When we think of marathon fundraising events, we usually first imagine a smiling, tuxedo-donned guy on a television screen — not a phantom voice coming from your computer. But Lawrence University’s student radio station, WLFM, has wired into this unique form of media to successfully fundraise for the organization GlobeMed through the event “Radio for Rwanda.” The 12-hour marathon fundraiser, now in its third year, will be live on Sunday from noon to midnight online at wlfmradio.com.
The phantom voice coming from your computer or smartphone will be the host, senior Peter Raffel, who also works as WLFM’s station manager and hosts his own radio show, “On Patrol.” He has hosted the event since he thought of the idea his sophomore year. “I knew I wanted to do some kind of longer form of radio, and I wanted to use the medium of radio to raise money for a cause,” Raffel says. “So I asked GlobeMed if they wanted to partner with us to raise money for their cause,” Raffel says.
The event raises money for GlobeMed’s partner Health Development Initiative in Kigali, Rwanda. Senior Abby Schubach, who has been involved with GlobeMed throughout her time at Lawrence and has worked closely with members of HDI, helped Raffel turn his idea into a major fundraiser for their program. “HDI has a bunch of programs that they do to essentially better the health of people living in Rwanda,” Schubach explains. “We are helping them fund two projects. One of them is a pig cooperative for a marginalized group of people who have a hard time maintaining economic stability, so the cooperative would provide them a way to both have a source of food and be able to sell the pigs after they reproduce. We’re also funding a water pipeline, because right now they have to walk a pretty considerable distance to get water, so this would provide them with easier access.”
Schubach finds value in GlobeMed because it bridges the social aspect of health care with the medicine aspect through forming close relationships with the members of HDI. “Health is something that unites people, because having good health is something we all strive toward to maintain a happy life,” she says. “These people lack the resources they need to live the lives they want to live, and I think that any opportunity where you can improve someone’s life and somebody’s access to a basic resource like water is worth trying to do.”
“Our first year we raised $3,333, and last year we raised $3,395,” Raffel says, noting a growing involvement in the cause. “The best way to experience it is to go online and listen. Then when we’re on air we give off a phone number, and you can call in and donate any amount. If you’re on campus or you’re in the community and you just want to stop by the radio station to give money, that’s fine too — the door will be open for people coming in.”
The station will definitely see a lot of faces in the 12 hours; a multitude of guests reaching all ends of the Lawrence community — from GlobeMed members to student musicians to President Mark Burstein — have made appearances on air. “I think Radio for Rwanda was one of the first things on campus that tapped into that possible collaboration. By asking people to come on air, show their skill, talk to me, do their thing in this setting — that’s what gets people interested and involved,” Raffel says. “It’s worth it to me to be down there for 12 hours to have that experience, and that feeling of community in that moment. Doing it live, and navigating through so many different guests and kinds of talent and having everyone be there to use this creative medium to do something that actually matters — that’s what makes it powerful.”
The power of Radio for Rwanda extends even further than supporting a good cause and uniting campus to do so. It’s creating a connection with the Fox Cities community that makes the event stand apart. “Lawrence has a relationship to this city and I think WLFM is a medium that could be in contact with that more. We’re the voice of college students who are living here and experiencing this place,” Raffel says. “WLFM used to play such a big role in Appleton, and I think because it’s now online, people from the community aren’t listening as much. But I still think of WLFM as being very tied to Appleton, and Radio for Rwanda is an extension of that. I only write for radio when I’m at school because I want everything to be centered around this place, so we invite Appleton community members to join us.”
This year, we can expect even more crazy antics and fun with guests like dessert-bearing Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell and everyone’s favorite security guard, Kevin Goggins. “Usually every year someone drinks something gross to raise money,” Raffel adds, even more reason to tune in and join the mostly organized chaos. “There’s something very powerful about live radio and the community that it fosters, and the appreciation for what a person can do with their voice and their opinion. Radio takes a certain talent and craft, and the ability to use this medium to bring people together through it.”