Under the Knife: Bring hope, buy a shirt, save a life

Sophomore Michael Venturiello is currently working hard to start a Geneseo branch of Hippies for Hope, a grassroots nonprofit organization. Hippies for Hope members create homemade tie-dye T-shirts that they sell for $10 each to help fund a girls' school in Tanzania and bring smiles to hospitalized children.

The organization's mission: "Empower the dreams of hundreds, and send smiles to thousands more." The foundation was started in 2007 by Gordon College freshman Ashlie Busone, who attended Ballston Spa High School with Venturiello.

Half of the money raised from shirt sales goes to Nurturing Minds, an organization that partially funds the Secondary Education for Girls Advancement school in Tanzania. The other half of the T-shirt money goes toward the distribution of shirts for sick children in local hospitals.

In August 2010, Busone made a 21-day trip to the SEGA school where she met the young women that her organization seeks to help. The students at SEGA range from 13 to 19 years old. The school selects which girls will receive funding based on need, and priority is given to those who are orphaned, at risk for or affected by AIDS, physically disabled or at risk of falling into exploitative labor conditions.

"In my mind, knowledge is power and by providing these young women with knowledge we are essentially empowering these young women and providing them an opportunity for equality and independence," Venturiello said.

According to Nurturing Minds, "Girls with secondary education become knowledgeable skilled women who enjoy greater decision-making power in their own households and make valuable contributions in their workplaces. Many will become strong, dynamic leaders, guiding social change processes in their communities and nation."

Venturiello said of his efforts at Geneseo, "I wanted to do something that is bigger than myself, and Hippies for Hope is that for me."

The organization is still going through the process of receiving recognition from the college. Official meetings will not commence until at least the fall semester, but Venturiello plans to continue spreading the word about his Technicolor cause.