If you are a regular reader of this blog you will be aware that where I live in Port Talbot we have been creating a community garden, in memory of lives lost at the nearby steel works. Yesterday we were joined for an hour by several members of Swansea’s rugby team, the Ospreys, to shift several tons of topsoil, in order that planting could finally begin. As the work proceeded, the subject of youth volunteering came up, and how – despite the negative press that young people so often get – there are many around the country who are doing a fantastic job of supporting their local communities.
And as if further evidence was needed that youth volunteering is alive and well, here in this part of the UK, I read today about an excellent initiative organised in North Wales, over Easter, by Student Volunteering Bangor (SVB) – part of Bangor University Students’ Union. Eighteen students from the University, joined by two from Aberystwyth University, spent a week living and working at the Felin Uchaf social enterprise near Aberdaron, on the Lleyn Peninsula, where they helped erect a new timber-framed building, destined to house a library, archive and visitor centre. They also participated in land-management tasks such as willow coppicing, dry stone walling and planting, as well as traditional cooking.
For the last nine years the Felin Uchaf charity has been renovating a traditional Welsh farmhouse and its surrounding lands into a community enterprise and visitor centre, where they explore and promote green business initiatives and rural enterprises, and other ways of living in harmony with the environment.
This was the first such event organised by SVB, which was encouraged by the warm welcome the volunteers received at Felin Uchaf, and the team-working experience that the project gave the students, who came from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. It’s always great to hear such examples of how young people are helping to create a harmonious and sustainable future for society, and especially here in Wales. Well done, SVB!
And of course… many thanks to the Ospreys team members for their hard work at the garden, yesterday, despite the slightly adverse weather!
A new Community Award Scheme has just been launched in Bedfordshire, UK, to recognise the contributions to local communities by young people. Run by Biggleswade Sandy Lions, it aims to honour community or environmental work carried out by groups of youngsters between the ages of 9 and 20, over a weekend or longer – either as a standalone project, or as part of an ongoing scheme. Winning groups will receive a certificate and £100 to be spent as they choose.
The Lions want to encourage youth involvement, as they believe that not only will it benefit the community but it will also be character-building for the participants. This is exactly what we have been saying, at the Chreda Foundation – where we will also be launching a prize award scheme in a few months’ time. However, our scheme will be directed at individual young people.
To nominate a project for the Lions to consider, call Roger Wolburn on 01462 814967 or Judith Hagger on 0845 833 9749, and just tell them what will be done, when and where: they will then arrange to come and check it out.
The Lions are part of Lions Clubs International, a volunteer organisation consisting of 1.35 million men and women of all ages (and from all walks of life) in over 200 countries, who devote their time to serving less fortunate people locally and world-wide.
Around the globe lights have started going out, to mark Earth Hour, and the following PRESS RELEASE was recently issued, showing just how much the young people of the world have become involved in this crucial event.
World’s Youth Are Inspiring People To Save The Planet
Through Earth Hour
Kids, Teenagers and Young Adults Lead the Way to a Sustainable Future
MARCH 18 2013, SINGAPORE: “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today,” said Malcolm X. No statement better exemplifies the actions of the kids, teenagers and young adults across the globe who are inspiring their communities to take part in Earth Hour in 2013. Their extraordinary stories of courage and determination are inspiring others to follow the lead of these young Earth Hour champions who are rallying their communities to go beyond the hour for Earth Hour on March 23 at 8:30PM.
“It makes so much sense that the young are leading the way towards a sustainable future. From giving up chocolates for a week to planting a million trees in a day, the youth remind us that there is no effort too small and that everyone can do something can to help save the planet,” said Andy Ridley, CEO and Co-Founder of Earth Hour.
No one is too young to participate in Earth Hour, but this year two five year olds are inspiring people to save the planet that they will inherit, making them the youngest Earth Hour heroes yet. In Greece, five-year-old Athenian Panagiotis Kalkavouras said he would stop eating chocolates for a week if 50 people green their balconies for his ‘I Will If You Will’ challenge http://goo.gl/Nto1M. In Thailand, Earth Hour has inspired a five-year-old girl, Leelou, to create a short storybook called “Earth Hour” narrated by Leelou and her Dad http://youtu.be/RduCzou6bzk
Not only are preschoolers joining, for the third year running, preschool TV sensation Pocoyo is Earth Hour’s Global Kids Ambassador reaching kids through Pocoyo’s Ocean Cleanup Gamehttp://earthhour.org/pocoyo-2013. If 100,000 children go online and play the new Ocean Cleanup Game, Pocoyo and his friends have pledged to help collect over two tons of ocean debris.
In Ireland, Imogen Rabone, Project Co-ordinator of One Million Trees in One Day is also the organizer of Earth Hour in that country. Given the shared goal sustainability through more trees to off-set carbon emissions, Earth Hour and One Million Trees in One Day www.onemilliontreesinoneday.com will collaborate on planting a million young native trees in Ireland during the weekend of Earth Hour between 12 noon on the 22nd March and 12 noon on the 23rd March.
“I believe that many people doing small things can make a huge impact upon our environment for the better and I am amazed at the brilliant ideas at Earth Hour,” said Imogen Rabone.
American child prodigy and internationally published author, Adora Svitak is Earth Hour’s Youth Ambassador and is passionate about the critical role of the youth in securing a sustainable future. “When I think about the environment, I think first of young people. I think about my classmate, designated a county ‘earth hero’ for her grassroots work in school and in the community to plant trees, reduce waste, and raise awareness. I think of teens like Alec Loorz, founding Kids vs. Global Warming and the iMatter March. I think about Olivia Bouler, drawing birds to raise money to ‘save the Gulf,’ and the countless other peers whose work directly impacts the earth’s fragile climate in, exceptionally, a very positive way. I’ve often espoused what adults can learn from kids, and there’s a great deal to be learned from the behavior of this generation when it comes to our shared climate future.” said Adora Svitak who is also one of TED Talk’s top speakershttp://www.ted.com/talks/adora_svitak.html
In the UK, 15-year-old Andrew Ashton took it upon himself to convince his Head Teacher to allow him to present 15-minute assemblies to every year group of his 1600-strong secondary school to persuade them to sign up for Earth Hour. He even persuaded his mum to get her company to turn off their lights in their office block for Earth Hour.
Earth Hour’s hero in Swaziland is Nathi Mzileni who in 2011, when he was just 15 years old started Earth Hour in his country single-handed. Today he has garnered the support of his government, the media and key businesses to promote Earth Hour, providing an inspiration to all of us.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZoQWJpwzlk
“The determination of these young people to do something for the planet in the face of enormous obstacles is testament to their unwavering courage, the power of community and the clever use of social media,” said Andy Ridley, CEO and Co-Founder of Earth Hour.
In Libya, two determined teenagers made it happen in 2012. Mohammad Nattah had wanted to organize an Earth Hour event in 2011 but he was in the army fighting in the civil war against Gaddafi. After the war, Mohammad Nattah joined Muhammad Bugashata to make Earth Hour the first environmental movement to take place in Libya post–Gaddafi. In 2013, Earth Hour will not only happen in Tripoli and Benghazi but also in three other cities and maybe more.
In New Zealand, 17-year-old Rachel Cottam is the Earth Hour champion in her rural town of Lincoln near Christchurch – the city devastated by a strong earthquake two years ago. She continues to organize an Earth Hour events and this year she’s leading a team to organize acoustic concerts.
The youth are daring their fellow pupils, teachers and communities to save the planet through their schools. So far, students from preschools to universities in 16 countries/territories are organizing their own celebration of Earth Hour.
In China, Earth Hour advocacy starts really young! WWF-China created Green Week, the new Earth Hour tradition with a different environmental action every day. Over 400 kindergartens in China will hold a drawing contest where the estimated 150,000 students draw their interpretation of the seven chosen environmental actions.
In Spain, students from the International School in Barcelona pledged to plant 1000 fruit trees in a developing country if 1000 teachers give one class per month without using photocopies till the end of 2013. http://goo.gl/eTVwU
In Bali, Indonesia, Green School Bali Grade 8 students will go paperless for the rest of the school year if 1000 people will each plant a tree. http://goo.gl/imD8k
In Singapore, the National University of Singapore Students’ Union group ‘Students Against Violation of the Earth’ (SAVE) are planning a ‘Walking Movement’ on their Kent Ridge Campus on the week leading up to the day of Earth Hour where they will hold a free bike day (making bikes available for students to borrow) if 1,000 people pledge to walk for a day.
Earth Hour 2013 will take place at 8.30pm – 9.30pm on Saturday 23 March
To join the global community head to:
§ Earth Hour www.earthhour.org
§ Facebook www.facebook.com/earthhour
§ Twitter www.twitter.com/earthhour
§ YouTube www.YouTube.com/EarthHour
§ Google+ plus.google.com/+EarthHour
About Earth Hour
Earth Hour is a global environmental initiative in partnership with WWF. Individuals, businesses, governments and communities are invited to turn out their lights for one hour on Saturday March 23, 2013 at 8:30 PM to show their support for environmentally sustainable action. In 2013, Earth Hour’s I Will If You Will concept invites individuals and organisations to challenge others to an ongoing environmental commitment beyond the hour. Earth Hour began in one city in 2007 and by 2012 involved hundreds of millions of people in 152 countries across every continent, receiving reports as ‘the world’s largest campaign for the planet’.
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organisations, with almost five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
Prayer for Harmony
- In striving to recognize the primacy of Fire and Light. I feel kinship with my Zoroastrian brothers and sisters.
- In striving to obey the Ten Commandments, I feel kinship with my Jewish brothers and sisters.
- In striving to be kind to neighbour and the needy, I feel kinship with my Christian brothers and sisters.
- In striving to be compassionate to creatures great and small, I feel kinship with my Buddhist – Jaina brothers and sisters.
- In striving to surrender myself completely to God Almighty, I feel kinship with my Muslim brothers and sisters.
- In the recognition that wisdom flows from enlightened masters, I feel kinship with my Sikh brothers and sisters.
- In remembering that serving people should be the goal of religion, I feel kinship with my Bahai brothers and sisters.
- In my respect and reverence for Nature that sustains us, I feel kinship with my Native American brothers and sisters.
- In feeling that these and more are all paths to the same Divinity, I feel kinship with my Hindu brothers and sisters.
- In my love and laughter, joy and pain, I feel kinship with all my fellow humans.
- In my need for nourishment and instinct to live on, I feel kinship with all beings on the planet.
- In my spiritual ecstasy with this wondrous world, I feel kinship with the Cosmic Whole.
Dr. V. V. Raman
Today is World Religion Day – a celebration that is held annually around the globe on the third Sunday in January. And although this website is dedicated to generosity and philanthropy among the younger generation I felt that it would be appropriate to honour in today’s blog post the important contribution that religion makes to so many of our lives – young and old – even in these days of the growing trend towards “spiritual but not religious”.
As the World Religion Day website says, “The history of man’s cultures and civilizations is the history of his religions”, and “Mankind, which has stemmed from one origin, must now strive towards the reconciliation of that which has been split up.” The website reflects a movement that is taking place, to identify “the common denominators underlying all religions” and to bring about “interfaith understanding and harmony”. I personally applaud such an aim.
Here at the Chreda Foundation our roots are in the Christian faith, but we recognise that we do not have a monopoly on the truth and we wish to encourage spirituality in our young people, regardless of their cultural or religious background. Our forthcoming Chreda Prize will reflect that, and we will be looking for some evidence of spiritual motivation behind the philanthropic community work that we seek to reward… though not necessarily membership of a specific religion. So I hope you will join me today in celebrating the good in all religions and the unity of Creation.
My Boxing Day blog post was about a poll conducted by the teen-centric organisation Do Something, and this took my mind back to the Do Something Awards made earlier in 2012. Although the 12 young world-changing finalists and semi-finalists were all from the North American continent they were so amazing that I thought it would be worthwhile featuring them and their charitable programmes in today’s post.
WINNER of the award was Katia Gomez, 24 (San Leandro, CA).
Katia grew up in a single parent home where her mother always found time and money for Katia’s education. While on a volunteer trip to Honduras, the third poorest country in Latin America, Katia saw the effects of a young population in extreme poverty, where almost half of the population is 16 years and younger and over half of all Hondurans survive on only $2 a day. Katia took her own passion for education and created Educate2Envision to provide education for youth of Honduras, and show the opportunities that education can bring. Educate2Envision is working in three remote communities in Honduras where she has brought secondary education to over 450 students.
The other FINALISTS were:
Manyang Reath Kher, 23 (Richmond, VA).
Manyang’s earliest memories are of war, dead bodies, and of his own uncle trying to save his life. At age 3 Manyang became a refugee of the Sudanese civil war. He is one of The Lost Boys, a group of 20,000 boys who were displaced and orphaned. Manyang’s father was one of the two-and-a-half million people killed and he was separated from his mother and sister. For 13 years he lived in refugee camps along the Sudanese and Ethiopian border, where homelessness, hunger, fear, and abuse were part of his everyday life. At age 17 Manyang was brought to America where he learned English and eventually enrolled in college. He started Humanity Helping Sudan to improve the lives of Sudanese refugees and attempt to battle the problems of an entire displaced population. Humanity Helping Sudan runs on-the-ground programmes at refugee camps where they provide fishing nets, agricultural programmes, and community gardens, reaching 40,000 displaced people.
Meg Bourne, 22 (Joplin, MO).
At age 19, Meg created Art Feeds to promote creative healing and encourage development in children who were disabled or had experienced trauma. On May 22nd of 2011 Meg’s life changed forever, when at 5:41 pm one of the largest tornadoes in America’s history ripped through Meg’s hometown of Joplin, Missouri. The EF-4 tornado left a six-mile path of devastation with 162 people dead and 7,500 homes destroyed. Two children from Meg’s art classes were killed and Meg lost her own home, as well as the Art Feeds van from where she worked. The Art Feeds programmes were needed in Joplin more than ever before and Meg has now worked with over 800 volunteers and 8,000 children.
Danny Mendoza, 23 (Chino, CA).
While in college, Danny learned that his 9 year old cousin, Roger, was living in a car. After lots of manoeuvring Danny helped him move from the Honda to a house, but was deeply disturbed by the little control Roger had over his own situation. Danny took action and created Together We Rise, a youth led organization dedicated to running programmes that not only bring a sense of normalcy and stability to children in foster care, but also allow foster children to make their own choices. Through programmes like music lessons, mentoring, sports and athletics, resume building, and job-readiness, Together We Rise provides the resources for foster kids to prepare for success at age 18 when they are kicked out of the foster care system, and left to fend for themselves. Danny and Together We Rise have helped reach 3,000 foster care youth through these programmes, providing a better opportunity for long-term success.
Seth Maxwell, 24 (Los Angeles, CA).
Seth was a 19-year-old acting student in Los Angeles when a brief meeting with a friend who’d just returned from Africa changed the course of his life forever. Upon learning that almost one billion people lack access to clean water and that water-borne illnesses account for more than 80% of all global disease, he gave up acting to focus on water education. The Thirst Project is a movement of young people who are raising awareness of and bringing solutions to the global water crisis. Combining outreach and water well implementation, The Thirst Project has completed 788 freshwater development projects across the globe and reached 250,000 American students with its eye-opening educational programmes.
And the SEMI-FINALISTS were:
Aime Sider, 25 (Kitchener, Ontario).
Amie was born in a remote fishing village in rural Guatemala to a mother of 18 children who turned to a life of drugs, crime, and prostitution in order to survive. At 6 months, Amie was saved from a life of extreme poverty when she was adopted by a Canadian family. Overwhelmed with her own luck, Amie started Nationwares, to provide employment opportunities to populations who had previously been deemed unemployable because of physical or mental disabilities, HIV/AIDS, and extreme poverty. Amie not only provides opportunities to artisans and craftsmen, but ensures they use local resources to create sustainable products. Nationwares currently has operations in 10 countries and employs over 850 local artisans, many of whom were previously social outcasts and have now become respected leaders in their communities.
Sasha Fisher, 24 (New York, NY).
In 2008 Sasha was in South Sudan helping to build a specialized secondary school for girls, when she witnessed refugees repatriated from refugee camps. She was frustrated with aid-organizations creating a situation of dependency rather than focusing on self-sustaining community improvement. Sasha started Spark MicroGrants to pioneer a new approach to aid through proactive community organizing and granting. Spark MicroGrants works with and in impoverished rural villages to assist community members in the design, implementation and management of their own social impact projects such as schools and water wells. In only a year and a half, Spark MicroGrants has partnered with 21 communities in Rwanda and Uganda impacting over 11,000 people.
Mark Arnoldy, 25 (South Boston, MA).
While visiting Nepal, Mark had a near death experience due to his severe peanut allergy. This gave him a personal look into a common situation for all too many Nepali people who lack sufficient healthcare. Mark joined Nyaya Health with the goal of providing adequate healthcare to the people of far-west Nepal. Nyaya Health partnered with the Nepali government and community and hire, train, and support an all-Nepali hospital and health centre staff to create a new standard of health care delivery in Nepal through innovative tools of transparency. Nyaya has treated over 85,000 patients to date through their 25 bed hospital, while employing 125 local Nepali people.
Jaclyn Murphy, 17 (Hopewell Jct, NY).
Jaclyn was an active lacrosse-loving 9-year-old when she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. During intensive treatment for her tumour, Jaclyn was exhausted, and she missed playing lacrosse and her connection with her team. Her coach contacted the Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse Team, asking them to mail Jaclyn a package to brighten her day. The team not only sent Jaclyn a video and package, but also started texting with her during her long days of treatment. The team began dedicating their games to Jaclyn, which lead to their first NCAA championship in 64 years. Jaclyn went on to create Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, with the goal of pairing collegiate sports teams with children who have brain tumours. Friends of Jaclyn has paired 300 children with teams and has a waiting list over 1,000 teams waiting to be paired with a child.
Tyree Dumas, 23 (Philadelphia, PA).
Growing up in a low-income at-risk community in Philadelphia, Tyree saw most of his peers incarcerated or killed at a young age. Tyree was at risk of becoming a statistic as well when he dropped out of high school in 11th grade because he was bored, wasn’t being challenged, and felt he was capable of so much more beyond school. Tyree started the Y-NOT (Youth Now On Top) Foundation to teach dance classes to kids to keep them safe and off the streets. This grew into the DollarBoyz Dance Crew (and its DollarBoyz Academy Learning Center), creating a new type of local celebrity for other young people to aspire to and admire. Tyree is taking young kids off the streets and helping them realize the importance of using their talents to make a difference in their communities. With the support of local officials, Tyree created a programme where at risk youth continue their education while receiving mentoring and job-training. Tyree has worked with over 7,000 young people from Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware.
Scott Warren, 25 (Boston, MA).
Scott was a 10th grader living in Kenya when he witnessed lines of hundreds of people waiting to vote, participating in the democratic system for the country’s first democratic elections. Scott wanted to bring back this desire to participate and be involved in the government to the US, where two-thirds of the population can’t name the three branches of the US government. Scott created Generation Citizen to make civics the most interesting part of a child’s school day by focusing on action, and sharing ideas to help their own community’s most pressing problems. Generation Citizen currently works in Boston, Providence, and New York City working with 3,750 students per year.
Ryland King, 22 (Goleta, CA).
Growing up, Ryland spent most of his time outdoors, passionate about the environment. As he matured he saw natural sanctuaries threatened by pollution and over-development. Ryland was the first in his family to enrol in college, and determined to make the most of this opportunity he founded Environmental Education for the Next Generation (EENG). EENG links teams of college student-instructors with 1st and 2nd grade classrooms for weekly activities, experiments and discussions that provide real world examples of how to help the environment now. EENG not only provides positive role models but also provides the environmental education that budget cuts often eliminate. In the past year, EENG programmes were in 95 classrooms working with over 2,300 students.
World-changers like these – wherever they may come from – are great role models for our own young people, who I hope will be inspired to produce similar outcomes. With our Chreda Prize planned for the end of this year, we (the Chreda Foundation) look forward to seeing lots more of this kind of thing, particularly here in the UK.