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SEP Launches Crowd Funding Platform

Update: Nov. 14 – The SEP crowd funding fundraiser has been changed to support the Yucatan project. See the Indiegogo campaign. This project would provide the funds to build a honey processing plant for the Mayan honey producers of Tesoco Nuevo in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

With the help of their field partner Ayuda Para Ayudar, SEP will attempt to break the cycle of poverty in the lives of 150 impoverished Mayan women. Due to a lack of resources, the honey produced by the women is stored in reused water and juice bottles. In order to continue to foster the women’s financial independence by enabling them to properly bottle and market their honey, they need a honey processing facility.

At 7 p.m. on Nov. 14 in the Art Gallery, 3907 Yoakum, SEP will host an event to kick-off its electronic campaign to raise $5,000 for the women of Tesoco Nuevo.


Of the 15 million people living in Malawi, Africa, nearly 10 percent are infected with HIV. Those who test positive are ostracized socially and economically. The University of St. Thomas Social Entrepreneurship Program is working to empower the ostracized by providing an opportunity for them to become involved in food and cloth production, and they are doing it in a novel way — crowd funding.

At 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 14 in the Art Gallery, 3907 Yoakum, SEP will host an event to kick-off its electronic campaign to raise $10,000 for the people of Malawi.

Elena Petre, junior international development major and Public Relations officer for SEP, said she became involved because she believes in causes like this one.

“We really do empower women and work towards eradicating poverty,” Petre said. “It would be great if individual countries took care of helping their people, but some countries do not have the resources or infrastructure to do so, and that is where programs like SEP come in.”

SEP operates as a student-run organization where volunteers help identified underprivileged communities around the world find and establish professional partnerships with local organizations; help raise funds; and later distribute these funds through the creation of comprehensive microcredit programs. SEP provides those suffering from poverty with financial capital through microcredit loans to help them start a business or expand their existing one.

The November event will be a party where potential donors can watch a series of videos and mingle with SEP members, past and present, to learn about the goals and needs of the Malawi project.

This will be the first time SEP will use crowd funding to raise money, and they have chosen Indiegogo as their platform. In the past SEP has used more traditional fundraising methods including silent auctions and Group Raise, a program where local restaurants donate a percentage of their proceeds after members, friends and family of the participating organization dine there. In recent years, crowd funding platforms, such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter, have become a growing trend among the non-profit sector and have been proven to be a successful method.

SEP will also hold an event at 7:00 p.m. on Oct. 29 in Ahern, Crooker Center, to  honor the life of Austin Stanfill, the charismatic former president of the organization who passed away this past May. Stanfill was passionate about sending students to locations where they were administering microloans so they could see the impact the loans had on the community. Donations were accepted in Stanfill's name in lieu of flowers at his funeral to support SEP.

Petre, and several other members, credit Stanfill for their current involvement in SEP.

“My freshman year Austin and Rogelio invited me to a lecture by a doctor who had a foundation to help the medical effort in Haiti,” Petre said. “That lecture really moved me.”

The SEP group is building off of their longstanding success. Their work in the Yucatan peninsula, Chile and Tanzania, while ongoing, has greatly benefited the communities in those areas.

For more opportunities to help SEP, visit their website.

--- The story has been amended to correct the date of the event. Previously, the article stated Oct. 24.