Student livestreams raise money to donate to important causes



In addition to her charity livestreams, Saif has been volunteering with the organization Food Not Bombs in Asbury Park, which provides food to those in need.

Liam Umbs

As sophomore Zaina Saif of Marlboro and her friends chatted on a livestream last December, they raked in over $10,000 of donations to support hungry families in Yemen.

Since the start of quarantine last year, Saif and a group of fellow social media organizers have put together charity streams — live discussions which are designed to raise awareness and funds for different issues and air on platforms like YouTube and Twitch.

“We basically kill time on the stream… and promote our cause while people donate, and sometimes we have guest speakers on… it goes on for hours,” Saif said.

Saif and her group have hosted charity leaders, community organizers and high-profile politicians to take a deep dive into the issues. She has discussed the Uyghur crisis in China with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), ecosocialism and the state of the Democratic Party with Green Party 2020 presidential candidate Howie Hawkins and the two-party system in America with Libertarian Party 2020 presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen.

The streams have been wildly successful as fundraisers, too. In a stream last June, her group raised $3,000 for Project Break The Cycle, the same organization which received over $10,0000 in the December stream.

All donations go directly to supporting humanitarian efforts in the war-torn country, something Saif said she finds fascinating.

“I think is really helpful that something from here can create change all the way to there,” she said.

She has also done multiple streams for the Stonewall Foundation, a New York City-based nonprofit that supports the LGBTQ community. Her group has raised over $3,000 for the organization.

Saif has no plans of stopping, and although she plans on exploring different topics in future streams, they will all share the same purpose: to educate and shine a light on the issues that matter.

The charity streams are not her first experience with community activism. Since this past summer, she has been volunteering with Food Not Bombs in Asbury Park, an organization that shares groceries and produces a hot meal every Sunday for the homeless and those on food stamps.

For Saif, this work offers her the opportunity to see how drastically different daily life can be for others, even in the same geographic area.

“It’s really important to see past our privileged communities where there isn’t much impoverishment and volunteer to help your local community,” Saif said.

From all of her endeavors, whether it be the charity streams or helping out locally, Saif found that even in the midst of a pandemic, it is always possible to create change, and she encourages her peers to do the same.

“If you really want to make a difference, there’s always a way. I see that a lot of people are wanting to support causes, but they’re usually caught up in things like Instagram activism or things that don’t really make any substantial change,” Saif said. “But I think that helping your local community, donating to mutual aid organizations, if you have the means, really makes a difference, and organizing things with friends who have the same values or the same views can really help your community.”