California Gazette

RaiseFunds: Empowering International Students to Experience American Culture While Raising Money

Photo Credit To: Vivek Sharma

While the United States continues to attract students from across the globe, the path is not always smooth. International students face unique challenges, including language barriers, homesickness, and financial constraints. This last hurdle is particularly significant, as visa regulations generally prevent international students from taking on employment. Enter RaiseFunds, a charitable organization that offers a unique solution to this problem.

Founded by Vivek Sharma and Lavesh Rawal, RaiseFunds aims to help international students experience American culture while raising much-needed funds. By volunteering at professional events and venues, students can immerse themselves in local customs and enjoy top-tier entertainment, all while supporting the organization’s mission.

Vivek Sharma witnessed the challenges that his international roommates faced while attending college in the United States. The inability to work and earn money greatly restricted their ability to experience local attractions, attend events, or even go out to eat. Determined to create a better path for international students, Sharma teamed up with Lavesh Rawal to establish RaiseFunds, a charity with the goal of providing these students with a richer experience during their time in the U.S.

RaiseFunds partners with various event organizers and venues, including the famous SoFi Stadium, to set up volunteer opportunities for international students. These opportunities often involve helping with event logistics, such as managing queues, guiding visitors, or working at concession stands. In return, the organization receives a donation from the venue or event organizers, a portion of which goes to the student volunteers. RaiseFunds recently crossed over 1 million dollars paid in rents and college fees  for international students This allows students to raise money without breaching the terms of their visas.

What sets RaiseFunds apart is its focus on cultural exchange as much as fundraising. By volunteering at events like football games, concerts, and festivals, international students get to immerse themselves in quintessential American experiences. This enhances their overall understanding of the culture, helps them build social networks, and eases the adjustment to a new country.

While the primary goal of many international students is to excel academically, the reality is that financial constraints often extend beyond the classroom. Besides tuition fees and academic materials, students must navigate the high cost of living that comes with residing in the U.S., such as housing, transportation, and healthcare. Not to mention, the emotional toll of being far from home often leads students to seek out social experiences for emotional well-being, experiences that frequently come with a price tag.

RaiseFunds understands that the financial hardships most international students face are multifaceted. That’s why the funds generated through volunteer opportunities at sports leagues, cultural festivals, and major venues can be particularly significant. The organization ensures that a meaningful portion of the funds raised during these events goes directly to the participating students. This financial support is designed to cover a wide range of expenses.

The aid can be used to help offset everyday living costs like groceries, rent, and utility bills. It can also go toward healthcare, a critical aspect often overlooked until it becomes an urgent need. Moreover, the funds can enable students to participate in leisure activities and social engagements that would otherwise be financially out of reach, from dining out to exploring local attractions and even traveling to other states for a broader American experience.

RaiseFunds is continually looking to expand its partnerships and offer a broader range of experiences to international students. The organization is exploring collaborations with universities, ports leagues, and cultural festivals across the U.S. to create more volunteering opportunities. In the realm of sports, RaiseFunds is eyeing partnerships with major American leagues like the NFL, NBA, and MLB. The idea is to offer international students the chance to volunteer at games and tournaments, roles that could range from assisting with ticketing and fan engagement to helping with logistical aspects of event management. The appeal here is twofold: students can soak in the electric atmosphere of American sporting events while actively participating and raising funds.

RaiseFunds also recognizes the cultural richness that American festivals offer and is keen to incorporate these into their program. The organization is actively reaching out to organizers of events such as music festivals, Fourth of July celebrations, and even localized events like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The aim is to offer international students a direct and interactive way to experience the diversity of American culture, all while volunteering in roles that could include setup, event management, or guest services.

RaiseFunds offers a lifeline to international students who wish to make the most of their time in the United States but are hindered by financial constraints and visa restrictions. By providing an avenue for these students to volunteer and raise funds, all while soaking in the American culture, the organization is rewriting the narrative of what it means to be an international student in the U.S.

Through their innovative approach, Vivek Sharma and Lavesh Rawal have not only eased the financial burdens faced by many international students, but they have also enriched their experience, opening doors to a fuller, more memorable stay in the United States.

Click here to learn more about RaiseFunds 

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