The Michigan Difference
It is during times like this, when normalcy escapes us and uncertainty consumes us, that what defines us becomes clear. Our identities as Wolverines no longer hinge on the routines we had on campus, but rather on the integral parts of our identity which allow us to claim ownership over the title “leaders and best.” Through our resilience, leadership, and connectedness, we are able to feel like a Wolverine during a time where being a Wolverine looks entirely different than before.
Engineering junior Bashar Hallak, Baalbek, Lebanon native, described his transition to online classes as, “less busy with life in general and having more time to think about others.”
He worries about how the already disadvantaged people of his hometown would survive the pandemic. The current crippling position of Baalbek, void of basic necessities, was detailed to him by his relatives and friends back home, and inspired Hallak to launch a charity campaign to support his people.
“I was thinking about the people of my town last week: what are they doing now, how are they surviving this pandemic, they are already underprivileged and most of them don’t have jobs,” Hallak said. “Even my friends that have degrees back home can’t find jobs because the country is doing very bad economically. So ... I called my dad and asked him what the situation in Baalbek is: the situation here is very bad Baba, people literally have nothing to eat, and no money to support themselves’”
Within less than 24 hours of the campaign launching, over 200 people shared the campaign with others, not only spreading awareness of the people of Baalbek’s struggles, but also spreading empathy. Halak’s campaign has successfully raised over $2,400 that will be donated to Safe Side, a nonprofit that distributes food to disadvantaged families in Baalbek.
Concerned by the effect COVID-19 will have on small businesses in Ann Arbor, the new members of Delta Sigma Pi-Xi, a business fraternity, started a Go-Fund-Me in support of local businesses in Ann Arbor. DSP plans to donate the money to businesses ranging from the Ozone House, a nonprofit that provides shelter and support to homeless youth, to Rays Red Hots, a popular dining spot for Wolverines, aiming, “to support the organizations and people that have given life to the place we love so much.” Already raising over $600, DSP plans to continue pushing their campaign until we return to school.
LSA senior Clara Munkarah spent a few of her final moments as a Wolverine organizing a charity virtual cup pong tournament in which over 25 Wolverines are participating in. The winner of the virtual cup pong tournament will choose where the participants’ donated money to the tournament will go.
“Honestly I just felt pretty helpless being stuck at home and recognizing how many hardships so many people are going through right now,” Munkarah said. “So I figured, why not combine the two and make something fun and useful out of it? It wasn’t about how many people signed up or how much money was raised, if we could just unite a few friends and donate money to help someone, it would make quarantine feel worth it.”
Munkarah’s tournament is a small example of the importance of holding onto our connectedness during these unprecedented times.
In an attempt to write this piece, I reached out to various groups on campus asking if they were doing inspiring work or felt inspired by the works of others. I was overwhelmed by the many responses I received of students volunteering to get groceries for the elderly, packaging food for low income families, collecting donations for local businesses in their area, and taking the time to handwrite letters to elderly people who are isolated from others. With each message I received, I felt more assured that when we return to school our campus will be more resilient than ever, and that there is incredible meaning behind the phrase, “the Michigan difference.”