College of Life Sciences

Sharing our success: MedRACE, MMF and Sanctuary Seekers' Unit Fundraiser

At MedRACE, our mission is clear: to cultivate a diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment within our medical community. During one of our monthly meetings, the idea of fundraising emerged as a powerful means to advance this mission. With the ongoing crisis in Gaza drawing global attention, we felt an urgent call to action. While student-led initiatives addressing this crisis were gaining traction elsewhere, we recognised a gap within our medical school community. This realisation fuelled our resolve to collaborate and raise funds for a cause aligned with our values.

In our quest for meaningful impact, we partnered with the Muslim Medic Leicester Society (also known as the Muslim Medics Forum (MMF)), a student-run organisation dedicated to providing its members with academic resources and development opportunities. Additionally, we joined forces with Aleks Palanac, Head of the Sanctuary Seekers' Unit at the University of Leicester, whose mission is to foster a university environment that embraces individuals with refugee backgrounds by understanding their needs and providing opportunities through various initiatives. After thoughtful deliberation, we selected Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), an international charity renowned for its efforts in delivering sustainable, locally-led medical assistance in Gaza.

Our focus turned to organising a bake sale not only to raise funds but also to initiate profound conversations about the crisis. This collaboration reflects our collective commitment to driving positive change and standing in solidarity with those in need.

Planning our activity

Planning began a month in advance, with securing a prime location within the George Davies Centre (GDC) atrium being a top priority. This central spot ensured maximum visibility and foot traffic, increasing our chances of success. We didn't stop there; leveraging social media, we spread the word about our bake sale far and wide. Thanks to the support of Leicester University Student's Union Medical Association (LUSUMA) societies and local businesses, our reach extended even further.

We designed a poster with a QR code linking to our Just Giving Page. This reached our Instagram followers and was amplified by shares from the LUSUMA societies. We opted to print numerous posters and placed them throughout the GDC, focusing on high-traffic areas. Additionally, we made sure to distribute posters and additional information to all year groups and staff members through the Phase 1 and Phase 2 teams.

As the big day approached, we gathered to fine-tune our strategy. Despite some nerves about the scale of the endeavour, our team was ready to tackle any challenges that arose. From ensuring we had enough food to deciding on payment options, every detail was carefully considered.

MedRACE students at a bake saleWhen the day finally arrived, the energy in the atrium was electric! We were incredibly fortunate to have the support of over 25 dedicated volunteers who poured their hearts into baking an array of delicious treats, including kiwi cake, brownies, baklava, cookies, carrot cakes, and flapjacks. In addition, we were overwhelmed by the kindness of Chaiiwala, who generously donated over 200 cups of chai, and Tegtat Bakery, who contributed several trays of mouth-watering baklava. Their contributions made a significant difference and added an extra touch of sweetness to our fundraiser.

From the moment we opened our doors, students flocked to our tables, eager to show their support. Within hours, most of our sweet treats, samosas and onion bhajis had flown off the shelves, leaving us amazed by the overwhelming response. But our work wasn't done yet. As demand continued to soar, we quickly restocked and expanded our sales to the Students Union, where hungry students welcomed our offerings with open arms. By the end of the day, all remaining food had been sold, leaving us humbled by the community's generosity and support.

An outpouring of support

We're absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our volunteers, local businesses, wider MedRACE team, Students Union, and everyone who attended our bake sale. Your dedication and generosity made a world of difference, helping us raise over £2000 on the day. Together, we've not only raised vital funds but also sparked important conversations and strengthened our community bonds.

This was a collaboration with Muslim Medic Leicester Society who have reflected on their hugely successful fundraiser.

'The struggles of individuals facing great loss in Gaza fuelled the motivation behind our next event, the annual MMF Charity Dinner. The Muslim Medic Leicester Society collaborated with MedRace in providing financial aid for MAP through their great efforts in hosting a night of memories, contemplation, and dining at Leicester’s Taiba Lounge.

Here, over 190 guests were able to meet with loved ones and ponder together on words from Professor Nick Maynard, an upper GI Surgeon from Oxford who had been working extensively with MAP to assist the wounded and sick in Gaza in light of recent affairs. Attendees were moved by his personal insights into the atrocities individuals are facing. Further deepening the reflections was a speech from Palestinian PhD Student in Health Management, Dr Hussein Lubbad, who bravely elaborated on his personal experiences and difficulties in and associated with Gaza, leaving guests with heavy hearts and an eagerness to help where they could.

Photograph of items donated for an auctionThis aligned with the incredibly passionate auction, with items from donors and committee members (as well as some hair shaving!), allowing for a very charitable evening! Alongside ticket sales, we were able to raise an incredible £11450! Such great fundraising would not have been possible without the generosity and compassion of guests and volunteers on the night, and we are deeply grateful to all those who attended'.

Aleks Palanac, Head of Sanctuary Seekers' Unit, also raised funds for Medical Aid for Palestinians by doing a 48-hour water-only fast at the end of March.

She chose to do a water fast rather than another sort of activity to be in solidarity with the children of Gaza, and to raise awareness about their unprecedented levels of suffering and forced starvation as part of the ongoing genocide. On her JustGiving page, she highlighted the following statement by the CEO of MAP, Melanie Ward:

"This is the fastest decline in a population's nutrition status ever recorded. That means children are being starved at the fastest rate the world has ever seen"

Alecks reflected that the water-only fast went pretty smoothly, and it turned out going without food for 48 hours was far easier than going without coffee during that same period! Her fundraiser has so far raised around £2,000 (plus another £425 in Gift Aid donations), which far surpassed her initial target of £1000. She extends her heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported her fundraiser by donating, sharing or sending a message of support.

The bake sale part two

A few months after our first event, MedRACE conducted a second successful bake sale in the GDC. This was supported by many volunteers and by local business Chaiiwala, who generously donated hundreds of cups of delicious chai. The event was met with positivity, raising over £1,111.54 on the day! 

Consolidating our efforts

After consolidating our collaborative fundraisers, we proudly reached a total of £21,337 (including Gift Aid). This achievement stands as the University of Leicester's most successful fundraiser resulting from student-staff collaboration to date. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to all our collaborators for their dedicated efforts and the overwhelming support we received. We hope that these events have not only raised vital funds but also contributed to raising greater awareness of the devastating crisis ongoing in Gaza.

Read more about MedRACE, Muslim Medics Forum and the Sanctuary Seekers’ Unit at the University of Leicester.

June 2024

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