrance, rows of multicolored bands are laid out, each donning brightly colored designs. The tags say that they’re handmade with coconut and leather. Each intricate band costs seven dollars, with every dollar contributing to a single cause. These bands, called Yuda Bands, are part of a fundraiser to support youth in Guatemala and Zimbabwe who cannot easily access education. The organization’s motto states, “Wear a band. Change a life.” According to the Yuda Bands website, the name holds a clever meaning. “Ayuda” is the Spanish word meaning help, aid, or assistance, so the word “Yuda” stands for the help and aid that disadvantaged students receive when these bracelets are purchased.

Stuyvesant’s Key Club partnered with the Yuda Bands project this year in order to sponsor Keith Pedzai, a student in Zimbabwe. Despite the fact that his family does not have the money to get him through school, he still dreams of becoming a scientist. Started by Freya Zhu, treasurer of the Stuyvesant Key Club, this process helps children like Keith stay in school. “I was the person who signed up for the project,” she said. “I e-mailed the coordinator on the dates, the person we want to sponsor, how many bands we wanted. I had some help from the people from the [Key Club] board and my directors to set up forms and e-mails to look for volunteers to sell the bands.” When asked about why she decided to sign up for this program, Zhu said, “It's a safe fundraiser since we don't lose any money, and we can help those that aren't as fortunate as us. I think it's an easy and great project to do.”

Keith Pedzai is like any other average child. He likes to play soccer and has dreams for his future. However, his parents’ divorce caused financial problems in his family, causing Keith and his younger brother to leave school in 2013. They never saw their father again. With the help of Yuda Bands, Keith was able to return to school and have another chance at education.

Yuda Bands are made by former students who have graduated thanks to the Yuda Bands donations they received. The method of making the bands starts by taking the shell of a coconut, smoothing it, and shaping it into small, rounded pieces. Designs or words are etched onto them by hand. Strips of leather are threaded around larger strips of leather, and a piece of coconut shell is finally attached to complete the band.

“Kids in Guatemala probably put a lot of effort into making each of these detailed handcrafts,” freshman Key Club member Rachel Joh said. “[It] gives us a sense of responsibility. It feels like an accomplishment.”

Brent Whiting, a founder and president of the Yuda Bands project, said in an e-mail interview, “I first wanted to help my friend who had started a school. He was losing the school because he was letting too many kids go for free.” Whiting and his wife, Laurie Whiting, founded the organization in 2009, and over 2,000 schools joined the movement to send hundreds of students in developing countries to school. “It's humbling,” Whiting said. “The support is also very encouraging and excit[ing] because it brings us closer to ending extreme poverty!”

Since 2009, representatives of the organization have attended state, national, and international conferences to teach youth about making a difference in the world. As of 2017, they have attended 149 conferences around the United States. “Every year, I visit the students in their country.” Whiting said. “I also enjoy speaking at leadership conferences because I get to see the excitement and meet so many American youth excited to support the cause.”