International Street Fair highlights world-wide philanthropy
On Sunday, April 27, more than 15,000 visitors will experience the diversity of cultures at Virginia Tech during the annual International Street Fair, hosted by the Council for International Student Organizations and Cranwell International Center.
Now in its 55th year, the International Street Fair offers visitors a look at the variety of nationalities represented on campus, provides international students a chance to share the traditions of their home countries, and celebrates the collaboration between international students, domestic students, and the local community.
“International students are quite passionate in sharing their cultures and providing a different view than the ones provided in the media,” said Council for International Student Organizations President Marwa Abdel Latif of Beirut, Lebanon, a doctoral student in chemistry in the College of Science.
The event is held in downtown Blacksburg and College Avenue is transformed into a multicultural marketplace where student groups sell international foods and handicrafts. The fair also features live performances of traditional music and dance from around the world.
“This year one of our missions has been to build stronger ties with our member organizations,” said Council for International Student Organizations Vice President Noha ElSherbiny of Alexandria, Egypt, a doctoral student in computer science in the College of Engineering. “In an effort to support our member organizations’ causes, we decided not to pick a theme for the street fair. Instead, we are going to showcase and support all of our members' causes.”
The Council for International Student Organizations is an umbrella organization representing all international student organizations at Virginia Tech. The organization currently includes students from more 110 countries. There are six members on council's board this year. Their home countries are India, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, and Zambia.
“We will have more than 40 countries represented at the street fair for 2014,” said Abdel Latif. “At least 30 of the groups are fundraising for a related cultural cause.” They include
- Students Helping Honduras, a non-profit organization whose mission is to end extreme poverty and violence through education and youth empowerment. During winter break more than 80 Hokies traveled to Honduras to start building a middle school which will serve more than 100 students. Funds raised at the street fair will enable completion of the project.
- Students for Non-Violence, a student organization affiliated with the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech. They are looking for donations of supplies and volunteers to maintain the International Peace Garden at the Cranwell International Center. The garden was established in 1994 as an initiative of the Rotary Club of Montgomery County. Its members, YMCA volunteers, students from the university and local schools, and other volunteers help care for and maintain the garden.
- Korean American Student Association, seeking donations to benefit its philanthropy, the Oak Tree Project. The project is a non-profit organization in South Korea that helps to better the financial situations of orphans who are no longer able to live in the children homes after they reach adulthood. Funds raised will provide mentors and scholarships.
- The Cedars of Lebanon, a group that spreads knowledge of their culture. It hopes to give back to the community is by raising enough money to host an event that welcomes the Blacksburg community into an exploration of Middle East culture.
- UNICEF Club at Virginia Tech, which works to improve the lives of suffering children around the world. Through the United Nations Children’s Fund, the club will raise funds to support clean water projects, nutritional aide, help with education, HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention, prenatal care, vaccinations, and tools to fight malaria.
Together with the Cranwell International Center, the Council for International Student Organizations provides programs and services that aim to make students feel at home in Blacksburg. The council also represents the interest and voices of international students to the university's committees and commissions and supports new efforts to increase diversity and inclusion on campus.