Camping in Stauffer brings DREAMs to life

Joanna Sue and Alvin Shin can be seen on their 24-hour Stauffer webcam at
Joanna Sue and Alvin Shin can be seen on their 24-hour Stauffer webcam at

For University students Alvin Shin and Joanna Sue, Stauffer isn’t just a place to study—for 10 days this month, it’s also home.

Shin, Sci ’07, and Sue, ArtSci ’07, started a 10-day library camp-out called “Mission: Ultimate Stauffer Lockdown” on Jan. 28, complete with a 24-hour webcam.

“It hasn’t been too bad; we’ve seen some weird stuff, for sure,” Sue said.

The two are trying to raise money for education in developing countries. They’ve been sleeping nights in separate tents and share a mini-fridge. They’ve also set up a desk that holds computers, a printer and heaps of schoolwork to make up for hours of missed class.

The lockdown site is like a replica of any student bedroom, with chip bags littering the floor and lawn chairs instead of furniture. The similarities end at the streams of people stopping to ogle the pajama-clad campers.

“People definitely don’t see this every day, so it catches their attention,” Shin said.

Shin and Sue have pledged to only leave their roped-off zone in the atrium for five minutes every hour, or “bank” their five minutes for longer breaks. They said they spend most of their time on computers or meeting curious passersby.

“Luckily, the bathrooms are right next door, so that helps,” Sue said, who added that she managed to bank enough time to go home and take a shower on Tuesday, four days into the campout.

Shin and Sue are co-presidents of Discover the Reality of Educating All Minds (DREAM), an organization they started this year to help support education in developing countries by raising funds to build school facilities and provide supplies and scholarships.

“I saw a sign on the subway saying that you could build a school in a Third World country for $10,000,” Sue said. “The sign kept taunting me, so I finally mentioned it to Alvin and he said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

After partnering up with the non-profit organization Room to Read, Sue and Shin took their initiative to the Queen’s campus and started DREAM.

The group aims to raise $50,000 this year, which would pay for five projects, including a school in Nepal, book translations, and a girls’ scholarship program.

“This goal is really ambitious for the first year,” said Flora Lau, ArtSci ’07 and DREAM’s VP (Fundraising).

Shin estimates that the group’s first two fundraisers, a Mardi Gras event at Alfie’s and a silent auction, raised $4,000. However, he said he’s optimistic DREAM’s next two events will raise more money.

“There’s no reason for us not to get the money,” said Shin. “So we’ll get it.”

Sue said the first project DREAM was given by Room to Read, a computer lab in Cambodia costing $16,000, has already been completed.

“We thought this would be a neat way to raise money,” Sue said. “It totally connects how privileged we are to have this facility at Queen’s with helping build learning facilities in other countries.”

The group is also running a raffle to raise money, although Lau said some changes were made for legal reasons.

“The event is called Elffar, raffle spelled backwards,” she said. “Because of legal reasons, we can’t have people buying raffle tickets.”

Instead, the group sells buttons and gives away free raffle tickets. The buttons are on sale at Mac-Corry, the JDUC and BioSci for $5 each or five for $20.

Shin said bi-weekly draw winners will receive gift certificates from local businesses. A grand prize draw in March will give away 50 cruises and vacations.

“We get the trips for a ridiculous price, completely at cost,” Lau said, citing a connection with Coastal Vacations, a company that markets travel memberships. “Room to Read’s policy is that we spend less than 10 per cent of our fundraising goal, so our overhead budget covers the trips and operating costs.”

DREAM has already given away three vacations, Lau added.

Some students expressed reservations about the group’s prize giveaways.

“It sounds like some sort of scam to me,” said Tim Forestell, ArtSci ’09. “I mean, this is a good cause, but I don’t know how you can actually give away trips like that.”

Jessie Hale, ArtSci ’08, agreed.

“I’m not going to spend $5 unless I know that this is legitimate, and it seems too good to be true,” she said. “I’d have to do more research about the group and what they’re doing.”

Nancy Petri, the Stauffer Library administration officer, said the University has never seen an event like this before.

“This has never been done in the past,” she said. “But because it was a fundraiser for something that the library felt they had a connection to, permission was given to the DREAM team to camp out in Stauffer.”

Other than safety regulations, Shin and Sue said that the rules of the lockdown are self-imposed.

“The library didn’t give us any strict rules,” said Sue. “We brought this on ourselves.”

They added that most of the reaction to their library camp-out has been positive.

“Initially people think we’re crazy, but when we tell them what we’re doing, they tell us it’s something worth doing this for,” she said. “People seem very proud and impressed.”

Hale said the camp-out did catch her attention.

“I don’t usually expect to see people hanging out at the library in tents,” she said. “Of course, I had to come and see what was going on.

“I’m not sure I could do it. Ten days living like a zoo exhibit might be kind of exhausting.”

Sue and Shin said they’re more than happy to sacrifice a warm bed and hot meal for their cause.

“It seems so amazing to me to be able to do this,” Sue said.

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