- Twitch streamer Maya Higa raised over $500,000 to fund her animal sanctuary.
- Over 21-hours, thousands of viewers bid on items like a golden shovel and T-Pain’s Gucci slippers.
- Over the past three years, streamers have raised over $150 million for charity.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
On Wednesday night, Twitch streamer Maya Higa raised $573,000 in an online auction to start her own animal conservation sanctuary.
The 22-year-old, who has been streaming on the video platform for the past two years, shattered expectations for funds raised by auctioning off items during the 21-hour stream, from T-Pain’s Gucci loafers to a golden shovel.
“All I want in my life is to be a force in conservation,” Higa told Insider. “I constantly say on my Twitch stream that Twitch is an untapped reservoir for doing good.”
Dubbed the ‘bird girl’ by her fans, Higa says she’s always been interested in environmental conservation
Higa first gained fame in April 2019 when a video of her showing off her bird, a juvenile red-tailed hawk, went viral. The clip quickly spread on Reddit, pulling in half a million views in a matter of months.
Dubbed the “bird girl” by her new fan base, Higa has transitioned that brief moment of viral fame into a full career and 390,000 Twitch followers. Moving to Texas to live in a house with other streamers and her boyfriend Mizkif, Higa continued to stream, reacting to clips online and hanging out with the other creators.
Since Higa says conservation and helping spread environmental awareness is her ultimate end goal, behind the scenes she had been working to help set up a non-profit foundation, which can now become a reality. Named Alveus, the center will start online as a virtual education center. With the funds raised by the stream, it will be able to open a physical sanctuary in Texas and create online conservation programs, hosting content creators that help spread the message.
"In 2017, I decided that my life purpose was to witness and be a part of the comeback of at least five species that I care about," Higa told Insider. "I believe that the more people learn about how much our natural world is suffering, the more they will do to come together to conserve it."
Other famous streamers helped Higa raise the funds for her sanctuary, including singer-songwriter T-Pain
Originally, Higa intended for the auction to just be paintings she's created. As the word got out, other streamers started to offer up their belongings to raise money.
Former Overwatch pro player Félix Lengyel, known online as xQc, had his former team's Luminosity jersey sold for $12,500. A golden shovel signed by streamer Chance Morris or Sodapoppin, was bought (by Mizkif after the previous buyer pulled out) for $31,000. T-Pain, the autotune crooner who also streams on Twitch, donated his Gucci loafers, overnight shipping them directly to Texas.
The most expensive purchase of the night went to streamer Ludwig, who spent $53,000 to spend an hour with popular gaming streamer Michael Grzesiek, who goes by Shroud on Twitch.
Anyone who gave over $100 received a metal leaf that would be added to a donor tree at the Alveus conservatory. Higa only expected a maximum of 300 of these leaves but by the end of the stream, had 2,500.
Before the stream, as a joke, Higa said that she would shave her head if she reached $500,000 because, according to her, "I was certain we would not hit that goal on the stream." After that goal was smashed, Higa stayed true to her word and buzzed off her locks for the cause.
Twitch has become a popular platform to raise money for charity
Using Twitch to raise money for charity has become more popular with content creators over the past few years.
In 2018, over $20 million was raised by streamers for charity, with another $55 million being raised in 2019 and $83 million in 2020. St. Jude's Children Hospital has even started to mobilize content creators to raise money for sick children, creating the Play Live initiative to teach streamers how to raise money for their cause.
Higa has hosted charity streams before as well. In May of 2019, she hosted a birthday charity stream for the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition, which gives resources to homeless families in the South San Luis Obispo County area, raising $32,000 with over 700 donors.
"The most powerful tool in Twitch as a platform for me is being able to build and unite a community for doing good," Higa said. "I am constantly amazed by the generosity of my community and the support I get from Twitch streamers around me."
Higa is optimistic about the future of Alveus, telling Insider that she hopes "Alveus can unite millions of viewers across media platforms, demographics, and nations for our natural world."