November Challenge: Growing a Beard for Charity

Nov 17, 2010 10:09am

ABC News on Campus reporter Olivia Stacey blogs: Some call it No-Shave November. Others say Novembeard. For guys it means a one-month challenge to put away their shaving cream and razors. The rules are simple: don’t shave, trim or wax any facial hair for 30 days. Matt Stauffer, a campus minister at the University of Florida, is pictured above holding a sign that says "Look at that neck beard!" (Photo courtesy of Matt Stauffer) While many men are joining the competition for fun, others are doing it for a reason. Jesse Lash, a senior at the University of Florida, has been working with his brother, Jon, to give No-Shave November more meaning. They created their own fundraiser, “Grow a Beard, Free a Slave” to help oppressed children in India.  They’re raising money for Dalites Freedom Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to end modern-day slavery in India. The Dalits, also called the “untouchables,” “outcastes,” or “slumdogs,” fall into the very lowest caste of the social hierarchy. They are shunned by those socially above them and live at risk of discrimination, child labor and human trafficking. The Dalit Freedom Network provides educational and financial resources for the Dalits.  That's how the Novembeard competition can help. The Lashes created a site where men can sign-up to earn pledges for each day they don’t shave.

“Anyone can upload a picture of their clean-shaven face and start getting sponsors for their beard,” Lash told ABCNews.com. “All they have to do is not shave, it's ‘slacktivism’ at its best."  A quarter every day adds up to $7.50 from one sponsor. Lash said that’s enough to pay for the food, education and health care of a Dalit child in an English-medium school for a week. The school uses English as the primary language for instruction to give students an equal opportunity to succeed.
Most desirable jobs in Indian society are offered to those who can understand English, as well as their own dialect. Most Dalits cannot afford English-medium schools, which widens the socio-economic gap between the castes.

The Lash brothers set a goal to sponsor 15 Dalit children for a full year through their fundraiser. That adds up to about $5,000, Lash said.  Twenty-five guys are in the running along with an entire class of high school seniors. The site shows each contestant’s weekly progress in beard growth and fundraising total. Matt Stauffer (right), 26, a campus minister at the University of Florida has earned the most money so far.  He's raised a total of $75 and counting.  Stauffer had heard of Novembeard before, but it never piqued his curiosity. He thought it seemed like something funny to do, but was never interested until he got the Facebook invite from the Lash brothers.  Once he got permission from his wife and boss, he gave it a go. “Now I’ll do that goofy thing because it has significance and meaning,” said Stauffer. He even created his own website, http://beard.thisenddown.com/ to document his experience and gain more support.  Since the launch of his site on November 1st, he's had 264 people visit. Stauffer is keeping donors updated on his progress and as an incentive, posts their quotes on his site.   Emilio DeSilvo, a senior at Calvary Chistian High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., convinced his school to change some of their rules in honor of Novembeard. The private school gave permission for the underclassmen to participate, who normally are not allowed to grow facial hair. The only condition: they must have sponsors and donate to a good cause.  DeSilvo motivated 15 of his classmates to sign-up and four teachers. “The guys love to grow their hair, especially the younger ones,” he said. “They think it’s manly.” “It’s so easy to raise money and 25 cents a day for not shaving can go a long way.” Josh Frank, a senior at the University of South Florida, is unofficially participating to promote awareness for prostate cancer. He said he isn’t participating to raise money. “Just showing my support and man, is it itchy and annoying,” said Frank.  “From what I know, you're supposed to go full beard for Novembeard and Decembeard, then just the mustache for Manuary,” he said. “That may be pushing it for me.” Signs of No-shave November are not only visible on guys’ faces. Jamie Wilson, a freshman at UF said her friends are constantly using social media to give updates on their progress. “This year, more than ever, I’ve seen Tweets, Facebook groups, and posts about No-Shave November,” said Wilson. However, she noticed they aren’t talking about the cause. Megan Haney, a junior at UF said she knows several guys who are growing beards for the month, although she doesn’t know their motivation. “If it’s for a good cause, it’s good. But if they’re doing it just to do it, that’s strange,” said Haney. “Either way, it’s a competition so of course guys are going to do it.” “Many of them probably don’t realize that they can raise money or don’t know where to get started," she said.  That’s what Jesse Lash says he and his brother are hoping to change. Lash said a lot of people have heard of No-Shave November and they’ll do it without knowing the full story.  "Sometimes, it's just a competition among friends, who has the best facial hair, who has the manliest beard,” said Lash. “I think it’s fun, but if there's no purpose behind it, are you just trying to clamor for attention?” “Not to be too harsh-sounding, but the whole point is to help people while having fun,” said Lash. 

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