Magazine article The Quill

Generous Student Chapter Gets More Than It Bargained For

Magazine article The Quill

Generous Student Chapter Gets More Than It Bargained For

Article excerpt

There are many worthy projects for SPJ chapters to undertake. The University of Maryland student chapter found one this year when it teamed up to help some fellow students in Indonesia. But it led to some hard lessons that we felt were important to share with other chapters undertaking a similar effort.

It started as a simple enough request: an e-mail sent from some students at a small university in Indonesia to several instructors at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. The English may have been choppy but the message was clear:

"We are from Sumedang Student Association for Communications and Media Studies. One of our aims is to facilitate our members to get literature in our discipline. Because, you must to know it, in our region (Sumedang City) books are in a very lacked conditions. Sumedang regency is a remote place in Java Island. Our University is Sebelas April University.... We are very grateful if you could donate us books for our studies...."

The e-mail came at a most opportune time because our student SPJ chapter had decided to conduct a book drive/public service project for a program overseas. Now that we had a request, we could pursue the project with a beneficiary in mind.

We collected more than 150 books-over 190 pounds-and filled five boxes. That was the easy part. But, we had a major case of sticker shock when it came to making arrangements for shipping these books. Estimated costs put the tab around $800. We got a break by working through the Merrill College of Journalism's Fed Ex account that reduced the charge to just over $200 (with a special discount by shipping the boxes out on a Monday). The books shipped on Monday, May 21 st.

But the saga doesn't end there. When the boxes arrived, the students could only afford to pay the duty and taxes on one of them. What we didn't realize was the duty and taxes on the boxes were MORE than the cost of shipping them. …

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