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UMN pre-health organizations fundraise for Palestine

Five University pre-health student organizations led a fundraising campaign to raise money for humanitarian aid in Palestine.
Image by Unity Health (courtesy)
Five pre-health student organizations lead a fundraiser to raise awareness and money for Palestine. The fundraiser aimed to raise awareness and money for support of Palestine.

Unity Health, a pre-health student organization at the University of Minnesota, collaborated with four other organizations to host a fundraiser in mid-February for humanitarian aid in Palestine amid the region’s conflict with Israel. 

Unity Health raised over $700 toward United Mission for Relief and Development, an international nonprofit organization providing disaster relief and recovery services for people around the world. Unity Health’s fundraising campaign amassed a reach of over 5,000 individuals on and off campus to raise awareness about the conflict. 

Unity Health collaborated with the Arab Pre-Health Association, the Undergraduate Physiology Society, the University’s Psychology Club and the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students for their “Pre-Healths for Palestine” fundraiser. 

Prayag Rajagopalan, a third-year neuroscience student and co-events coordinator for Unity Health, said while it is good that most pre-health organizations focus on networking opportunities, there is a lack of effort to educate people on health issues around the world.

“There’s less emphasis I feel being placed on educating people on health issues worldwide or even inside this country,” Rajagopalan said. 

As a group, Unity Health expressed fear about speaking out about Palestine due to incidents of retaliation on and off campus, according to Rajagopalan. 

The group’s fear was the reason they spoke out about the situation and collaborated with other groups to do so, according to Ojaswini Thodupunoori, a third-year neuroscience student and president of Unity Health. 

“One of the biggest concerns when going into this whole thing was us trying to assess every single angle of this [situation],” Thodupunoori said. “Our board decided that, ‘Hey, this might impact how other people perceive us as an organization,’ but we wanted to put our voices out there to stand on the right side of history.” 

The group wanted to collaborate with other pre-health organizations because of the fear of speaking out about Palestine as a single group. Thodupunoori said having support from other organizations to help develop flyers or do tabling events helped with the group’s outreach.

“If we were doing it solo with only our group, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve the outreach or even the fundraising that we did,” Thodupunoori said. 

Ryan Fauglid, a strategic communications major, helped make social media posts that reached non-health students. People approached their tabling events and left extra donations, according to Thodupunoori. 

“The idea was that we make pre-health students more aware of the historic healthcare crisis in Palestine itself because many students already have some familiarity with the oppression of Palestinians,” Fauglid said in an email statement to The Minnesota Daily. “Since this is a global issue, we wanted to find a way to encourage students to take action in tangible ways, specifically boycotting and donating.”

Katie Nguyen, a third-year biology student and co-events coordinator for Unity Health, said the group began collaborating with most of the student organizations this semester and they were also fearful to speak out. 

“It was comforting to know that other people were in similar positions as us in terms of where they supported this Palestinian humanitarian crisis, but didn’t have the means to do so,” Nguyen said. “Having a collective effort allowed us to have more outreach and resources and have more people support the planning process and execution.” 

Unity Health’s fundraising campaign began by creating educational social media posts about Palestine and holding a week-long baked goods fundraiser, according to Nguyen. 

“Most people view this issue with a perspective of politics,” Nguyen said. “With organizations on campus, they tend not to involve themselves with topics like this, when this crisis isn’t really about politics, it’s a humanitarian crisis.” 

Rajagopalan said it is common for people to see members of Congress talk about Palestine as a conflict, but he is glad more people are seeing it as a humanitarian crisis. 

“This is a larger thing that we’ve recognized as a humanitarian crisis,” Rajagopalan said. “We do need to realize that people are getting hurt.” 

Nguyen said she feels comforted knowing there are people who support Palestine and were able to donate towards humanitarian aid. 

“When people perform activism, they think about protests and rallies,” Nguyen said. “It was nice to see people who still believe that this was a humanitarian crisis and know what’s happening in Gaza is a terrible thing.” 

Fauglid said the fundraiser allowed the group to address the injustices in Palestine from a pre-health point of view. 

The people of Palestine are facing a historic and inhumane health care crisis,” Fauglid said in the statement. “We knew that we had not just a moral, but an ethical obligation to do all in our power to raise awareness of this historic injustice and provide support by leveraging our own skill sets and connections as pre-health students at the University of Minnesota.”

Thodupunoori said people telling their stories and giving thoughts on the crisis educates the group about where most students stand on the situation. 

“It was really nice to hear that some people were really thankful for what we were doing, making it easier for them to donate or talk about this topic,” Thodupunoori said. 

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  • OP
    May 16, 2024 at 9:50 pm

    To the MNDaily moderators approving derogatory and defamatory insult posts like Thomas toward students raising money to help victims of a genocide funded in part by investments by the U, you’re part of the problem.

  • OP
    May 16, 2024 at 9:28 am

    Love the MN Daily reviewing and approving a derogatory and ridiculously defamatory post like the post from Thomas.

  • Thomas
    Apr 30, 2024 at 4:09 pm

    Yeah I’m sure this money isn’t going straight into Hamas’s bank account