Melanie Jalim, a senior at Mason, makes a habit of giving back to her community when she finds the time. She individually fundraises for some organizations, like Cornerstone (previously Reston Interfaith), by asking her peers for donations on her page. To get some insight into her values and need to give back, I asked her a few questions.
What cause or causes do you give to? This can be since COVID or even before then.
MJ: Most of my donations go to CornerStone and Reston Interfaith as they have helped the communities of Reston and Herndon among other areas. The other organization I donate to is Patriot Pantry here at George Mason University. You know, Zeairah, when we were in Wenks’ class in 2018, she mentioned how 86 students used the pantry. That is .013 percent of the population at Mason, and it is like this one singer said, “perhaps a college student is eating ramen not because that is the college trend but perhaps that’s all they can afford.” Patriot pantry may only help a small number of students but it still shows how even in “affordable” schooling there is still a population that lives without the necessary items.
What made you want to contribute to these causes? How did you learn about them?
MJ: I grew up in an area where the sense and definition of community was strong. It started when I would volunteer at my church, St. Thomas a Becket, and I gained a sense to help selflessly as it gave me a sense of not only happiness that I was helping someone but a sense of relief that even my small donation can help a family have a meal even if it is for one day.
What does contributing entail for you – fundraising, volunteering, etc?
MJ: Contributing for me personally entails…being kind. Genuinely being kind from the heart, which we lack in our society as of recently. When I give, I give without expecting a gift. Just knowing I will help three students or possibly two families with my contribution are enough.
How has social media helped you in your endeavors?
MJ: Social media has surprisingly helped me out a lot. I was surprised at how many donations I received due to it being liked and shared. I even saw one of my donation posts on Instagram newsfeed/search page which was pretty cool. I found it to be a successful tool when reaching my platform, which isn’t that big, but I was still able to gain support from them.
Do you find that others want to help?
MJ: I think they do, they just don’t know where to start. Which is okay! A lot of us, usually donate to bigger name organizations, which do help. However, there are some organizations that sadly lost the true messaging in helping people, which then leaves them hesitant. I think that is why receiving donations has been a success on my part. Because I have been transparent the whole time. I would take endless photos to the point where my phone kept saying storage full but I had to let people know I am using their donations to purchase the necessary items for students and families alike. When it came time for the school supplies drive I had five to 10 for COVID, 15 for school- more people donate compared to the first time.
Does your degree/career field have anything to do with your philanthropy or is it just something you do within your free time?
MJ: In a sense yes, PR is getting the message across from the client to the public. All while the public responds positively. I don’t know if I consider myself a philanthropic person, but I do this as not only something in my free time but as a way to thank God for being able to bless me with everything I need and that my job is to pay it forward. I would like for this “hobby” to become an actual organization within ten years. I am already brainstorming; it’s just the networking I need to do!
What advice do you have for others who want to do what you have for your community?
MJ: I would say do your research thoroughly, I have donated to multiple places before researching them and I sadly regret some. However, with proper research and networking, you know who is actually doing good for their community. Secondly, do not expect anything in return. Whether it’s a tax break or stipend or whatever else, give from the heart and you will be paid back ten-fold rather than to fluff your image. Lastly, if you have social media, you have an audience. I have roughly 200-600ish followers on each platform, when it comes down to actual engagement it is not a lot (between 40-80 people interacting), but I was still able to reach someone that wanted to help but didn’t know how.