Now more than ever, action on the behalf of social justice has become a necessity. Humans, animals, and the environment are in dire need of outreach, no matter how big or small. This is a mission that has been undertaken by members of Southwestern University’s chapter of the Human-Environmental-Animal-Team. H.E.A.T. is a nonprofit organization founded in 2010. With eight active chapters in schools across Texas, the organization’s mission is to improve “humanitarian, environmental, and animal welfare issues through positive activism.” And the students at Southwestern have been working tirelessly to do just that, whether it’s fulfilling outreach projects on behalf of the organization at large or working together within the group to find creative ways to serve meaningful causes both near and far.

Successful day making Valentine's day cards for @themiraclefoundation orphanages in India! #heat... “Successful day making Valentine's day cards for @themiraclefoundation orphanages in India! #heat” -@southwesternheatEvery year, each chapter of H.E.A.T. is assigned a campaign by the main branch to raise funds and awareness for. In 2019, SU H.E.A.T. worked with The Miracle Foundation to write personalized Valentine’s Day cards to children in India living in an orphanage. This experience was not only one of meaningful service but also an educational opportunity for the organization. “It’s very interesting learning every time we have a new campaign,” remarks the SU H.E.A.T. vice president, Nissi Frutos ’20. “That time, we had a bulletin that talked about how much money can impact a person. For example, $10 could put someone through school until college. Or $50 could pay their medical expenses for life plus a house. We were shocked because, to us, the money seemed like barely anything.” 

Seeing how far such a seemingly small amount of money could go in other parts of the world, the organization was inspired to use their most well known (and delicious!) fundraiser to raise money for their campaign– Cupcake Wars. During this event, SU H.E.A.T. members, along with other student organizations on campus, make cupcakes and sell tickets that can be exchanged for cupcakes. The organization with the most tickets wins the prize, but special guest judges are also brought in to judge the best-tasting cupcake. Last year, the event raised $600 in the span of just three hours—all of which went to the Miracle Foundation campaign. “We actually were recognized because of this, and we won an award during the H.E.A.T. retreat that they do every year,” Frutos recalls. “All of the H.E.A.T. chapters combine during one day and meet up and exchange ideas. And we were recognized for raising the most money in one night.” 

Cupcake Wars Cupcake Wars

Although Cupcake Wars is SU H.E.A.T.’s flagship event, members of the organization can often be spotted at other events on campus and working with other organizations. The group has sold concessions at fraternity events and football games, held a booth at Sustainability on the Mall, hosted a pitbull kissing booth to raise awareness for the stigmatized dog breed, and held a Monstrance food bank, where students made offerings of nonperishable food to the statue, which was then collected and donated to the Houston Food Bank. And while there has been an abundance of events held on campus with global outreach, members of SU H.E.A.T. have been able to do extremely hands-on volunteer work. “During the summer, H.E.A.T. has a partnership with an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, so a lot of members sign up to do that,” says Frutos. “They get about 60 people. And it’s pretty cool because they get to interact with the community there and live [at] the elephant sanctuary.” The organization is currently working on arranging more travel volunteer work, such as collaborating with Project Transformation, a nonprofit, Methodist-affiliated organization that enables students to build leadership skills and explore ministry opportunities. The collaboration will likely include an internship, in which members of SU H.E.A.T. will get to work with children at the Project Transformation summer camp.

While SU H.E.A.T. has accomplished a tremendous amount in terms of outreach to global communities, the organization is currently in a state of rebuilding and looking for  a way to reorient themselves toward working more for the Southwestern and Georgetown communities, as well as supporting the individual members. “Our mission, at least now because it’s been changing progressively, is to make it a lot more personal to us, our club, and this community,” Frutos explains. A recent example of intraorganizational outreach are the efforts made by SU H.E.A.T to raise money for a Chinese exchange student in the club, who has extended family that has been affected by the coronavirus. The proceeds raised went directly toward sending items such as masks, hand sanitizer, and other sanitary products to the student’s family, and SU H.E.A.T. made it a part of their mission to provide education and work toward dismantling the stereotypes that have arisen as a result of the virus. The organization also had a member whose grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer, so SU H.E.A.T. held a booth at a football game dedicated to raising awareness about that specific cancer and sold concessions, with the entirety of the proceeds going toward the student’s grandmother’s medical expenses. 

The organization also facilitates member support not just through campaigns and fundraisers but through the very organization and operation of the club as well. The group comprises a mix of students representing all years, from first-years to seniors, and a tremendous amount of emphasis has been put on ensuring all members receive a title and have equal opportunity to come up with ideas for outreach and take control of their events. “That’s something that appealed to a lot of people … because [often] you go into [a] club and there’s people already in charge, and so those people say, ‘Oh you’re a new member. Do this; put on this event I already thought of.’ They direct you,” Frutos says. Despite the presence of a leadership committee, anyone and everyone has a chance to take charge, come up with projects, and see them through from start to finish. 

The creation of such a strong support network for students is cited by Frutos as one of the many rewarding parts of the organization. She says that the most fulfilling aspect is “really making a difference. Not just raising money for charities that already exist but being able to support our members…We want to be able to help our community and reach out to whoever needs anything in the Georgetown community as well…It’s not just about the environmental portion, but it’s very social and hands on. So it’s very rewarding to see those outcomes, especially when we volunteer.”

For students interested in joining SU H.E.A.T., all that is required is regular attendance at their meetings and participating in events. For more information regarding meeting times and places, you can follow the organization @southwesternheat on Instagram.