Yuda Bands, scholarships and the Interact club

Special to The Source

Interact, a student service club here in Jacksonville, recently embarked on a creative and meaningful project. Their goal: raise funds to sponsor a school scholarship for Ellen Mandidzora, an 18-year-old high school student in Zimbabwe.

By December 21, 2016, they had raised $2,800. How did they do it? Yuda bands.

So … what are Yuda Bands? We’re glad you asked. Abby Mitchell, the club president, shared, “Yuda is derived from ‘ayuda,’ the Spanish word for ‘help.’” It was the perfect motto for a service club – and the perfect product. Mitchell said, “Yuda Bands … are ‘fair trade’ bracelets made in Guatemala from handcrafted leather and coconut with different designs.”

After learning about the bands at a Rotary district conference, the club got more information through its website, yudabands.org. The students of Jacksonville’s Interact signed up to sell 400 bracelets and selected an international student to sponsor. According to Mitchell, each Interact member was allotted 15 of the $7 bracelets to sell. It was wildly successful. Mitchell commented, “After having everyone storm social media with pictures of the bands and the story behind them, everyone was wanting one.”

Mitchell added, “We loved the fact that we knew who we were supporting with this service project. We selected Ellen Mandidzora from the list of students seeking sponsorship. Knowing about Ellen, what kind of life she has, her hopes, dreams and so much more, gave us a sense of urgency and desire to help. Each Yuda Band bracelet we sold would make a big difference in Ellen’s life by allowing her to get an education. I really enjoyed being able to help Ellen because I am aware of how fortunate I am to be able to go to school every day, and I want every student to be able to have the same opportunities that I have.”

Education is one of Rotary International’s six areas of focus. As such, the Jacksonville Rotary club enthusiastically decided to sponsor this particular project. Rotarian mentor Jon Valucek said, “This is a great group of young people. They really dedicated themselves to make this service project successful.”

As if to drive Valucek’s point home, Christina Lomelino, another Rotarian mentor, said, “This year, in addition to the Yuda Band project, the Interact club helped send 83 care packages to active military members overseas, spoke at the Rotary district conference and are helping with Meals on Wheels.”

In conclusion, Mitchell gave a shout-out to other service-minded young people in the community, saying, “Our club meets on the first and third Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Soap Co. Coffee House, and we would love to have more students join us!”

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