Nourish International comes to UO

When it comes to humanitarian work, J.D. Van Alstyne believes that action shouldn’t be taken without input from those receiving aid. That’s one reason why he founded a Nourish International chapter at University of Oregon, a student-led organization whose members listen to the visions of those in poverty and offer support in a collaborative way.

The organization started at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2003, and now has 60 chapters encompassing over 800 students across the U.S. and Canada.

Alstyne founded the UO’s chapter in fall 2014 after always being told to go to school and get a job.
“This didn’t seem fulfilling,” he said. “So I started to look at ways to start my own business or nonprofit and found Nourish.”

Each year, chapter members seek out an organization they wish to partner with. Last year the University of Washington’s chapter worked with Rural Health Care Foundation in Uganda building clean water sources and educating primary school students about hygiene.

Alstyne said that 780 million people worldwide don’t have access to clean water and over 3.4 million people die from water related illnesses each year. The effects of the clean water sources built last year were so profound that more communities wanted to get involved, Alstyne said.

To accommodate for this, the UO chapter and UW chapter are both partnering with RHCF this year. They will collectively be sending four to eight students to Uganda for a few weeks this summer to continue building clean water sources.
Paige Henderson, UW’s chapter leader, said that Nourish International is a great platform for students to take on responsibilities and be leaders.

“We’re not just young American college students saying ‘you need water’ so we’ll make you something,” she said. “We’re listening to communities’ needs and responding to the needs they have identified as opposed to telling them what to do.”

Nourish International members strive to listen to organizations’ entrepreneurial visions and solutions to eradicate poverty, rather than choosing what is best for a community, Alstyne said. This collaborative way of working on projects creates lasting partnerships between organizations.

Aside from the projects in Uganda, UO’s chapter coordinates business ventures throughout the year. These ventures earn the chapter money for RHCF while also benefiting the community.

An upcoming venture concerns sanding and priming old and new coolers and selling them to sororities.
Another venture involves purchasing coffee at wholesale price from Global Delights. A dollar will be donated to a relief nursery for every pound sold. After purchasing coffee, UO’s chapter will be selling it to faculty on campus and using the proceeds to benefit this year’s project.

“It’s an example of socially responsible business,” Alstyne said. “It’s something that helps local communities and communities abroad while also helping students gain practical skills in social entrepreneurship, leadership, and responsible development.”

He said he hopes to partner on ventures with groups like the Sustainability Coalition, Net Impact, and the Cultural Forum, among others in the future.

And clean water isn’t the only thing they focus on: Projects in places like Guatemala, Uganda and India have included building clean water sources while others have focused on women’s empowerment and business, according to Chancey Rouse, Nourish International’s program director.

“A lot of students have said Nourish is such a huge part of their college experience and lives,” Rouse said. “We were really excited to expand more to the Northwest and University of Oregon would be a really cool campus for us to be on.”

Students can get involved by attending meetings in Fenton 119 Tuesdays at 7 p.m.

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Anna Lieberman

Anna Lieberman

Anna is currently a news reporter for the Emerald.