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Nerdfighters Work For Good In D.C. Area

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A group of D.C. area Nerdfighters are gathered together in the basement of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in Washington, D.C.
Markette Smith
A group of D.C. area Nerdfighters are gathered together in the basement of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in Washington, D.C.

In the basement of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in the District, the D.C. area Nerdfighters are celebrating their first big dance. Julia Lopez, a 20-year-old student at the University of Maryland, is taking tickets at the door.

"This event today is a fandom prom, so that's why you saw people walking in today in costumes," she explains.

The dimly lit empty book room has been transformed into a ballroom, full of dozens of teenagers and young adults. Some are wearing masks, others capes.

"I'm wearing a T-shirt that has Pokemon on it," says Luis Mazariegos, a 23-year-old recent graduate and a self-proclaimed Nerdfighter. "I didn't go to real prom, so this is my substitute, I guess."

And he's not alone. A lot of the attendants say they didn't go to their real proms and never seemed to fit in at school. But this event is not only about reclaiming the past. It's about creating a future for people in need.

"Nerdfighters is a group of people that come together to try to make the world a better place, and decrease world suck," says Diffy Stabbe, a 16-year-old Nerdfighter from Potomac, Md.

"What we do is we give, we donate, we lend, we just try to do anything we can to help those in need and just make everything better," says Stabbe.

The group gives through a website called Kiva.org. It allows individuals to crowd source their money -- as little as $25 -- and give micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Diffy's last loan was to a family-owned business in Brazil. "They were trying to restock their grocery mart, and they were struggling, and I thought that just giving them $25 would go a long way," says Stabbe.

Julia, the girl who was taking tickets at the door, contributed $25 toward a $950 loan request from a woman shopkeeper in Togo. "So right now I think her loan is 55 percent full, so she doesn't get the full loan until it's 100 percent."

And there are about a thousand Nerdfighters in the D.C. area who are all doing the same thing.

Sarah Russo, a 34-year old Nerdfighter from Howard County, says that in their effort to decrease what they call "world suck," the members of this close-knit community have also found a place where they belong.

"I never had anybody who said it was OK to be smart, and because of the Internet and people being able to connect to each other and share ideas, communities like this can really flourish, I think," says Russo.

The next big Nerdfighter event is the Project for Awesome in December where they will create a series of YouTube videos to advocate for their favorite charities.

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