Coat Drive Eases Winter's Sting

By 
Darry Madden
December 11, 2012

Student Wambura Mitaru arrived at Berklee from Kenya on December 31, 2010. Anyone who was here at that time will probably tell their grandchildren stories about what a ferocious winter it was. But for Mitaru, it was twice as bad. She’d never seen snow, nevermind freezing temperatures and blizzards. Not only did she not have any winter gear, she didn’t even understand how to dress for the climate.

She had a friend studying at Emerson who’d returned to Kenya, leaving all of her winter coats and mittens behind. That friend told Mitaru where to find this stash.

“It was like gold,” said Mitaru.

Later, at meetings of the African Club at Berklee, Mitaru noticed that “it was like a therapy session to talk about the cold.”

That’s when inspiration for the Berklee Winter Closet struck. She would collect used coats, mittens, hats, and scarves to donate to students—particularly international students from warm weather climates—for free. Donations were collected all summer at the Student Activities Center. When student activities coordinator Kevin Gin called Mitaru into his office to see the pile, she burst into tears.

The clothes were donated to students in need on November 26. It was, says Mitaru, “the best day ever.”

“People from places I’d never heard of before came saying ‘All I have is a sweatshirt!’” said Mitaru.

Gin reports that over 200 items were collected from students, faculty, and staff including winter jackets, sweaters, rain coats, gloves, hats, and scarves. More than 75 students were served from countries including Brazil, Russia, Spain, Canada, Israel, Chili, China, United Kingdom, Argentina, South Africa, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Canada, Ukraine, Colombia, Japan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Jamaica, Australia, and the U.S.

The Closet will be open again next year, to distribute winter gear for students arriving for the spring semester. For information or to stay updated, follow the Berklee Winter Closet on Facebook, or email berkleecloset@gmail.com.