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The Power of Friendship: The Money Festival 2021

By Cristina Ionita -If there is anything that this year has taught me, it’s that you are never ready for what’s about to come, so you might as well start going for what you want now...

By Cristina Ionita

If there is anything that this year has taught me, it’s that you are never ready for what’s about to come, so you might as well start going for what you want now. 

I have a little story to tell you. It all started with two young ladies deciding they wanted to change the world. Katherine Hasegawa-Perez and I met in our first year at ARU. Saying ‘Hi.’ in the hallway or having lunch with common friends was the closest we got. Little did we know that in the following year we would become like sisters. We found each other at a society event and started talking about sustainability and money. The event finished and we were still talking, enthusiastic to have found someone who shared our drive, goals and dreams to make this world a better place than we found it. You know that feeling when you feel like you have found your ‘person’ as Cristina Yang says? Well, Katherine is my person. 

A week later we met in the Science building and Katherine shared her mission with me – to raise awareness of what is happening in her home country (Venezuela). Venezuela has been fighting hyperinflation for almost a decade and many people live on the edge of poverty. To show how extreme and difficult the situation is in her country, Katherine designed a money-dress. Yes, you’ve read that right. It’s an actual dress made out of money. Here is the proof, if you don’t believe me:

Katherine modelling her money dress creation

I was simply mesmerised by her story. Her passion, her kindness, her ambition. Just by being with her, I felt powerful and ready to take on the world. I made a promise to her, that I would do everything in my power to help her so that together we can change the world. 

We set up the Latin-American Society together and we decided to set a Guinness World Record at university. Our goal was to fold ten-thousand origami birds out of Venezuelan bolivares (the national currency of Venezuela). 

In the beginning, it was just the two of us and a dream – Money Origami 4 Education. But slowly we found people; students and teachers at ARU believing in our dream and supporting us to turn it into reality. Elina Ramona (3rd-year International Business Management), Cornelia Scarlat (1st-year Animation and Illustration, Abi Dolan (SU Coordinator), Nicola Faulkner (from the Student Experience), and Daniel Bergen (Deputy Dean) are just some of many names worth mentioning. These people supported and challenged us. After each meeting, we would tick two or three problems off of our list but have to worry about 6at least six more which came up. I’m not going to lie, it was exhausting, but I loved every second of it. 

We got in touch with the Guinness World Record team and started planning the huge event. We could already see it: hundreds of students from ARU folding thousands of origami birds on campus, food trucks in the courtyard, cameras running around trying to capture as many shots as possible, music coming through large speakers… and then COVID-19 hit the UK in March. 

And we lost everything. 

I had to travel back to Romania and Katherine needed to start working on her dissertation. Months went by and we didn’t know what to do. 

Fast forward to July, Katherine and I gave it another try. We had a brainstorming session and created The Money Festival 2020 – a 6 week online festival about financial literacy, activism, wealth and sustainability. We decided to start the event in September, and go all the way to December. 

But we were alone in this, again. 

So we started reaching out to the people who believed in us, to tell them we’re not giving up. Zoom calls, email exchanges, redesigning materials. Everything happened really fast, but then we realised that we couldn’t do it by ourselves. We lost the initial team and started looking again for students who shared our desire and drive to make a difference. Lucky for us, we found them among my colleagues. Tatyana, Vittoria, Eve and Anousheh – these amazing people have dedicated the past four months to this project and thanks to them The Money Festival 2020 is finally happening. But in 2021. 

Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and the limited amount of time we had to prepare the event – we are all studying full-time and some of us also work, we redesigned the event to 4 online seminars, and scheduled the event for January – February 2021. 

The Money Festival 2020 is not just an event, it’s our dream, our hope to help students gain financial knowledge that will enable them to make better decisions for themselves and for our planet. 

Among the event guest speakers there will be teachers who, during our studies, became our friends, including Professor Imko Meyenburg and Professor Beatriz Acevedo. We will also bring professionals with experience in different fields and ARU Alumnis who dedicated their time to study global issues.

The event will take place on a weekly basis to accommodate student studies and to offer space for people to reflect on the matters discussed. The event will be delivered using Microsoft Teams and will last approximately 45 minutes. If you can spend one hour watching a show on Netflix, why not dedicate one for learning things that expand your perspective on money, sustainability and activism?

If this sounds like something that you might be interested in, please follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook so you won’t miss our sign-up link! 

Image: StuPendisdik on Imgur

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