Ugly Sweaters for a Meaningful Cause

Ryan Werffeli shows off his new purchase at the Ugly Sweater Sale, hosted by GlobeMed at the Norris Center. Proceeds from the sale will help build a health clinic in Uganda

Ryan Werffeli shows off his new purchase.  Proceeds from the ugly sweater sale will help build a health clinic in Uganda

Ryan Werffeli knows instantly that this is the one: a beige-brown sweater with an embroidered “winterscape” of snow-speckled pine trees, woodland creatures and a cozy cottage. There’s no doubt that this is one ugly sweater.

But Werffeli can’t wait to wear it.

“Between Thanksgiving and Christmas is prime time for the ugly sweater. Winter parties. Other parties. Just around,” says the Northwestern sophomore. “I’m pleased with my selection.”

What does this have to do with global health, you ask?

The Northwestern Chapter of GlobeMed is hosting its first Ugly Holiday Sweater Sale in Norris Center today and Friday to support the Adonai Child Development Centre in Namugoga, Uganda.

“People have been really excited about this,” beams Nicholas Wang, the co-president of the chapter, who says he was surprised by the outpour of campus support.

By 3:30 PM Thursday, GlobeMed had sold more than 70 sweaters, with only about seven remaining for the day. The success came as such as surprise that members have had to scour local thrift stores in order to find more material for Friday’s sale. “We may or may not have cleaned out the thrift shops in Evanston and Northern Chicago,” Wang says.

GlobeMed is a national non-profit that was started at Northwestern in 2007. Since then, the organization has spread to more than 50 chapters across the country and has nationally raised more than $1 million to help achieve global health equity.

Each chapter partners with a local organization across the world. Northwestern’s chapter has set a $15,000 annual goal to aid its current partner, the Adonai Child Development Centre, an organization that works to improve the health of children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic or civil unrest in Uganda.

The proceeds will contribute to the establishment of a local health clinic in a building that was constructed with help of last year’s donations. In addition to traditional aid for anti-retrovirals and other medications, aid will also go towards other essential equipment and staffing needs for the clinic. These are “the things people forget about when they think of global health,” Wang says. “A lot of people forget that you need equipment like beds and refrigerators and lighting and electricity… It’s stuff that we tend to take for granted.”

"You never know when you're going to need an ugly sweater," says Ryan Simpson, who attended GlobeMed's Ugly Holiday Sweater Sale Thursday

“You never know when you’re going to need an ugly sweater,” says Ryan Simpson, who attended GlobeMed’s Ugly Holiday Sweater Sale Thursday

The approach of GlobeMed is to take a holistic view of global health and develop close working relationships with its partner organizations on a grassroots level. The approach makes GlobeMed unique in its field, according to Want. “[The partner organization] is really grateful for the support, but they understand that this is not something where we’re going to go in, throw vaccines at them, and leave,” he says. “We’re going to be in a long-term partnership with them and work with them closely to figure out what they want– what’s really going to help them develop as a community.”

If you want to contribute, or simply snatch up your own snowflake-bedecked sweater, the sale will continue tomorrow at Norris Center from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. But get there fast to assure the best selection, say chapter members.

“In the morning, we were here setting up at 8:45, and people were already milling about waiting for us to open,” says Mindy Chua, co-director of campaigns for GlobeMed at Northwestern. Many of the sales for the day happened within the first two hours. “I’m really happy with what happened here today…This is fun!”

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