Emergency Backpack Drive
An interview with Alexis Tamm and Ciara Loughran
By Nicholas Steinhauser
Alexis Tamm and Ciara Loughran are two students from Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey, who organized an emergency backpack drive for Fiesta4Hope. Both rising seniors at the Peddie School, Alexis and Ciara met each other in their freshman year playing basketball together. When Fiesta4Hope posted online looking for help with a backpack drive for Centro PASO in Puerto Rico , Alexis and Ciara reached out to help. In this interview, they discuss their experiences with the Fiesta4Hope emergency backpack drive and what they learned from the process.
Q: What is your history with Fiesta4Hope?
We actually found out from a friend about Fiesta4Hope, and we were interested. When our friend was busy with other things, we decided that we would get involved ourselves. We wanted to start a Fiesta4Hope Chapter at our school, but our director of service encouraged us to instead partake in hands-on activities.
Q: What made you start the emergency backpack drive?
After the advice from our director of service, we reached out to Katie and Ronnie, the chief executives at Fiesta4Hope, to find a way to get involved hands-on . They ultimately decided on starting a backpack drive, and we were in charge of coordinating it. We started flyers for students at Peddie School to bring in backpacks and other materials for the drive. We also scheduled an event to put all of the backpacks together, in which we collected about sixteen backpacks.
Q: What exactly was this backpack drive, and how did you carry it out?
The backpack drive lasted for about a month, from January 25th to February 20th, 2021. Students were encouraged to gather old backpacks that weren’t being used anymore, along with miscellaneous materials that could be used by Fiesta4Hope to help Puerto Rico. The necessities that we collected include rain ponchos, wipes, shampoo, sleeping bags, masks, and other helpful items.
Q: How did this drive affect Fiesta4Hope? Did it help them in a significant way?
After collecting the backpacks and materials from students, Katie picked them up at Alexis’ home. Fiesta4Hope was planning on shipping them to Centro PASO itself, since it was too expensive for us to do it. The backpack drive served as a hands-on experience that definitely benefited Centro PASO, since it was able to receive backpacks that could help Puerto Rican children who could not afford one. This drive was also quite different from Fiesta4Hope’s normal projects, which are usually based on fundraising.
Q: Has Peddie School done any service work prior to working with Fiesta4Hope?
Peddie School has done many service projects in the past, which were mostly coordinated by our director of service. Most of these service opportunities were hands-on, as a way for students to learn the benefits of working directly for service.
Q: Do you anticipate working with Fiesta4Hope in the future?
We do plan to continue to backpack drive annually to help Centro PASO. We would also love to continue working with Fiesta4Hope after high school. We think that a college environment could be cool for the growth of the organization.
Q: What have you learned from the backpack drive? Did you enjoy the experience?
We definitely believe that the backpack drive served as a great opportunity for us to get involved in service. We learned a lot from the experience, and we realized how enjoyable a hands-on approach towards service can be. We had so much fun coordinating this event, and it really felt good to help a community in need and lead a group of students in the endeavor.
It was great to talk to both Alexis and Ciara to learn more about their experience with the backpack drive and Fiesta4Hope. Student-led fundraisers, such as this drive, are extremely important to Fiesta4Hope and pose great opportunities for it to help Centro PASO and other Puerto Rican communities. If anybody is interested in starting a fundraiser to help Fiesta4Hope like these girls did, just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!