Stanford Dance Marathon to benefit Partners in Health in Rwanda

Jan. 6, 2015, 10:45 p.m.
Dance Marathon, now in its 11th year, announced that Partners in Health in Rwanda will be its sole beneficiary this year. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)
Dance Marathon, now in its 11th year, announced that Partners in Health in Rwanda will be its sole beneficiary this year. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

This February’s annual Stanford Dance Marathon (DM) announced that Partners in Health (PIH) in Rwanda will be the sole beneficiary of their fundraiser. This year, the DM team highlighted several changes to their event planning and development, including the restructuring of their core team and forming a direct partnership with the receiving organization of the funds.

DM, now in its 11th year, is a student-run, philanthropic event involving months of planning that culminates in a 24-hour dance party. Participants pre-register as DM dancers, and each aims to raise either $150 or $200 in donations from family and friends by signing up for either the 12-hour dancing block or the 24-hour block, respectively.

The money they raise is given to the DM’s designated foundation after the marathon. Since 2005, DM has raised over $780,000 for various organizations that benefit HIV/AIDS health and community building, such as FACE AIDS and Bay Area Young Positives.

The 2015 Stanford Dance Marathon committee selected PIH in Rwanda so that PIH can continue its innovative work in transforming Rwanda’s health care.

PIH is a global health organization whose mission is “to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care.” Founded in 1987, it began by implementing health care for the sick in Haiti and has since expanded throughout Africa, North America and South America. In 2005, PIH instituted primary care and community-based HIV treatment in parts of rural Rwanda, making the country PIH’s first project in sub-Saharan Africa.

This year, the DM executive committee hopes to raise around $70,000 for PIH in Rwanda in donations collected through the fundraising efforts of its dancers.


Restructuring the DM team

One of DM’s new features in 2015 is the new and improved structure of the DM committee.

“DM is changing immensely this year,” said Daniel Knapp ’15, director of DM. “We’re trying to reimagine and revamp the event.”

The DM committee now breaks down into four subteams: the event team, which handles logistics and entertainment at the event; the finance team, which organizes and bolsters participant fundraising and corporate outreach; the outreach team, which focuses its attention on student recruitment; and the brand and partnership team, which concentrates on expanding DM’s media presence and educating participants about PIH in Rwanda.

Each subteam is headed by an executive director from the Class of 2015 who has been involved with DM since his or her freshman year.


A direct partnership with PIH

Another major change this year is the implementation of a direct partnership with Partners in Health (PIH) Rwanda. Although DM has been raising money for PIH since 2007, this is the first year that such a partnership has been established.

Knapp explained that the DM committee now has contacts from PIH in Boston and Rwanda with whom they speak with weekly and monthly, respectively.

“[Our relationship with PIH] gives us so much more agency to do all of what we’re doing,” Knapp said. “Because we have direct information flow, we feel a much stronger connection to PIH than any other [DM] team has in the past.”

This close communication feeds into the Dancer-Doctor Program, which directly connects DM members to doctors on the ground in Rwanda who are affiliated with PIH. Each of the eight teams of doctors in Rwanda connects with four or five Stanford dance teams through a WordPress blog.

“[I]t’s the first time that Partners in Health, as an organization, has had any type of initiative where their staff is engaging directly with a lot of interested people on the ground at Stanford,” said Elizabeth Carls ’15, who leads the outreach team.

“In terms of public service, that’s important for building a partnership between these two communities,” Carls added. “We’re not only a fundraiser; we’re also [a] vehicle for education about the work of Partners in Health.”

The direct partnership has enhanced dialogue between DM and PIH in Rwanda and has allowed the DM executive team to best choose where exactly the fundraised money should go after the event – in this case, the unrestricted funds of PIH in Rwanda. In the past, funds have gone to PIH’s HIV/AIDS program.

Money in an organization’s unrestricted funds can be used in whatever way the organization sees fit. For PIH in Rwanda, their unrestricted funds allow them to adapt to emergencies and fund new initiatives that haven’t been put into the annual budget.

“We contacted PIH, and we talked through with them all the ‘whys’ of DM, so we better understood where our money was going [and] why our money was going there,” Knapp said. “[W]e could then relay that [information] onto our dorm captains and dancers and be confident that this is what we want to support and that this is what the Stanford community should support.”

DM 2015 will take place on Saturday, Feb. 7 to Sunday, Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. to 11 a.m., and students interested in participating can register for the event online.


Contact Rebecca Aydin at raydin ‘at’

Rebecca Aydin, a writer for the University/Local beat and a senior hailing from NYC, is pursuing a major in English and a minor in Psychology. She has written for the Chicago Tribune and Worldcrunch, a digital news magazine based in Paris. On campus, she is the editor-in-chief of MINT style and culture magazine. This is her fourth year writing for The Stanford Daily. Contact her at raydin ‘at’

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