New DelVal club is working for a better world

Oct 07, 2011

      DelVal juniors Heather Brooks and Janelle Wommer (from left to right).

By Annmarie Ely

DelVal juniors Janelle Wommer and Heather Brooks started a new campus club, Oxfam, that will work to battle poverty, hunger, social injustice and other global problems.

The club was approved on Sept. 21 and has about eight members.

What’s Oxfam?

Oxfam International started in the U.K. in 1955 and was originally the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief. Its name was shortened and it expanded its reach and goals.

Today, it is an international relief organization working with chapters in 15 countries to advance rights around the world. Oxfam works to give all people the ability to meet their basic needs, access to basic services, safety and a chance to be heard. The organization has a variety of campaigns that stem from these values.

Leadership Training

Oxfam chose Wommer, a zoo science major minoring in environmental science, to participate in its selective week-long leadership program in Boston. The program takes about 50 college students and trains them to start college Oxfam clubs.



“There’s a lot of people who don’t have what I have,” said Wommer.  “I thought it’d be really good to bring Oxfam to campus and show people that they can be part of such a powerful movement.”

She first learned about Oxfam at a Coldplay concert where the organization had a table.

She signed up for its newsletters and checked on internships. Before she knew it, she was headed to Boston.

She met people from other countries at the session, including a man who ran the Oxfam leadership training program in Japan. She was excited to be able to exchange ideas with people from different countries working for the same cause.

She met a man originally from Congo who came to the U.S.

“He was so much more passionate about it because he came from the type of  community he was working to change,” said Wommer.

She said the majority of participants were American college students.Wommer said the program had about 120 applicants and only chose about 50.

Oxfam paid for food, housing and transportation to Boston.

During a mock hunger banquet, participants were divided up based on how food is distributed around the world.

A small percentage got a full meal at a table. One group got rice and beans at the edges of the table. A large group, including Wommer, sat on the floor and got leftovers.

The banquet made her realize how many people go hungry. She heard stories of poverty that inspired her to take action. She said “small” salaries in the U.S. would make people wealthy in some developing countries.

Participants developed an action plan to take back to their colleges.

Bringing Oxfam to DelVal

Wommer encouraged Brooks, a friend, to get involved and together they started the club.

Brooks said she joined because Oxfam deals with issues she feels strongly about.

As part of their involvement, Wommer and Brooks attended a three-day Fair Trade Conference in Philadelphia in September. The fair trade movement attempts to cut out the middleman and get farmers better prices for commodities.

A Mexican coffee farmer spoke about the work that goes into producing a pound of coffee.

“It’s a lot of work and farmers often get nearly nothing for it,” said Brooks.

The farmer, who is participating in the fair trade program, also had an impact on Wommer.

“Now he has money to send his kids to school,” said Wommer. “He gave his daughter a better future.  When you get something fair trade you can really see how you’re helping people.”

Outside of the Oxfam club, Brooks coaches boys soccer and brings therapy dogs to visit nursing homes and children with disabilities.

The juniors are passionate about making a change through small choices like buying fair trade.

“A lot of people see issues like world hunger as too big and think they can’t do anything,” said Wommer. “You can use what you buy as your voice.”

Both students plan to continue their work after graduation.

“I’m interested in education,” said Wommer. “People aren’t going to want to change if they aren’t educated about the issues.”

The club meets Wednesdays at 5 p.m. in Feldman 114. All students are welcomed to get involved.

Upcoming Oxfam Events:

Oct. 15-16: Raffle to raise money for South African famine relief at the Monster Pumpkin Madness festival at The Market.

Oct. 16: World Food Day, the club would like to work with the cafeteria to have
educational information on cafeteria tables.

Nov. 12: The club will work with The Philadelphia Orchard Project. The project revitalizes vacant lots to give people in low-income communities access to fresh fruit.