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Planting seeds for student changemakers

McGill24 provides big boost for Seeds of Change student crowdfunding initiatives, raising more than $326,000

World Restart a Heart Team

On March 10, 2021, McGillians around the world were watching the clock. It was McGill24, the University’s sixth annual day of giving. With only 24 hours to benefit from challenges and matches that amplified the power of gifts, every minute counted. The end result: a record $3,810,861 in gifts from 6,885 donors in support of students, student-athletes and researchers across the University.

A significant portion of this unprecedented support was directed toward student-led initiatives through McGill’s crowdfunding platform, Seeds of Change. With 55 active projects during McGill24, more than 217 student and alumni volunteers promoted the causes that matter most to them, raising $326,515 on the strength of 2,447 gifts. Every contribution to a Seeds of Change initiative had an even greater impact, thanks to matching funds provided by other generous McGill24 donors from around the world.

“There is nothing more inspiring than seeing a community rally behind something you believe is critically important,” says Jeremy Levett, a second-year medical student and Chair of McGill’s World Restart a Heart (WRAH) Campaign, one of the projects that participated in McGill24.

The reach of the projects raising funds through Seeds of Change extends well beyond the organizers themselves. Whether through community outreach, bursaries, career workshops or research experience, students across all faculties and schools, as well as communities near and far, benefit from the ingenuity and dedication of their peers.

Take the Centre culturel islamique de Québec (CCIQ) Memorial Award project, which raised nearly $40,000 during McGill24. After the horrific massacre of worshippers at the CCIQ in 2017, McGill staff member Ehab Lotayef and former staff member turned MP Sameer Zuberi searched for a way to commemorate the lives lost in the attack, while also encouraging greater tolerance and understanding. They began fundraising in 2018 for the CCIQ Memorial Award, now given annually to one or two students in any McGill degree program who are committed to building bridges between Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

The McGill Muslim Alumni Society (MMAS), which has extensive connections throughout the alumni and campus communities, took on the role of spreading awareness about the Award ahead of McGill24.

“Our mandate is to support McGill students and alumni in various ways, including financially,” says Nazem El Husseini, BSc’11, PhD’18, co-director of the MMAS. “Once we learned about the Award, we decided to utilize our connections and resources to support this worthy initiative.”

Through email and social media campaigns as well as collaborations with campus partners such as the McGill Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and the Muslim Students’ Association of McGill, the MMAS garnered enough support on McGill24 to surpass the threshold needed to endow the CCIQ Memorial Award, ensuring it will be distributed for generations of McGill students to come.

“The MMAS feels students should be recognized for their efforts to promote peace and understanding,” says El Husseini, “and we wanted to demonstrate that the McGill Muslim community is committed to contributing positively to the betterment of society.”

Restart a heart

For the second year in a row, McGill’s chapter of the international World Restart a Heart (WRAH) Campaign fundraised through Seeds of Change during McGill24, raising $2,675 on March 10 and reaching $4,000 by mid-April. WRAH educates the local and global communities on cardiac arrest and the importance of bystander intervention. The majority of cardiac arrest deaths occur at home or in public places, but few people know how to perform CPR, which can triple a victim’s odds of survival.

Donor support has made it possible for WRAH to inspire people with the willingness to act and lead CPR training, both in person (before the pandemic) and virtually. Most recently, the group has collaborated with campus partners to bring a free eModule on hands-only CPR, available in French and English, to the McGill and global communities.

“The eModule was led by a delegated division of our student team, with outstanding support from campus partners,” says Levett. “I am so proud of the work we’ve done and can’t wait to see the impact of this endeavour.”

Women in Tech

New this year to McGill24 was the Women in Tech project, founded and led by female students from Engineering, Management, and Medicine and Health Sciences, working with the Faculty of Science. Created in 2017 by Bahar Demirli, BEng’19, Stéphanie Abdel Malek and Rebecca Weill, Women in Tech focuses on encouraging and empowering female students as they network and pursue careers in technology. Though created to empower women and help instill confidence when seeking opportunities in the industry, the group serves all McGill students, including men, regardless of field of study.

“Over the years, our vision for Women in Tech has increased. In order to support all our initiatives, we realized we needed more funding,” says Weill, who studies software engineering.

She notes that the process of preparing to crowdfund during McGill24 was eye-opening for the student leaders. “As we were writing emails to inform our contacts about the matching opportunity during McGill24, we realized that we had way more contacts than we initially thought. Preparing for McGill24 made us take a step back and realize how far we’ve come.”

Women in Tech members were also active on social media during McGill24, marketing fun challenges to encourage their followers to donate.

“With the funds we raised on McGill24, we will be able to continue our ongoing Women in Tech projects, as well as add a hackathon, more workshops with tech companies, and a mentorship program to our offerings,” says Abdel Malek, who studies electrical engineering. “We are very excited to finally be able to put in place all the events and mentorship programs that we have been dreaming about for years. We are so grateful to our donors – they are truly making a difference.”

A win for McGill Rugby

Always a force during McGill24, Athletics & Recreation had a strong showing with sixteen varsity and club programs fundraising for their teams. The Men’s Rugby Team project raised more than $40,000, exceeding even their own team members’ expectations.

“We are so proud and excited, but above all we feel incredibly grateful,” say William Goodman and Owen Cumming, co-presidents of Men’s Rugby. “Despite the challenge of the pandemic, this was a record-breaking year for us, and our supporters stepped up once again and showed tremendous dedication. Our biggest takeaway is that our alumni and supporters continue to be the bedrock of the program.”

Men's Rugby team

Former Rugby player Neil Stephenson, BA’84, was astonished by the outpouring of support for the team. “You cannot imagine how many people were involved with this effort,” says Stephenson. “Our planning began early and involved hundreds of alumni, current players and coaches spanning 66 years of teams – including Dr. Joseph "Joe the Toe" Hanaway (BA’56, MDCM’60). The highlight was hearing young and old alums pipe in with fond memories of their days on the team. It was such a fun experience.”

Beyond Athletics, student-led initiatives featured this year during McGill24 included groups from a wide range of disciplines and interests, including Les Muses chorale, which performs contemporary and classical choral music for the greater Montreal community; the Research Group on Constitutional Studies Student Fellowship; the Oral Health Clinic for Neurodevelopmental Diversity; along with Engineering design team projects like the Baja Racing Team, the Rocket Team and Formula Electric.

McGill24 has broken records for support each year since its inception in 2016, with donors contributing to life-changing opportunities for current and future McGillians through their support of financial awards, internships, student-led initiatives, Library resources, research and other university priorities.

You can support student projects and teams throughout the year on the Seeds of Change crowdfunding website.