By Britney Botez | Staff Writer
Last winter, several international students, led by Lulú González, the former assistant director of international student programs, decided to find a solution to a problem several international students face during their first semester in Spokane: a lack of proper winter gear. This program, Warmth for the Winter, uses funds granted to the International Student Center to purchase winter gear for international students to take whenever they need.
Niraj Pandey, a third-year student from Nepal, worked with González to launch this program last winter. “We bought around $1,500 worth of gear, like hats, gloves, beanies and mufflers,” he said. The Warmth for the Winter program has proven effective in getting international students the gear they need, as approximately 80 students have already made use of it. However, the program is not only open to international students. “We opened up the program to the Polynesian community as well, as the [Whitworth University diversity, equity and inclusion] department reported data that coming from an equatorial region, these students were also in need of this gear,” said Pandey.
The hope is that this new resource will be able to serve students for winters to come. “The Warmth for the Winter program is now an established program, and similar to how the nutrition center was funded by a donor integrated into the university because it filled a need, this program has demonstrated [that] it fills a need, so the university will continue to fund it,” said Pandey.
In addition to The Warmth for the Winter program, another program is currently in the works to assist international students with a significant need: traveling home. “Students need to travel home, as they need reconnection with their culture in order to cultivate it,” said Pandey. The new Lúlu Gonzalez International Travel Fund will make home visits possible for international students, as it will attempt to eliminate the financial barrier these students face when traveling home by subsidizing their flight costs. This program is not yet established, but if realized, it will provide a $200 flight ticket subsidy to any international student in need of it.
International students can benefit from programs such as this one, which will fill additional needs, such as clothing and travel assistance that the university has not been directly providing for them. As Pandey said, “International students are a community, and we find ways to collectively fill our needs.”