On a chilly October night a little over a year ago, about 60 students gathered on the grassy area outside Ridgway Center for an event called the “Cardboard City Project,” sponsored by the UNICEF Campus Initiative. While there was a high of 63 degrees during the day, by midnight it was in the low 50s.
Selfless and caring, junior Olivia Goldstein puts others’ needs before her own as she devotes time to UNICEF and supports other community events.
Junior Olivia Goldstein was responsible for organizing the event on behalf of the Campus Initiative, a movement rooted in the belief that college students have a vital role to play in helping the world’s children survive.
Goldstein had been eager since high school to make a difference in the lives of others. But it was not until she came to UE that she really started creating changes like she always wanted to. As a freshman, she joined the Campus Initiative and volunteered to feed her hunger for helping others who are not in a position to help themselves.
“UNICEF is such a huge international presence and I was disappointed we didn’t have it in high school,” she said.
It came as no surprise when she took on a leadership role and served last year as the person tasked with coordinating UE’s Campus Initiative events. She planned the group’s first-ever Cardboard City, where participants built shelters made of cardboard and spent the night sleeping in them. They learned what it felt like not to have a warm bed to sleep in or the other comforts many take for granted. With this came the moving account by an employee of UE who had once been homeless.
“I feel really lucky to have heard her story,” Goldstein said. “She had this micro phone that barely worked, but nobody moved. Nobody said anything. They just lis tened to her story. It was just very eye opening.”
Along with briefly experiencing homelessness, Campus Initiative also collected hygiene supplies, clothes and other miscellaneous items on behalf of Aurora, a local nonprofit agency that tries to find solutions to prevent and end homelessness.
[Being a part of UNICEF has] definitely been a humbling experience,” Goldstein said. “The most impactful thing for me is the education I get from being a part of it.”
She continued as a freshman helping behind the scenes and participating in such projects as the “Water Awareness Campaign” and the “Efforts Against the Zika Virus” fundraiser. She also joined in to promote “World Water Week,” a campaign to educate people about the world’s water needs.
“Children are completely incapable of controlling the situations they’re in and are often victims because of it,” Goldstein said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a mother and not be able to give your child water or an education.”
Goldstein’s passion for giving extends past what she can do on campus. She learned about Friends of Dago, a local charity that supports the Dago Dala Hera Children’s Center in Kenya, through Campus Initiative and now with other members sponsors a middle school boy named Cavine. They have organized bake sales to support the cause, saying that selling cookies and other sweets was never so much fun.
“It’s crazy to think that the cookies we’re selling are helping with someone’s future,” she said. “I fell in love with the project and how we could make a difference for somebody a continent away.”
Goldstein said she was amazed to learn that by donating $300 it ensures that a child will have the materials needed for school, which includes food, tuition and uniforms.
“It’s amazing how inexpensive it is to give a child an education,” she said.
While you might think that Goldstein’s major centers on children, the Indianapolis native is actually an exercise science and Spanish double major. But as a third-year member of the volleyball squad, the team’s co-captain has also found herself volunteering in the community as part of her team.
From making time to teach elementary school children how to play volleyball to her work as the MVC representative on the NCAA Student Athletic Committee, coach Manolo Concepcion describes Goldstein as someone who always steps forward.
“Olivia doesn’t try to get her card punched,” he said. “She just does it because it’s who she is. To her, this is not about how many volunteer hours she has. This is her way of life. This is how she lives,”
Goldstein and her teammates have also been involved in a variety of local events and she is usually the one making the arrangements.
“I’m one of those people who throws themselves into whatever I’m doing,” Goldstein said. “If I’m involved, I’m going to be all in.”