Elis team up for charity

The value of a hockey goal has not changed in recent memory — one goal still equals one point. So what makes the women’s ice hockey team’s 89 regular-season goals to date so exceptional?

It’s the fact that every one of those hard-earned goals — in addition to 160 laps swum by every member of the women’s swim team — was part of an effort to raise awareness of the hardships of African mothers. The women’s ice hockey, women’s swim and women’s lacrosse teams, led by th­eir respective captains Kristin Savard ’07, Meg Gill ’07 and Lindsay Levin ’07, spent this year raising money for the Keiskamma Trust of South Africa and the UbuMama project in an initiative known as Teaming Up.

Women’s ice hockey captain and forward Kristin Savard ’07 controls the puck at Ingalls Rink. Savard and two other women’s team captains added humanitarian activism to their teams’ season goals this year.
Chris Young
Women’s ice hockey captain and forward Kristin Savard ’07 controls the puck at Ingalls Rink. Savard and two other women’s team captains added humanitarian activism to their teams’ season goals this year.

“I first heard about Teaming Up through Kristin,” Gill said. “But I was also one of Yale’s representatives at the Ivy Athletic Council in the fall. We talked about different ways in which a school could become involved in charity work and that really spawned my interest.”

Savard first came up with the idea after working with the nonprofit organization Imagine Chicago over the summer of 2006, when she spent time documenting the group’s work with the UbuMama project, which aims to increase awareness of the danger of motherhood in African nations. Reading the grim statistics about the challenges of improving conditions for mothers got her interested in learning more about the program, she said.

According to UbuMama’s web site, over 500,000 women die from complications of childbirth every year — more than four times the population of New Haven. Ninety-nine percent of those deaths are in developing countries, and the vast majority are considered preventable. That is where UbuMama comes in.

Women in a participating African community work together to design a maternity gown, embroidering or drawing their own birthing stories onto the garment, along with a message to the world about the trials facing African mothers. The gown is then manufactured globally in the hopes of raising awareness of the problem.

“I find UbuMama such an appealing and inspiring program because it is not administered by outsiders,” said Gypsy Moore ’07, who is currently working with Savard to pursue possible grant opportunities in order to continue the project next year. “It’s really carried out within communities, and it is the women themselves who initiate the dialogue about maternal health and identify the problems. If you look at the garments which have been made since the project was launched, each one is different, reflecting the unique experience and concerns of every group.”

But not every community can afford to produce the maternity gowns, and so Savard created Teaming Up in order to raise money for the women of Keiskamma and enable them to participate. This was also her motivation in establishing Goals for Goals, the yearlong women’s ice hockey team’s project in which fans pledge a certain dollar amount per goal scored, with the season’s proceeds going to the implementation of the UbuMama initiative in Keiskamma. And although the season is nearly over, the team is still accepting pledges, which will be totaled over spring break, according to Savard.

While on the surface swimming and ice hockey don’t seem to have much in common, Gill, who is one of Savard’s roommates, heard about the Teaming Up project from Savard last summer and became interested in both the charity itself and Savard’s own project.

Though the swimmers take part in Race for the Cure in September, that is typically the only activity for charity they do all year, Gill said. So when she learned about Teaming Up, she seized the opportunity to add another philanthropic event to the swim team’s roster, to take place at the beginning of second semester. Under Gill’s leadership, the women’s swim team put its own spin on the fund-raising efforts by organizing a January Swim-a-Thon, when all 30 team members swam 4,000 yards, or 160 laps, and raised more than $2,000 for UbuMama.

“It took about two hours,” Gill said. “Coming in on a Sunday morning when we really didn’t have to — it felt really great. We felt like we were really united as a team.”

Even though the ice hockey season is drawing to a close, Goals for Goals will continue through the spring, albeit in a slightly different incarnation. The women’s lacrosse team, led by Levin, yet another of Savard’s roommates, plans to implement an identical initiative for the spring season.

“Since in lacrosse you score goals the same way as you do in hockey, I immediately thought of how we [the lacrosse team] could get involved, and it went on from there,” Levin said.

Like Gill, Levin first heard about the Teaming Up project from Savard, who enlisted her tech-savvy roommate for help in creating a Web site for the student initiative. After helping to design the page and teaching Savard the basics of running it, she began to think more in detail about how she and her own team could work on behalf of what she deemed simply “a good cause.”

The spread of Teaming Up to three different sports teams is a promising start to what Savard hopes will be a perpetually-expanding project. Next year, she would like to see the initiative spread to other schools, she said, and even now she and Moore are exploring the possibility of Teaming Up going national by the 2007-’08 school year. It would require funding and appropriate management, but Imagine Chicago as well as the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood are helping in the search for grants, she said.

Although Savard, Gill and Levin will all be graduating at the end of this year, the teams they led are likely to carry on the partnership even after they are gone, Savard said. And they themselves do not plan to cut ties with the project even as they leave Yale behind.

“I hope the swim team will remain involved, and I can find a way to help with that,” Gill said. “I would love to be involved in some sort of capacity in the future, but it all depends on where I am and what I’m doing.”

Savard was equally confident in the hockey team’s ability to carry on the project that may become her legacy after she leaves. And she is quite certain that her graduation day won’t mean the end of her involvement in Teaming Up.

“After learning more about the cause and putting so much effort into finding a way to create change, it would be a difficult project to simply walk away from,” Savard said. “And although at this time it is uncertain in which capacity I will be involved next year, I am certain that I will find a way to stay involved and push the project to the next level.”

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