Magnolia High Rides for Change

Written by Team Mentor Kamrie Yeung

KAMRIE

On Saturday, November 23, 2013, six students from Magnolia High School left the comfort of their beds and stepped into their backyards – America’s backyard. Magnolia High School’s NGC team had organized a Ride for Change event to ride their bikes around their local park to pass around “goody bags” for the homeless in the park. These bags, carefully arranged by the team, contained water, granola bars, and socks. These were small offerings, but like coals in the snow, a precious gift. Team leader Ailene Ortiz recounts that in this deceptively simple act, they had learned that “a small token of care can have such impact on someone’s life”.  They became more aware that “poverty is happening in our own backyards, and we have the power to make a change”.

People in developed countries are often preoccupied (although sometimes rightly so) with what is going on in other countries and what is unjust in other societies that they overlook what is happening in their own backyard. Sometimes, in the midst of learning about and helping distant issues, we must remember that although America as a country is thriving, there are bubbles of poverty within itself. These are often overlooked, not receiving nearly as much care and attention as the “Red Cross” areas, and yet needing just as much. Magnolia High team’s event was sustainable, thoughtful, and enjoyable, which is what NGC, I believe, strives for our students.

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Combating Extreme Poverty: A Poor Inconvenience

Post contributed by Team Mentor Ashely Suarez 

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Why it’s an issue:

issue-poverty-hunger

NGC’s logo for Extreme Hunger & Poverty

As part of the United Nation’s first Millennium Development Goals, extreme poverty is one of the world’s greatest problems, generating a multiplicity of other issues that further complicate the daily lives of individuals and families. According to the United Nations, it robs them of their basic human needs such as food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education, and information. It is characterized by living on less than $2 a day and, for many people, this may sound farfetched and uncommon, but the sad truth is that half the planet lives with these conditions. Extreme poverty does not solely refer to income but to access to services as well. While it is extremely important to help ease some of the stemming issues of poverty such as hunger, we must come up with a way to combat the deep-rooted problem. It may seem almost impossible to eradicate extreme poverty, but with the help of optimistic NGC teams around the country and global organizations such as The Shelter of Friendship and A Ban Against Neglect, we can help make those basic human needs more accessible.

Fundraising:

NGC teams can come up with various creative ideas on how to fundraise for their global projects. By hosting events such as Poetry Nights where students pay a small fee for entrance and spend the evening listening to great poetry and music, teams can easily raise more than $200. Rather than simply asking for donations, although that can also work, it would be more effective to communicate where the funds are going by having an event and spending some time explaining the project or hosting activities such as Awareness Weeks where they dedicate the week to community education and fundraising. It can often be difficult to come up with different ways to fundraise, but with a little inspiration and a lot of motivation, teams can virtually do anything to help raise money for their projects. When in doubt, hold a bake sale: no one can deny a delicious cookie to help those in need of shelter.

Advocacy:

Our generation is one of the most passionate and reformist groups; we use our voices to bring light to issues that are important to each of us. Extreme poverty is one of those issues, and with their voices and actions, NGC teams can advocate for it by choosing a global project that helps to combat it. Advocacy can be done on a local and global scale, reaching out to community partners and businesses for support as well as senators and even the president. Partnering with local businesses or reaching out to state senators can make a huge difference on the impact that the team has on the community. This in turn will allow the team’s efforts to be seen by people across the country. Even if teams choose to keep things local, it still helps to reach out to others to help advocate for extreme poverty.

Community Education:

One of the biggest problems that is hindering progression in combating issues such as extreme poverty is a lack of knowledge. When people are unaware about what is going on around the globe, these issues are buried and continue to impede the lives of many people. NGC teams can use their voices and creative minds to help educate their schools and local communities about extreme poverty and its prevalence in society. By hosting documentary nights featuring films relevant to their global project or issue, teams can educate others on the importance of helping to end extreme poverty. Also, explaining the different problems that arise from poverty such as a lack of access to healthcare or education can further bring awareness to the topic. Once that is done, NGC teams can use their resources and ideas to work together with others to help end poverty through their global partner.

Impact:

Extreme poverty is a widespread issue that has received attention but has yet to be eradicated. Through the F.A.C.E. goals, NGC teams can make ending it that much easier. Although it may seem that a group of high school students can only do so much, their efforts will go a long way.

The global partnership that the team supports will work to help make their efforts worthwhile and noticed. We are helping real people with real lives; we are making a difference. And while extreme poverty will not disappear in a day, our teams will be the drop in the water that causes a wave of progression.

Compassion: Building A Path Towards A Better Future

The following post was written by New Global Citizens Director of Programs Lisa Glenn
Lisa with her class in South Africa

Lisa with her class in South Africa

The world needs more compassion.
After graduating college, I found myself in Johannesburg, South Africa, serving out of a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship at University of the Witwatersrand.
For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people unlike me in every imaginable way–a big departure from my small town Southern upbringing. Johannesburg is a city of roughly 5 million people, and like the rest of South Africa, has eleven official languages and multitudes of ethnic and religious groups. As a newly minted college graduate, I was definitely in a world I didn’t understand.
It was easy to become disoriented, homesick, or jaded by the bustling crowds and unimaginable poverty. But in this confusing new place, I was lucky to find a friend. Elizabeth was a middle-aged teacher from Botswana also studying education with me at Wits. She was also unlike me in many ways. She had grown up in Africa in a much more impoverished situation than myself. She spoke Setswana, English, and some Afrikaans. We had very little in common from a first encounter. But on one campus bus ride home from class, we found our common ground.
“Eish, I’m so homesick!” Elizabeth said to me. “It is so hard for me to leave my family and to be so far away. But who am I to tell you? Your family is even further away than mine! Shame! How are you doing with all this change?”
From then on, we spent rides home and evenings studying and giggling like elementary schoolers.
 
Lisa with friends in Mozambique

Lisa with friends in Mozambique

Elizabeth’s friendship and compassion, so unexpected, opened me up to see the similarities between my world and the new world that I had walked into. Through such an unexpected friendship, I was able to see that my hopes and fears weren’t that unlike those of others across the world. Elizabeth wanted to finish her degree, return to her family (she had two adorable kids), and make the world a little better as a teacher. My friendship with Elizabeth taught me that compassion shown to another human can open up doors you might never imagine. 

 
Being a humanitarian isn’t about saving the world or doing all the right things. It’s about being a human who is fundamentally “for” other humans. It’s believing that we are more defined by our similarities than our differences, and that when we find those similarities, we can see each other as partners and advocates instead of adversaries or competitors.
Compassion enables us to work toward a better future for all.  

Lisa right of Nelson Mandela stature

Lisa right of Nelson Mandela stature

 
Elizabeth and I were able to live out our compassion for each other by being around when the other was homesick. Elizabeth would make me traditional Motswana food while I edited her writing (English was one of several languages for her). We would make sure to meet each other at the bus. Years after leaving South Africa, I am still struck by Elizabeth’s compassion. She now works as the Head of School at a rural school in Botswana which has been hit hard by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Many of her students are orphans, many arrive without proper nutrition, and few have not been affected in some way by this terrible disease. Elizabeth lives out her days as a true humanitarian by offering compassion through the act of education to children who desperately need someone to be “for” them. 
 
Humanitarianism is ubuntu. I am because you are because we are. 
Comment to share your voice on the importance on compassion and share the post via social media with the world!