Be the change

Amnesty brings back “Penny Wars”

Photo caption: Even a few pennies can make a difference in saving lives.

Emy Wood

Search your bunks and clean your cars because the Amnesty/Tiny Hands International (ATHI) club is once again holding their “Penny Wars” educational fundraiser on campus.

From February 4 through February 16, eight jugs will again be placed in the Dick building lobby in efforts to collect $1,200 for the Tiny Hands Border Monitoring Program—a $200 increase from the group’s success of meeting last year’s goal of  $1,000.

The rules of the war are simple: All departments and divisions are divided into eight teams. Pennies add to a division or department’s total, while other coins count against; a quarter takes away from the total by 25.

Dollar bills added go to the end project total without counting for or against any division. The jug with the highest total at the end wins a trophy and full bragging rights. The winner will be announced at chapel on February 17.

“There was some good competition [last year], especially the last couple days when people were dumping, literally, a ton of money into the receptacle,” said Chris Blake, English professor and ATHI club sponsor.

All proceeds from this fundraiser will be donated to the Tiny Hands International (THI) Border Monitoring Program. With human trafficking the second-largest criminal activity in the world (after illegal drugs), border monitoring seeks to intercept victims being trafficked across a national border.

In 2007, THI began working to intercept girls across the Nepal/India Border. Since 2009, when they began centering their ministry on prayer, THI has intercepted an average of 140 girls each month. Currently 27 stations staffed by Christian volunteers are operating across the 1600-mile Nepal-India Border, with plans to expand to Thailand and Bangladesh.

“There’s no more horrific evil on the planet than sex trafficking,” said Blake. Together, as #UnionUnited, we can help THI through this friendly competition.

ATHI has hosted fundraisers in the past, but Penny Wars involves more than just donating money. There will be a Pennyhead photo booth, giving students a chance to literally “Be the Change”; cards to sign for border monitoring workers; and One Girl Initiative bracelets to be purchased during the last couple days.

To Blake, the club’s sponsor and creator, THI “signifies what it means to be a follower of Jesus. All disciples are activists—by prayer and/or by direct action.”

With this fundraiser, much can be done with little. Even if it means putting off laundry for a couple days, we all have extra change lying around. With the cost just for intercepting one girl around $50, the Penny Wars fundraiser can potentially save 22 lives.

If you’d like to become more involved or learn more about Tiny Hands International, be sure to visit their website at or stop by Chris Blake’s office on the fourth floor for more information.

About Amnesty and Tiny Hands International:

As the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization, Amnesty International (AI) is a global movement of more than two million people fighting injustice and promoting human rights. Seventeen years ago, the Union College chapter was created by Chris Blake. Since then, thousands of letters have been written by UC students on behalf of prisoners of conscience—those who are being murdered, raped, beaten, imprisoned, and threatened because of what they believe. In the past decade, Union College has hosted statewide Amnesty International gatherings twice.

Six years ago, Blake discovered THI in Lincoln and combined with AI to form the present on-campus club. “Union College is one of Tiny Hands’ strongest supporters,” said Blake.

Within the last year, ATHI has taken an involvement-based approach, often having members create and implement their own ideas with teams on ways to help improve the community of Lincoln through social and cultural needs.

“There’s more involvement this year,” said Blake “That’s a testament to Vernee’s influence and people stepping up to help come up with ideas and get involved. We have a good time doing it.”

This semester, the club hopes to have more speakers and events, including 2011 alumnus Kylie Schnell, who recently finished teaching in THI’s Dream Center, and Paul Yates, an administrator for THI.

Vernee Norman, the Grand Pooh-Bah (President) of the club, said she joined to “connect with other people who are interested in social justice issues.” Through the club’s 78 members, a passion for relieving the greatest injustices in the world is ignited.

Emy is a sophomore studying communication.