December 30, 2008

Making Social Change A Reality: A New Year's Resolution

As the year ends and the New Year approaches, I start to think about my New Year’s resolution from last year (exercise more, take time to read). I realized that if I set my mind to something, I generally do it.


I accomplished both of my New Year’s resolutions from last year, so for this year, I decided to include a new one that I know I can accomplish…volunteer!


Moving to a new city and having a new job has given me the opportunity to spend some free time volunteering with different organizations. It wasn’t hard and the reward is meeting new people, learning a new place and helping to raise awareness for issues that are important to me.


The other great thing I realized about volunteering is how contagious it is. I mentioned to some friends about some of the volunteering efforts I was apart of, and immediately they were interested in participating too. I soon found out that I could afford to give some more time to other organizations looking for volunteers.


So one thing I am going to continue to do is volunteer in the coming New Year, with this organization and others because it is important to me and the success of the organization. Often times organizations just need a little support to get going, and if it happens to be in your area of expertise, than even better.


So I ask you this, how will you make social change a reality in the coming year?



Written by Matthew Reid, volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. A native New Yorker, Matthew now lives in Boston and works for a math curriculum development company.

December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

December 23, 2008

'Tis the Season to Reflect, Share, and Listen

We are a few days away from Christmas and are undoubtedly being reminded about the joys of giving.

But what if you don't have much to give?


What if this year money has been more than tight—it has been nearly non existent? What if emotionally you have been so drained that most days you would like to just sit home and cry? What if the merriment of the season leaves you feeling disillusioned and excluded?


Then don't give.


We are told it is better to give than to receive and now is the time to put aside all selfishness and give to everyone you love and to the less fortunate. But it isn't that easy and for many people it never has been. Poverty doesn't take a holiday. The recession didn't go away on vacation. We are still struggling.


Instead, reflect and open up.


Openness is a gift in and of itself. It takes a great deal of our personal strength to open up to others and to listen to others. Too many of us are raised to value the suppression of negative emotions—to be happy all the time and always moving forward never addressing what is eating us up.


And we spend so much time just trying to get by that we don't allow ourselves to reflect on what is wrong and what needs to be changed.


So during this time of giving, let the guard down, reflect, share and listen. Reflect with your family about what this year has been like; listen to the stories of loved ones and those in need; talk about the possibilities for the next year. When we reflect, share, and listen we validate ourselves, each other, and create a stronger community—a goal worth striving for all year round.


This post was written by Allison Jones, a development and communications professional in New York City and volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. She is a writer, advocate, and educator focusing on empowering young people to change the world. Please leave your comments or email ajlovesya [at] gmail.com.

December 18, 2008

Communities in Swaziland in Dire Need of Supplies

There is a unique opportunity to make a difference and alleviate poverty all the way over in Swaziland (Southern Africa). Many children and families live in extreme poverty.


Parents of many children living in poverty have died from AIDS and are being looked after by their old grandmothers far away from any cities or electricity. These grandmothers mostly have no income but are solely responsible for feeding and educating the children.


Cabrini Ministries has done a great job providing help to many of these families over in Swaziland. YOU too can help these poor children and families have a better life by donating supplies to help them meet life's basic needs.


Supplies Needed
Clothing
Medical

Drop Off Location
Supplies will be shipped to Cabrini Ministries the first week of January. They can be dropped off at The Hemingway African Gallery at the Manhattan Arts and Antique Center. The address is 1050 Second Avenue, Gallery 96 & 97, New York, NY 10022. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. http://www.hemingwaygallery.com.

Contact
If you need assistance as to what supplies are needed, please contact Michel Joffe at micheljoffe@gmail.com. To speak with someone at the Gallery about dropping off supplies, call Brian Gaisford at 212-838-3650.


"Cabrini Mission Foundation funding supports programs and institutions that provide healthcare, education, and social services for women, children, immigrants, and the elderly. While each Cabrini entity provides unique services, all express an enduring commitment to helping the disadvantaged, in a society that is not always welcoming, and where needs are not always met." To learn more, visit www.cabrinifoundation.org/About/index.html.

December 17, 2008

Drive For The Stuy: A Benefit Concert and Silent Auction

On December 19th, the Arise Collective in partnership with the Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger (BSCAH) will host a food and clothing drive in the form of an evening concert featuring local musicians and artists, and a silent auction for its constituents that struggle to meet basic life needs.


The Arise Collective is a union of progressive educators, organizers, and activists in the community of Bed Stuy working towards grassroots community development through the cultivation of local arts. If you are interested in helping with this event or to give donations, email the Director of Special Projects at arisecollective@gmail.com.


Purpose of Drive For The Stuy
To gain the necessities of food and clothing for members of our community who are struggling to meet basic life needs.

Date
December 19, 2008

Location
St. Phillips Episcopal Church

Donations Needed
*Donations for the silent auction, as well as the raffle
* Monetary donations to cover logistical costs for putting on the event
* Volunteers needed for the event itself on 12/19
* Food donations for the event

Contact
Boyuan Gao at arisecollective@gmail.com

December 16, 2008

Teaching Students to Recycle

As a first-year public school teacher in Brooklyn, I learned quickly that if I was to survive in this position, it was going to be tough. I first turned to my colleagues; all of them seasoned teachers with 10+ years of experience. Apparently, being a first year teacher is much like entering a fraternity, and I was going through the hazing process. All I wanted was paper, was that so hard?


I soon realized that I was not going to get much in the way of paper, other than what I was willing to purchase. I did what I could for the first few months, but when test prep started, I was using a lot of paper. It was then that I decided it was time my students learn about recycling.


My school did not have a recycling program. I started a “recycle bin” for scrap paper and encouraged students to use it. I taught them about recycling, why it’s important to them and their community. Within the first few weeks, students would make a mistake on their paper and instead of crumpling up their paper; they turned it over and used the other side.


One day one of my students saw me taking home two bags and stopped me to inquire what I was doing. I told her I was taking our recycled paper somewhere it would be recycled properly. She was amazed that I did this but I told her as a teacher, how could I tell them to recycle and then not do it myself. A few weeks later, she was walking to school with a bag of her own bottles. I asked her what she was doing. She asked if I knew where they recycle bottles.

How else can we teach the importance of recycling to students?


This blog was written by Matthew Reid, volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. A native New Yorker, Matthew now lives in Boston and works for a math curriculum development company. Please leave your comments or email matthewsreid@gmail.com.

FREE Resources for Educators courtesy of Amnesty International USA

As part of the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project's December Giving Drive, we're happy to inform you of a curriculum fair this Friday, December 19th hosted by the Human Rights Education program at Amnesty International USA. Be sure to RSVP to mrobinson@aiusa.org by Thursday, December 18th if you want to attend. The details:


In the spirit of giving that is such a great part of the holiday season, the Human Rights Education program of Amnesty International USA will be holding a curriculum fair to give away materials/resources to educators - for FREE! For an idea of some of the materials offered, please visit http://www.amnestyusa.org/education.


Time: 4:00pm-6:00pm

Date: Friday, December 19th

Location: Amnesty International USA
NY Office
5 Penn Plaza (8th Ave btw 33rd and 34th)
16th Floor
NY, NY 10001

RSVP: mrobinson@aiusa.org by Thursday, December 18th


***It is VERY important that you RSVP. Security is very tight in our building and they will not let anyone upstairs who is not on the list. Please bring photo ID with you.

December 15, 2008

Should You Racialize the Internet for Social Change and Community?

Mozilla has launched Blackbird, a web browser created for African-Americans. The browser filters searches, networks, and websites to bring African-American related content and acts as a network for African-Americans to connect and highlight African-American charities.

My gut reaction is that this browser is created to make money for advertisers. African-Americans are projected to have over $1 trillion in purchasing power by 2012 so anyone who can get this groups attention will certainly see profits. Additionally for the 85% of African-American web users who prefer African-American related content this browser does all of the filtering and searching that they may not have the time or savvy to do.

At the same time, if we recognize that the Internet has revolutionized how we learn and interact with the world around us there is something unsettling about limiting content to solely focus on an ethnic group. And who gets the privilege of selecting what exactly is African-American content? What if I am interested in something that doesn't have a high African-American following or focus, will that info not be shown?

The only aspect of this browser that stands out is its Give Back function (coming soon) which will provide greater visibility for African-American community based organizations. But couldn't that have been a website instead of a browser? And wouldn't it help to have the visibility of African-American charities grow among all groups of people?

The goal of building community and social change seem lost by having a separate browser since change is not possible in isolation.

What are your thoughts?


This post was written by Allison Jones, a development and communications professional in New York City and volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. She is a writer, advocate, and educator focusing on empowering young people to change the world. Please leave your comments or email ajlovesya@gmail.com.

December 10, 2008

Millennium Development Summit 2008

On September 25th, the United Nations met in New York City to evaluate progress on the eight Millennium Development Goals. More than two months later, it’s still hard to dig through news about GM’s failures, Obama’s picks, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks to really assess the situation.


The press briefing from the Summit offers critique, but also hope for the future. Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown have gathered a team and formulated a plan to achieve the three MDGs for Health: reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. The team also includes World Bank President Robert Zoellick, Director-General of the World Health Organization Margaret Chan, and Bill Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Thus far progress has been slow and not steady. At the current rate of reduction, the UN’s efforts will see child mortality drop by only one-third instead of two. Decreasing mortality by one-third saves millions of children; failing to reach two-thirds allows millions more to die. Sadly, there has been little change at all in the number of preventable deaths during childbirth. At this point, maternal health is the United Nations’ greatest failure.


But there’s good news. Instances of AIDS infections are declining. So are cases of malaria and measles, mostly due to results-based funding funneled toward vaccination accessibility. The team has recommended a combined increase of $30 billion in funding to save 3 million mothers and 7 million children by the year 2015. Part of this money would go toward the training of health workers and the construction of delivery clinics. The United Kingdom will add over $650 million for health plans in seven developing nations. Countries that had previously not committed any money have now helped to increase overall funding by $8 billion. Furthermore, Bill Gates pledged additional funds toward scientific research in the treatment and vaccination of malaria. Everyone agreed that the global financial crisis should not slow efforts, but teach us how very interconnected we all are, and how vital it is that we cooperate and thrive as a global society.


Perhaps we really are at the dawn of a new day. In 2003 my friends were being sent overseas to fight, university costs were financially crippling me, and personal faith in my political system had all but died. Less than 5 years prior I hadn’t thought myself an idealist for simply believing that human beings can change the world around themselves for the better. Maybe there is a chance that now we are all, in our own way, preparing to make the next great collective jump forward. For now let’s not doubt success or focus on loopholes. It is possible to put a sock in the cynic and take one cue from the United Nations. Nothing will change in our world; nothing will change in our country, our state, our community, or our neighborhood until we realize our own role in progress, and the control we have over the future. I can’t tell anyone exactly what to do, but I promise you that that something can be done.



This blog was written by Allison Tritt, a former high school English teacher, volunteer for Oxfam Japan and blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. She blogs to foster global awareness and remind others that there is always a way to get involved. Email Allison at ajtritt@gmail.com with your questions.

December 8, 2008

Need Food, Books and Other Supplies?

It's the season of giving...


...and we want to give you the gift of free publicity!


The Literacy ‘n' Poverty Project is hosting a December Giving Drive here on Making Social Change a Reality for any organization in need of donations whether you're looking for food, clothes, books, medical, or office supplies. We want to help YOU spread the word and get those much needed supplies to your constituents.


To participate in the December Giving Drive, email Chanelle Carver, Executive Director of the Literacy ‘n' Poverty Project at carver[at]literacyandpovertyproject.com with the following details:

  • The name and mission statement of your organization
  • Drive details (start and end date, who the drive will benefit, drop off locations, donations needed, etc.)
  • Person to contact (name, e-mail, and phone)

Literacy ‘n' Poverty Project is a startup nonprofit organization with a mission to support the advancement of adults through advocacy, research and service. We tackle social issues like education and poverty through a collaborative approach with community organizations, businesses and individuals in order to deliver quality programs and services that help alleviate poverty and improve adult education for all. For more information about who we are and what we do, please visit www.literacyandpovertyproject.com.

Please feel free to forward this message. You can also post details in a comment.

December 4, 2008

I Love My LIFE Literacy/GED Program

Because Literacy 'n' Poverty Project is all about helping adults improve their literacy skills we felt compelled to alert the community about this great opportunity. These are troubling economic times so if you have the qualifications and ready to take on something new, apply to Life Camp, Inc. and become a GED Classroom Teacher! Here are the details:


POSITION: GED Classroom Teacher (2 positions)

ELIGIBILITY: NYCDOE license as a teacher

SELECTION CRITERIA: Satisfactory experience providing Literacy/GED instruction for at least two years preferred

DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: Provide Instruction to Literacy/GED Students in English, Mathematics, Science or Social Studies

SALARY: $35.00 per hour

WORK SCHEDULE: Tuesday and Thursday, Evening hours, Average 6 hours per week

APPLICATION: Copy of NYC Department of Education license and resume must be received by December 8, 2008

Send your applications materials to info@lifecampinc.com with I Love My LIFE Literacy/GED Program in subject line.


LIFE Camp, Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit organization based in Queens, NY with a mission to develop its participants into strong leaders and responsible entrepreneurs. LIFE (Love Ignites Freedom Thru Education) exists to provide a second change to youth who are disconnected from educational, employment and social opportunities. To learn more about LIFE Camp, visit www.lifecampinc.com.


Good luck!

November 18, 2008

Being An Educator, Is It Enough?

What does a second grade teacher and a GED tutor have in common?

They both deal with people whose cognitive and psychological needs and capacities are so different yet in need of the same thing: to be guided through life.


It’s fascinating how much of an impact can our teachers have in our lives. I will never forget my first teacher, Mrs. Helen from 1st through 4th grade, who convinced herself that I was a lost case when it came to math. To this day, I remember myself, an 8 year old, thinking that I didn’t have the talent or skill to do math and plus I really didn’t like math! My new 5th grade teacher was so dedicated (not to mention strict) and actually got me to change my mind about math and end up getting straight A's until I finished elementary school.


Fascinating times! I started junior high school with my confidence boosted and real high objectives. That teacher will always be remembered, because he didn’t settle with the conventional methods of education. The determinant that made him stand out, in my opinion, was that he wasn’t a mere educator but a pedagogue.


The word has a great history. We hear it quite frequently and in different formats such as pedagogical methods or pedagogy. It doesn’t merely describe the educator, the teacher but also the person that really takes you by the hand and guides you through life.


In ancient Greece, the pedagogue was nothing more than a servant at the family’s house, whose mere job duty was to take the children to and from school and make sure their homework and all extracurricular activities were completed. The etymology of the word expresses exactly this action: the composite ped- means child (παιδί) and the second composite –agogue (άγω) means to guide through, to conduct. He was responsible with all aspects of the cultural and educational upbringing of the children of the house and the family thought really highly of him. A famous pedagogue was Aristotle who tutored Alexander the Great in ancient Macedonia.

The main difference between being an educator and a pedagogue: the latter is a broader concept encompassing the first. One cannot be a pedagogue without educating but an educator can easily veer off any pedagogical objectives while teaching.


A pedagogue gives life lessons through the teachings of algebra and marks your consciousness by illustrating how the history of your country is a vital part of who you are. Why can’t we have pedagogues anymore? Is it too vain or unnecessary to demand a broad – spectrum cultivation and enlightenment for us? Or has it become such a strive that we don’t really care anymore?


I believe in the necessity of pedagogy rather than sterile education and the beneficial impact it may have to the human condition. Whether it is children that are being taught at the dawn of their lives or adults looking for second chances, they all need the multi-dimensional approach of a pedagogue.


This post was written by Marina Sapountzoglou, M.D. an aspiring Human Rights Lawyer, active community volunteer and blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project.

November 6, 2008

Save the Children vies for large proportion of $1 million prize

Save the Children’s mission is simple enough: to meet both the immediate and long-term needs of children struggling to overcome poverty. Poverty is a challenge that both the US and the world have yet to overcome. According to the 2007 US Census Bureau, poverty in that year stood at 12.5 percent. Meanwhile, the World Bank’s latest figures show that in 2005, 1.4 billion people in developing countries were living in extreme poverty.


Save the Children has tirelessly worked to reach out to those children who live in such conditions, and to their credit, they have met with some success, as it claims to have reached a staggering 41 million girls and boys the world over. One of the areas the organization works in is education, an area at the core of the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project’s mission.


While Save the Children and the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project target different audiences, both organizations believe that education is an extremely important factor for poverty alleviation. An example of Save the Children’s work in education is their language, social and economic development programs in the rural areas of the US, which aims to increase the reading skills of young children.


Being such a worthy cause, Save the Children could win a hefty financial prize after November 9 as part of Trip Advisor’s ‘More Than Footsteps Campaign, which is giving away $1 million. The more votes an organization gets, the larger percentage of the prize money will be won. However, TripAdvisor says that each organization will get a minimum donation of $50,000.


TripAdvisor provides recommendations for a number of travel-related organizations such as hotels, resorts, inns, vacations, travel packages, vacation packages, and travel guides. But with the launching of its More Than Footsteps Campaign, the organization aims to do something else other than provide recommendations for travel-related organizations. The idea behind the campaign is that any person can leave ‘more than footprints’ when he or she travels; he or she can also make a difference in their community and the places they visit – through their vote.


Four other organizations – Conservation International, Doctors Without Borders, National Geographic Society and The Nature Conservancy – will compete for a large share of the prize money too. But it can only be won through a vote – which anyone can do with a click of their mouse.


All you have to do is visit TripAdvisor’s voting website, http://www.tripadvisor.com/causes by 11:59p.m Eastern Time on November 9, and follow the simple instructions. Remember, the more votes an organization gets, the larger percentage of the prize money will be won.


Learn More About Save The Children and CAST YOUR VOTE!


This post was written by Shipra Prakash, Executive Assistant Intern with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Please email your questions to prakash@literacyandpovertyproject.com.

October 29, 2008

Why Become An Adult Literacy Tutor?

If you've ever considered becoming an adult literacy tutor but have to make a decision, listen to one volunteer's story of why he got involved. Remember, the decisions you make can change many lives.






Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County

October 28, 2008

Are You Taking Action?

During my weekly Internet video stroll, I stumbled upon this interesting clip on YouTube. It's about someone who is Standing Up and Taking Action for Poverty. Enjoy!




Read on for more information at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTP6CtSGzik.

October 15, 2008

Poverty Is Being Lost In A Sea of Green

This post was written by Rizwan Tayabali, a management consultant who works with different non-profits, social enterprises and individuals helping them create financial sustainability. He has started an initiative called the Urban Survival Project which is aimed at helping vulnerable young people survive education, jobs, small business and life.
-----------------------------------------


Nothing about poverty is cool. It is tough, brutal, painful and cyclical. But it doesn't affect most of the people who can afford the technologies to be reading this, so for many of us it's always been easy to ignore. A hidden evil lurking in 'third world' countries. The saddest development is that even the little attention poverty had when it was simply the most pervasive of the global problems that didn't affect us directly, is being washed away in the tide of interest surrounding the Green movement.

Green has gone from cheap and homemade to cool and chic. From 'tree-huggers' to corporate speak. It is becoming iconic, and a status symbol that brands are associating themselves with. It affects the world we all live in, and therefore directly impacts our own personal interests - and so we take it seriously. Better still, it also costs most of us nothing more turning a few lights off and maybe going easy on the heating... which basically saves us money and again furthers our own interests while making us feel good about ourselves. More and more I see it turning into a McCarthyism thing. Show a disdain for eco-friendliness and you're an instant pariah. Can't argue with that of course. We need sustainability. Maybe we'll even save the planet before it's too late.

My question though is - Why isn't poverty like this? Why is it perfectly acceptable to show no interest in poverty at all? Global poverty is basically left out of sight, and kept out of mind. The pictures have become just that. Glossy prints of someone else's pain. An artist's rendition of reality instead of calls to action. As for local poverty, I regularly hear people righteously blaming the victims for their own situation... these 'people' should stop being so lazy, go and get a job, stop with the pregnancies, get off the streets, and on and on.

The problem is that unlike Green, the only way we can really impact institutional poverty is by redistributing a bit of our money either through donations for global causes, or through paying higher taxes for local ones. And giving away 'hard-earned' money is a concept a little too close to the bone. Nothing cheap and cheerful about it. So we look at poverty in ways that help justify our lack of action. We make like its not there and give it a wide berth. Ignorance is bliss.

But ignorance we can tackle. And making a difference starts with awareness, so I'm going to use a 'rich' country like the UK as a case in point and share 5 facts about poverty that you probably didn't know, but really, really should...

  1. Poverty has two definitions: Absolute and Relative.
    Absolute poverty also known as 'extreme poverty', is defined as living on less than $1.25 per day. The world bank estimates that 1.4 billion people currently live under these conditions. Relative poverty is used when talking about developed countries and currently stands at about $30 a day for a single adult.

  2. Poverty in the UK is defined as any income that is 60% or less than the average household income. 13 million people in the UK live on less than this.
    Doesn't sound too bad? This threshold works out at about £450 a month after tax and rent for a single adult, and worse still, just about £1200 for a family with two children. £300 per month per person, to cover all their other bills, travel, food, and living. That's one big night out plus a pretty cheap suit, if you want it in context. A full fifth of the UK population survives on less than this. Think about it.

  3. Over half a Million people in the UK are homeless
    100,000 families in the UK are classified as homeless. That's families. Not just individuals. That the Government knows of. Because they only count those who've applied to be classified that way and then succeeded in being recognised as 'officially' vulnerable. Crisis estimates another 400,000 hidden homeless. People don't end up homeless by choice and they don't stay that way because they are lazy. The causes are brutal, and the effects are devastating. Resulting clinical depression and mental health impacts are a major reason why many never make it back. Over 70% of homeless people suffer mental health issues but are 40 times less likely than the rest of us to be registered with a GP. You don't get far without an address.

  4. Children are not exempt. 3.9 million children in the UK are affected.
    Half of these children are in workless households, which means the UK has a higher proportion of children living in unemployed families than any other EU country. It doesn't get much better for young adults. 1.2 million young people of working age are not in employment, education or training (NEET). In London alone, that's 25% of 16-18 year olds with nowhere to go.

  5. Ethnicity only makes things worse. In the UK overall, 40% of people from ethnic minorities still live in poverty.
    This is twice the rate for White people. Some migrants like Indians and Black Caribbeans, most of whom originally came from middle class, English speaking backgrounds, have closed the gap with about 25% living in poverty, but for the others it is much much worse. 55% of Bangladeshis, 45% of Pakistanis and 30% of Black Africans are in 'low-income households'.

Anyway, I know this has been a long post, but I didn't just want it to be another pontification on the state of the world today. So thanks for reading. I hope the facts make you think, and even if they've opened your eyes just enough to share this post and pass it on to your friends, we can both say we've made a small difference...

Photos for Poverty - Blog Action Day

This post was written by Chanelle Carver, founder of Literacy 'n' Poverty Project, activist, volunteer and consultant for socially conscious organizations.



I virtually volunteer writing articles for a website called Collective Lens that "promotes social change with your photos. Upload a photo and help bring awareness to important issues around the world. You can inspire others to become involved."

They're also participating in Blog Action Day 2008 and posted a short blog with some GREAT photos on behalf of those who can't help themselves.

I encourage you to go check it out. The Many Faces of Poverty

One Person at a Time

This post was written by guest blogger Maureen Lee, a wife, mother, author for Just Show Up and Board member of Ideal-Way.ca (a nonprofit organization for special needs individuals.



“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Nelson Mandela


Every now and again, I pull out my clay jar. I've been working on it for most of my life, and I suspect it'll never be done. I started it when I was a child. Since then, my jar has undergone many changes. Thanks to many hours of painstaking, backbreaking work, my clay jar has morphed from a tiny lumpen mass of brown goop to a breathtaking vision of loveliness.

I've shaped, molded, and finally perfected my jar. Or at least, my vision of it is clear and unobstructed. Now, as I stand back and survey my creation, my fingers get itchy again. Scratching the surface isn't good enough. I need to get into the corners and scour deep within it. After all, this is my Dream Jar Secret Hiding Place. Kind of like the jars you keep in your kitchen that hide money or important documents. Only, this jar contains my Big Dream.

In an earlier post, I talked about my penchant for performing in front of my bedroom mirror. But, like my imaginary tiny lump of clay, the dream of being a stage performer was really the first blush of a much grander fantasy. When it comes right down to it, all of us just want to do something of substance. We want to make a difference in the world.

Well, today is Blog Action Day - a day when over 7,000 bloggers will unite to "stand up against poverty," so to speak. It's an initiative to "change the conversation." To change the tired voice within that whispers in one's ear, "Me? What can one person possibly do to change the world?"

On October 17-19, 2008, Stand Up Against Poverty - International Day for the Eradication of Poverty will be in full swing. "This year, the main focus of Stand Up is Take Action, to ensure governments worldwide hear our demands to end poverty and inequality. Last year, more than 76,000 Canadians took part in more than 500 Stand Up events across the country. They were part of a mobilization against poverty that had more than 43 million participants worldwide."

I read that "a number of surveys have found that children at the lower end of the socio-economic scale had poorer health and developmental outcomes than children in the middle, and that children at the top of the socio-economic scale had better results still." In developing countries, "98% of children with disabilities receive no education, and 26 million people with an intellectual disability live on less than $1 a day."

Sometimes our knee-jerk reaction is to pull back in horror. "It's too big...too pervasive...so what in the world will it matter if one person performs one action?" I can hear my own voice whimpering in the dark, the covers pulled over my head.

"Simplify, simplify," said Thoreau. "One step, one action, today, is all it takes!" What is the one step, one action, I could begin putting into motion? If I have a passion for children - specifically special needs children - but I'm overwhelmed, confused, frozen in place by too much information, maybe I could join an organization that's focused on helping to change attitudes, to educate, and positively improve, mainstream social attitudes. Group lobbying, or sending out e-mails, faxes, letters to the government. Give blood, or organize a free lunch/food distribution. Many organizations have campaigns that focus on making poverty history. The Stand Up Against Poverty website has a list of "actions/activities aimed at development/welfare; petitions and communications/popular education; and mass action/popular mobilization/dissent."

As for me, my clay jar is only half full, I realize. I still have a long way to go, and time is running out. Today, though, I can take one step. It's time to "take action to end poverty and inequality, one person, one step, one heart, at a time."

See also:
Dawn Ontario Disabled Women's Network Ontario
Grow Up Free from Poverty
One Campaign Music Video

The Blogosphere Takes on Poverty for Blog Action Day

This post was written by Chanelle Carver, founder of Literacy 'n' Poverty Project, activist, volunteer and consultant for socially conscious organizations.


It's Blog Action Day!

A day the blogosphere unites to discuss the same issue. Not two or three, just ONE.

One issue that affects over a billion people throughout the world. One issue that has caused pain and heartache for millions of families, children, men and women alike. That issue is POVERTY.

No matter how you define it, the truth is poverty exists. There are families living below and above the poverty line who face great challenges that many may never have to endure.

When was the last time you had to decide which of your family members gets a new winter coat? Have you ever skipped a meal just to have enough food for your children? Thankfully, I have yet to bear the burden of deciding which of my kids will eat and hopefully, I won't have to. But like the saying goes...Never Say Never.

For two months straight while in college, I ate Quaker Oats Oatmeal 3 times a day. And I STRONGLY dislike oatmeal but it was affordable and bills had to be paid. My gourmet dinners and "smell so good, wake me up in the morning" breakfasts came to a screeching halt. I was mortified, more so because three guaranteed meals a day is a dream come true for some families. Even if it is oatmeal. This saddens me greatly.

What if the shoe were on the other foot...

...and specifically, my foot? What if I needed to live on less than $1 a day? The mere thought frightens me. Have I taken all that life - and my mother - has given me for granted? Let's face it, I've spent more than a dollar a day when I was unemployed!

I don't know. What I do know is that ALL OF US can do something to end extreme poverty. Do something to make things a little better for others in developing countries OR for the developing neighborhood 5 or 10 miles from your current residence.

Let's bump it up to $2 a day
. Or $3 or $5. Now we're getting somewhere. Donate to charity, test your willpower and try living on $1 a day, volunteer with your favorite nonprofit...the list goes on. The possibilities are endless.

So friends, I make my final point:

Do Something! Find your own fabulous way to make social change a reality. Just don't sit back, sob or get angry about the poor children with flies on their face you see on the commercials. They can't hear your cries and in reality, your tears may mean little to them.

Share you stories with others and let them know how they too can help end extreme poverty. If you want, tell us your story in a comment. Remember, sharing is caring. :)

October 8, 2008

Celebrating our One Year Anniversary

Instead of focusing on what's wrong with the world, let's celebrate the good. One year in the making and we're still going strong!

On October 8, 2007, Literacy 'n' Poverty Project embarked on an incredible journey. A journey that would bring together our community in hopes of inspiring others to speak out for change and to Take Action.

We made a commitment to make this world a better place for all by offering each of you an outlet to talk about the issues affecting your communities and to share ideas and experiences that can help create lasting change...to make social change a reality.

We've discussed a number of issues like global poverty, health and adult education, highlighted random acts of kindness, and even addressed relevant topics like the Millennium Development Goals and Social Entrepreneurship.

As a result, organizations like Women for Women International, Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs, Third Relief International, CODENI, Infante Sano, and Cultural Canvas Thailand have all been featured on this blog because they have taken an active role in the movement by creating social change in their own way.

Though rest assured, just like these groups our work is far from complete yet we've made great progress over the past twelve months and hope we will continue to do so in the years to come. Each day brings a new challenge that inspires and motivates us to work harder, smarter and more humbly for each of you.

So from this day on, let us celebrate every October 8th as a day of recognition for all who are making a difference. Let's celebrate the day that we (and we mean YOU too!) made a commitment to make social change a reality.

October 3, 2008

The World will be Talking about Poverty

October 15, 2008 is the annual Blog Action Day and this year's theme is, guess what...POVERTY! So fitting a subject for Making Social Change a Reality and we definitely will participate.

So what exactly is Blog Action Day?

"An annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion."

Why do we care?

Poverty impacts our global society and our blog is all about discussing the issues, sharing ideas and experiences to create social change on a global scale. It would be a crime not to get involved.

What's in store for this year?

"In 2008, the Blog Action Day theme is Poverty. Bloggers are free to interpret this as they see fit. We invite bloggers to examine poverty from their own blog topics and perspectives, to look at it from the macro and micro, as a global condition and a local issue, and to bring their own ideas, views and opinions on the subject."

How can you participate?


1. We're inviting guest bloggers to contribute to this important discussion on October 15th. Email blogs@literacyandpovertyproject.com for more information.

2. If you have a blog and want to devote October 15th to discussing Poverty, register here to participate. There's currently over 5,000 blogs registered with a readership exceeding 10 million. You can also check out their Resources page in case you're stumped for topic ideas. Just awesome!

October 15th is the day folks. It's another day we get the chance to make social change a reality.


Will you participate?

September 25, 2008

Elizabeth Willse's Random Act of Kindness

The subway seems an especially strange place for random acts of kindness. Strangers isolated in their own thoughts, the linear stresses of getting somewhere by a certain time. Even asking for directions, or maybe reaching out to say "what an adorable baby," or "hey, I liked that book too," could be an intrusion. It's easy to get shy in the seemingly unbreakable silence of strangers.

On September 11th, 2003, I got on the subway with a bag full of copies of Speaker For the Dead, by Orson Scott Card, a novel I've read many times since my teens. It has an elegant view of mourning and commemorating death, by speaking the truth about a person's life and connection to the community. Not just the nice truths- sometimes the painful ones that will help those left behind heal. It's thoughtful science fiction that raises questions about ethics, anthropology, humanness and communication, spiritual goals and memorial practices. It is one of the places I seek perspective when I'm overwhelmed.

When I reached my stop that day, I pulled a book from my bag, and left it on the seat next to me. "Hey," said someone. "You left your book." As the doors closed, I called over my shoulder. "I know. Take it." I hope he did.

I had stuck a note that said "Free Book! Take Me!" to each book I left behind that day. On the inside cover, I wrote a note that read "I am sharing my favorite book with you. Please take it, read it, think it over, and pass it along." and then signed my name and the date. I left one on the subway heading to work. I left one at the coffee shop. I think I left one in Grand Central somewhere, and handed one to a friend at the gym. Stopped to meet friends, and handed one to an acquaintance. I ended my night at a blues club downtown, and left the last copy on a table.

I wondered who would take the books I left behind. Would anyone read the one I'd left in Grand Central, or would it be treated warily as a "suspicious package?" Handing copies to friends felt like I was cheating. Leaving paperbacks without knowing who would read them was a truly random act. Doing it without knowing if or how it would be understood was about my own efforts to heal myself, and maybe others, without being poised to receive gratitude.

Yes, leaving books behind with only a note was easier than interrupting the silence between strangers. Maybe it would have been more courageous to reach out and say "here- I want to share this." It would take trust and openness, from the receiver and the giver. With conversation, the act of kindness would become more connected and less random. It makes me wonder: is there even such a thing as a random act of kindness, or are there only acts of trust?

What do you think?


Written by Elizabeth Willse, freelance writer, book reviewer and volunteer blogger with Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. You can visit her blog at http://elizabethwillse.wordpress.com or email info@literacyandpovertyproject.com with your questions.

September 23, 2008

Making Social Change a Reality: A step forward to Environmental Stability and Global Partnership

Rounding out the last of the Millennium Development Goals are goals seven and eight, Environmental Stability and Global Partnership. Both of these goals are so much more specific than the previous six, Goal 7 including four targets and Goal 8 including five, that it would be impossible to examine them exhaustively in such a short space. Therefore, let’s examine one target per goal. For a more detailed look at these aims, please visit the website for the United Nations, www.un.org.

To ensure environment sustainability, target three aims to, “halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. “

One Step Forward:

Thirst Relief International is an international nonprofit organization that works with local groups to implement safe, potable water facilities in communities all over the globe. With projects in the Congo, Amazon, Kenya, and many more countries, Thirst Relief provides funding and serves as project manager, while labor and field oversight are provided domestically by local organizations. Currently, the Life and Water Development Group of Cameroon is seeking volunteers to assist with its own water project in association with Thirst Relief International.

As part of the millennium effort to foster global partnership, target five pledges to work with the private sector to make technology and information systems more accessible to developing countries. Whether school or small business, Internet access and information systems are essential to any developing country seeking to compete in the developing world.

One Step Forward:

One Laptop Per Child
is a project created by faculty members from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The core of OLPC is that for every $100 laptop purchased, one will be donated to children and families in developing countries. Not only do these laptops not require a power outlet, but they also use free and open-source software so that users may alter the system to suite his or her specific needs.

On September 25, 2008, UN member states will convene in New York City to evaluate progress made on the Millennium Development Goals. With only seven more years left to achieve these aims, it is imperative that these member states recognize that despite progress made, the world still has a long way to go. And in that vein, new, more specific commitments must be made to achieve the MDGs by 2015. We’ll have to wait and see.

For more information on:
Thirst Relief International, go to: http://www.thirstrelief.org/
Life and Water Development Group, go to: http://www.lwdgc-africa.org/
One Laptop Per Child, go to: http://www.laptop.org/
The MDGs or the Millennium Summit, please visit www.un.org


This blog was written by Allison Tritt, a former high school English teacher, volunteer for Oxfam Japan and volunteer blogger with Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. She blogs to foster global awareness and remind others that there is always a way to get involved. Please leave your comments and feel free to email Allison at ajtritt@gmail.com with any questions!

September 17, 2008

Join us as we make social change a reality

Hello friends,

A brief post for the evening. We've just added the Followers gadget to our blog and strongly encourage you to start following!

By joining our fan base, you're letting the public know that you support social change and the people who are working to make social change a reality. Never miss a blog again! And of course you can follow anonymously if you wish.

To make social change a reality we need your support. We look forward to having you join us!

September 16, 2008

Where do all the phobias come from?

Homophobia? Xenophobia? Both words express the fear of the unknown world of homosexuals on the first case or foreigners on the second. Interestingly enough, the phenomenon is so widely accepted that we actually had to come up with a word to describe our condition. What I enjoy in searching for the etymology of a word is also trying to understand the circumstances and the reasons under which that word was created.

Homophobia for instance, why do we need to describe a fear of homosexuality? What threat does a homosexual person or lifestyle pose for the human being or the society? Is it a physical damage? Is it a psychological, moral, legal damage? Each question may receive a different answer from different sectors of society. Religion, politics, the educational system, academia, history and tradition, all stand differently on the matter depending on their influences and what they stand for.

The www.freedictionary.com defines homophobia as “bias” and “prejudice” against the homosexual people. In Greek, the language where the word originates from, the composite Homo - means alike, similar, same as something else and –phobia means fear, but also in ancient Greek the verb “fovame” (φοβάμαι) meant to be in awe/fear of something or someone (δείδω). So, if we put it together, homophobia describes the situation where we are afraid of the same sex! The meaning it is given nowadays is of the feeling of dislike of homosexuality, challenging and disapproval of it.

Etymology of a word has a strong feature: it gives you the power to decide how to perceive of the situation and the energy it describes. And there’s never just one story behind the creation of a word. A word is charged with the energy of years that needed to pass in order for us to be in a position to observe the situation and then describe it adequately and succinctly, in a word.

I challenge you to pick a word and find its origins. Once you’ve broken it down, see what each composite of the word means and then re-evaluate the word’s contemporary meaning. It’s a fascinating and eye-opening process that I find extremely interesting.

Visit www.opposingviews.com/questions/is-homosexuality-a-sin for more interesting information on the topic.


This blog was written by Marina Sapountzoglou, M.D., Human Rights and Regional Development. Marina currently works with Commerce Bank, is an aspiring Human Rights Lawyer, active community volunteer and volunteer blogger with Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. Please leave your comments and email marina.sapountzoglou@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Millennium Development Part IV: Maternal Health & HIV/AIDs

Millennium Development Goals five and six are closely related to goals three and four discussed last week. As we move on, it will become more apparent what an emphasis the United Nations has put on healthcare in the fight to eliminate poverty.

The fifth Millennium Development Goal is to “improve maternal health.” Maternal health encompasses not only prenatal and postnatal care, but also family planning and education in proper childcare. Therefore, this is actually a very broad statement and not much else. Included in this goal are pledges to reduce the maternal morality ratio by two-thirds, as well as achieve universal access to reproductive health. This first target does help to clarify the goal. However, the word “universal” in target two is so expansive that its inclusion can actually undermine the UN’s ability to achieve its goals.

One Step Forward:

Each year the world loses over 10 million mothers and children, and the fact remains that many of these deaths are from preventable diseases. Infante Sano, in association with the Boston’s Children’s Hospital, works to improve maternal health throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. By cooperating with locally established clinics and hospitals, members of Infante Santo are able to provide community healthcare workers with supplies and additional education specific to issues of maternal health. Because the organization works so closely with local citizens, they are able to catalyze long-lasting improvements in the communities’ already-established healthcare systems.

In the same vein, MDG six is a commitment to “combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases”. One would hope that combating both deadly and treatable diseases is not new to the international agenda. Target subsets do little to specify the goal, as target one is simply to, “halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS” and target two is to provide universal access to treatment for HIV and AIDS. The goal could benefit from more specified targets. For example, instead of providing universal access to treatment, it would be better to include a designation of the number of hospitals or treatment centers to be built by the year 2010.

One Step Forward:

Today, Cultural Canvas Thailand is working with Rejoice, a local nonprofit based out of Chiang Mai, Thailand to get HIV/AIDs treatment and education to those who so desperately need it. Rejoice services the large population of infected poor living in Chiang Mai as well as the surrounding area. Equipped with a mobile clinic, volunteers travel throughout the area to foster awareness regarding HIV prevention as well as to administer treatment to those already living with the illness. Volunteers are also needed to work at the Cultural Canvas office for clerical support as well as medication distribution from the home base.

If you are interested in doing your part to help save the millions of mothers and children dying each year, ask your local clinic if they have any volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in Infante Sano, please visit www.infantesano.org. For more information about Cultural Canvas Thailand, see www.culturalcanvas.com.


This blog was written by Allison Tritt, a former high school English teacher, volunteer for Oxfam Japan and volunteer blogger with Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. She blogs to foster global awareness and remind others that there is always a way to get involved. Please leave your comments and feel free to email Allison at ajtritt@gmail.com with any questions!

September 11, 2008

Millennium Development Part III: Gender Equality and Child Mortality

Last week we took a brief glance at MDGs one and two. This week we’ll take a closer look at the third and fourth goals, as well as see how dedicated groups of individuals are doing their part to make dreams a reality.

The third Millennium Development goal is to promote gender equality and empower women. Once again, we see the problem of vague language noted last week in Goal 1. As it is hard to fathom the UN promoting gender inequality, the goal itself, while altruistic and admirable, is quite obvious. Without any set benchmarks or method with which to measure successes, the pledge to “empower women” sounds weak and insincere.

One Step Forward:
Women for Women International is a nonprofit organization working worldwide in areas recovering from recent conflict. While no one will debate the negative impacts of war on local citizens, Women for Women also sees these disaster zones as clean slates. Local women complete a three-step program. While at the beginning stages participants do receive aide, upon graduation they are independent actors in their local communities. If women are part of the rebuilding process, the social structure and norms are more likely to reflect a greater respect for the role of women in the local community.

The fourth aim of the Millennium Declaration is to reduce child mortality. More specifically, UN member states seek to reduce the number of deaths of children under five by two-thirds. In contrast to Goal 3, Goal 4 has the support of a clear means to assess progress. However, the issue of child mortality is an expansive one, and the causes of low life expectancies can differ greatly between regions. Sometimes the cause can be a low life expectancy for adults. In other cases, children are more susceptible to certain diseases than adults. Activists and actors with good intentions must be very conscious of the circumstances at hand.

One Step Forward:
Faith Wanjiru owns a profitable boutique in Nairobi, Kenya. She witnessed the degradation of Kenya’s youth, as young children, some mere infants, were abandoned in the streets. She bought a plot of land outside of Nairobi, and started the Imani Rehabilitation Agency. With its onsite clinic, Imani is able to provide healthcare to malnourished or diseased children. Imani also provides lessons on nutrition and personal hygiene. If the clinic is unable to attend to the needs of any child, Imani makes sure they get proper medical care at other clinics and hospitals around Nairobi.

For More Information or to get involved with:
Women for Women International, go to www.womenforwomen.org
Imani Rehabilitation Agency, go to www.imaniskids.org


This blog was written by Allison Tritt, a former high school English teacher, volunteer for Oxfam Japan and volunteer blogger with Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. She blogs to foster global awareness and remind others that there is always a way to get involved. Please leave your comments and feel free to email Allison at ajtritt@gmail.com with any questions!

September 2, 2008

Millennium Development Part II: Livelihood and Education

The first of the eight Millennium Development Goals is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Encompassed in this goal are targets to halve between 1990 and 2015 the number of people living on less than one dollar a day, ensure employment and “decent work” for all, and halve the number of people suffering from hunger.

This first objective in particular is quite broad and stands precariously on vague language. There is no concrete definition for concepts like “extreme poverty” or “decent work”. Terminology of this sort threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the UN’s aims. The language conveys overwhelming international social problems that seem impossible to solve over the course of a decade by member states simply tweaking their respective foreign policies.

One Step Forward:

The Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs is a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization that runs Farmer-to-Farmer projects in Moldova, Belarus, and the Ukraine as part of USAID’s John Ogonowksi Farmer-to-Farmer Program. Volunteers along with paid staff advisors travel abroad to provide agricultural and entrepreneurial support. CNFA representatives collaborate with local citizens to establish long-lasting economic and nutritional sustainability.

The second Millennium Development Goal is to provide free primary school education to all children. Many children live in areas that lack facilities and teachers, or cannot go to school due to the danger of local conflicts. Others must work to help support their families or take up arms in war-torn zones. According to Oxfam International, over 72 million school-age children are not receiving a primary school education.

One Step Forward:

CODENI started out as the final project of a group of ITESO graduate students in Guadalajara, Mexico. Today it is a legally established non-profit organization that affords educational services to the street children of Guadalajara. Volunteers and staff not only offer lessons, but CODENI also provides counseling services, scholarships, and monthly food baskets. CODENI also organizes field trips and social events for students and their family members.

Whether through international cooperation or localized efforts, people around the world are trying to help fulfill the admirable, albeit slightly grandiose, goals set forth by the United Nations. For more information or to get involved with CNFA’s Farmer-to-Farmer program, please visit http://www.cnfa.org/farmertofarmer. To learn more about or offer services to CODENI, go to http://www.codeni.org.mx/inglesprincipal.html.


This blog was written by Allison Tritt, a former high school English teacher, volunteer for Oxfam Japan and volunteer blogger with Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. She blogs to foster global awareness and remind others that there is always a way to get involved. Please leave your comments and feel free to email Allison at ajtritt@gmail.com with any questions!

August 28, 2008

Obama's got my vote!



America's had enough. And so have I.

Barack has finally articulated his plan for change to America. Tonight, he gave us a blueprint for what this change will look like. Now more than before, I feel connected to him. I feel like he spoke to me and my troubles and the troubles of those I know. An inspirational speaker indeed!

So in case you didn't get a chance to hear Barack Obama's speech tonight, check out this clip from MSNBC. You can also read his speech here, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26446638/.





Are you ready for change? Post your comments and tell us how you're going to make change happen. We're waiting...


This blog was written by Chanelle N. Carver, founder and Executive Director of Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. Please leave your comments and feel free to email Chanelle at carver@literacyandpovertyproject.com with any questions!

August 24, 2008

Millennium Development: At A Glance

The Millennium Development Goals are eight broad yet inspired benchmarks, which will guide us, as concerned international citizens, down the path toward a world of peace and prosperity. Now, in the 21st century, the future never looked so bright.

Well, not exactly.

In the year 2000 at the Millennium Summit in London, UN member states adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration. The goals conveyed in that declaration provide a framework for international development, targeting eight specific benchmarks. While the degree of that specificity has come under much scrutiny since 2000, the MDGs also mark an unprecedented level of international cooperation to eradicate poverty. Expressly, the UN plans for the world to, by the year 2015:

1.) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2.) Achieve universal primary education
3.) Promote gender equality and empower women
4.) Reduce child mortality
5.) Improve maternal health
6.) Combat HIV/AIDs, malaria, and other diseases
7.) Ensure environmental sustainability
8.) Develop a global partnership for development

Critics of the MDGs argue that the vague language undermines the effectiveness of these goals. Think about what it would take to actually eradicate poverty within the next six years. Further, it is hard to quantify the goals create a clear-cut method for achieving them or for measuring progress. How exactly does one define “extreme” poverty?

However, the MDGs are more specific than the general statements above convey. Also, the adoption of the Millennium Declaration brings international development into a new, more central spotlight. The eight MDGs provide governments with a more tangible set of objectives. Some progress is certainly better than none.

Over the course of the next month, we’ll examine the eight MDGs in detail, and highlight initiatives designed to help achieve them. All over the world, international organizations and local volunteers are working from the ground up, creating development programs to make these goals a reality. Regardless of loopholes or gray areas in the document itself, their work and its value should not be marginalized.

At the end of September, once again UN member states will meet for the Millennium Summit in New York to evaluate progress toward achieving these ends. However, let’s not leave it all up to them. Over the course of the next month, let’s examine the details together, and decide just how workable all of this idealism is.

For more information about the Millennium Development Goals, please visit http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/


This post was written by Allison Tritt, a former high school English teacher, volunteer for Oxfam Japan and volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. She blogs to foster global awareness and remind others that there is always a way to get involved. Please leave your comments or email Allison at ajtritt@gmail.com with your questions.

August 9, 2008

The G8 and People’s Summit

From July 7th to the 9th, government officials from the United States, Canada, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Japan convened in Hokkaido, Japan for their yearly meeting at which they evaluate numerous world crises and decide which disasters are most worthy of their largesse. Despite all of the hype, this great meeting of the minds neglected to deliver much in the way of long-lasting solutions and instead turned into a display of impeccable skill in the arts of avoidance and escapism.

However, the Big Eight and their invited guests were not the only voices heard during those hot July days. Not far from the G8 in Toyako, over 220 Japanese NGOs came together for the People’s Summit in Sapporo and Rusutsu, the location of the media center. They convened to debate and make policy recommendations uninfluenced by those governmental perspectives molded by vested economic and strategic interests.

Thanks to media coverage of the People’s Summit, NGOs were able to put extensive pressure on the men and women in Toyako. Moreover, the organization of a separate Summit offered legitimacy that a crowd of protesters simply couldn’t convey, even from the front page of the newspaper.

Of course, NGO policy recommendations weren’t exactly eagerly adopted into legislation. However, what the People’s Summit did do was offer an alternative viewpoint to anyone following Summit events. For example, instead of leaders conveniently omitting a pledge made in 2005 of $50 billion in additional aid by the year 2010, a debate into the early morning hours, catalyzed in part by a barrage of questions posed by NGO media representatives, resulted in them putting the figures back into the budget.

Just think what kind of impact meetings like the People’s Summit could have if they were as well publicized as the G8 itself. If a huge meeting of passion and activism is held alongside a huge meeting of power, leaders will know that we are watching and only then might they start delivering.

Volunteers are an integral part to any campaign, local, domestic, or international. Visit idealist.org, or do an internet search for international volunteer opportunities. A lot of campaigning can be done in your own neighborhood, or even from the comfort of your own home. Write a letter, sign a petition, or call a friend. Say, “The world is changing. Let’s get in on this.”

For more information about the People’s Summit 2008 and the NGO Forum go to http://www.g8ngoforum.org/english/2008/03/information-for-ngos-in-toyako-1.html



This post was written by Allison Tritt, a former high school English teacher, volunteer for Oxfam Japan and blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. She blogs to foster global awareness and remind others that there is always a way to get involved. Please leave your comments or email Allison at ajtritt@gmail.com with any questions!

July 4, 2008

A Journey Teaching GED Glasses: The End (but not yet)

Since my time teaching GED classes with Columbia University’s Community Impact program has ended, many of my students have already taken the exam once or even twice. Some of them passed and successfully graduated the program; others still struggle with particular subjects or the exam as a whole. The experience of guiding and leading these people through this process was not only rewarding but also self-defining.

In our last session, few of my “regular” students showed up mostly to say goodbye and wish each other good luck with the hope to meet again under circumstances that will allow us to get to know each other. These past months offered incredible insight to a person’s ability not only of self-conservation but also to reclaim the quality of life that everyone deserves but not everyone receives. Life is pretty hard in some parts of the world, but what is harder is the lack of drive, goal, purpose and dream. All my students are everyday people that merely try to better themselves and their life situation. But that’s not all there is.

I promise you, not everyone would decide one day when they’re 50 years old to go back to school and do homework and take exams amidst all the craziness of a job schedule and family obligations. This is an activity that many 50-year-old people do not include in their everyday lives nor do aspire to. A person that decides to do it however, does so because they have true drive and they deserve all our attention.

That is why we must support the efforts of organizations that offer this attention to them. Apart from the Community Impact program activities at Columbia University - that stretch from GED adult education and college/job assistance to youth programs to advocacy, there are numerous organizations that operate throughout the city with similar mandates. I encourage you all to find an organization that resonates with you and makes you feel comfortable and volunteer for them – because they need you. And always be sure that your contribution to your local society will have a positive impact in the short or the long run. Who knows; it might “touch” you in a personal level as well.

For more information on Columbia University’s Community Impact Program, please visit their website at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ci/index.html.



This post was written by Marina Sapountzoglou, M.D., Human Rights and Regional Development. Marina currently works with Commerce Bank, is an aspiring Human Rights Lawyer, active community volunteer and volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Please leave your comments or email marina.sapountzoglou@gmail.com.

May 31, 2008

The Chronicles: Part II

What a fantastic time to volunteer! Not only because our times demand it, but also because the human soul needs it! The GED classes at Columbia University’s Community Impact program continue and the semester seems to be progressing amazingly. After spring break, my students came back refreshed and ready for new adventures! And by adventures I mean learn how to write a winning GED essay! Now, that’s a challenge…!!! Mid-terms were uneventful and went by smoothly. The new focus of our class was how to become more efficient GED test-takers and learn new test-taking techniques and of course….practice, practice, practice…!!!

At the beginning of the semester, I underestimated how valuable doing activities in the classroom would be. Having very few students returning their completed homework, it hit me that the only way to help them practice everything we learn in the classroom, was to actually have them do homework in the classroom. It is sad to admit I failed to convince them that homework will actually bring the difference they seek in their progress. However, I do understand that the majority either don’t have the time available or don’t care enough to study.

So my goal until the end of the semester is to help them practice. And since it was established early on that the handbook was a bit of a boring task to tackle, I took it to myself to bring them new material to work on. The material would usually be articles on contemporary issues taken from TIME magazine or The economist in order to simulate GED test-like conditions under which to do the activities. Another activity they love is playing hangman during the last 10 minutes of the class or opening discussions on contemporary issues they’re interested in.

One of my duties as a GED teacher is also to compile a report on each student’s progress on every aspect of the course. A process separate from grading them or nominating my “star” student, this report needs to be comprehensive and detailed. While looking for material to help me form an opinion on each student’s progress throughout the semester I went through all the homework and quizzes I gave them to help me get an overall picture. I was happily surprised to realize that most of the students demonstrate a significant progress; one that was reflected on their essays and find-the-main-idea questions. And progress, rather than finalized results, was the most important goal I had for my class.

Since I’m teaching the level B class for this semester my students are going to take the test next year, so preparing them for the actual test wasn’t my biggest concern. However, I do understand that test-taking skills are essential even for the best-prepared student. As a student myself, I know well that succeeding in standardized tests depends mostly on skill acquired through practice. Thus, I try to convey this knowledge to my students and help them realize that success doesn’t always come from how much you know but how well you know it. The Program offers an array of opportunities to practice, such as computer rooms, paper tests and special consultations, so resources are always available. The students however, haven’t been convinced yet that by using these resources they can achieve a great difference!

Being a teacher that uses empirical experiences as an educational tool my mantra is “Practice, practice and more practice!” I would definitely appreciate any advice, empirical or scientifically proven, on how to help inspire my students and get prepared for the actual test. And remember: when we help one individual in our community to improve their lives in any way possible, we contribute to the overall progress of the community in which we belong.

Questions? Suggestions? Comments? Please write me at marina.sapountzoglou@gmail.com.

March 28, 2008

The Chronicles: Part I

Welcome all to this new venture! The soul and spirit of this whole new undertaking, Ms. Chanelle Carver, a bright young lady with a vision and marvelous ideas deserves a standing ovation not only because of who she is but also for her inspiring efforts to include as many of us as possible in the dialogue for Adult literacy and Poverty. I, myself, got inspired and so I try everyday to veer my everyday activities towards the solution of this problem. That is how I decided that my contribution to this effort would be through community service.

“I was really nervous on my first day. Having no experience, whatsoever, teaching in a classroom, I felt like a fraud.”

To be more precise, I started volunteering at Columbia University’s Community Impact Program as a GED teacher and on Wednesday, February 6th I met with my new class. I got the idea that by chronicling the experience of teaching this class, I may be able to convey my ideas and concerns or issues I may stumble on and ask our readers’ opinions and comments on these matters. So, if you believe you might find something interesting in this experience, please be our guest and follow our blog!



The Beginning


I was really nervous on my first day. Having no experience, whatsoever, teaching in a classroom, I felt like a fraud. When I decided to teach the GED class at the Columbia Community Impact Program, I honestly never wondered whether I’m a good fit for such a classroom or if I have the gift of teaching. All I could think of is that it was a marvelous purpose to serve and if the Program Coordinators thought I am I good fit, I would just go along with that.

Ever since my first class, 6 weeks have passed and the learning experience is incredible! From the crowded classroom on the first day of classes, here were are now to an 18 people group, who attend classes regularly and talk to each other on a first-name-basis. The diversity of the class is incredible; from Latinos, to children of the Caribbean, to Morocco and Senegal.

“Another trivia I discovered, if an adult wishes to go back to school and attend high school class to get the diploma, they actually need to pay.”

At this point what I feel needs to be clarified is that the GED is not just for people who for whatever reason dropped out of high school and now find it hard to go back. That was a misconception I had. My classroom consisted mainly of people with nationalities and backgrounds other than American, and they are here only because they wish to better their lives and professional careers. Not to mention that some of them have already finished high school in their native country. Another trivia I discovered, if an adult wishes to go back to school and attend high school class to get the diploma, they actually need to pay.

During orientation at the beginning of the semester, among others, I was warned that my students will not always be well- prepared for the class, and that there’ll be students that will be late repeatedly or students that will cause a fuss in the classroom. And as the classes progressed I realized how true that was, and it frustrated me. One of my pitfalls was that I didn’t invest much time on setting out the ground rules of the classroom, such as no cell phones allowed, drinks or food, respect the fellow student when they speak and so on and now, how I regret it! After all, it’s hard to tell adults to behave themselves, as if they were grade school pupils. And that’s something I really need to work on, and I ‘m always open to suggestions.

The initial “suspicions” my students had of me are now all gone and mutual respect and trust prevails. We don’t always agree with each other and that usually sparks great conversations in the classroom! The subjects in the textbooks are relatively boring, and after valuable advice I received at a Teacher’s training session two weeks ago, I started bringing my own material to keep them on their toes. That’s another thing I believe works great within the Program’s system: they constantly seek to educate the GED teachers, get our feedback and address problems we encounter while teaching.

“…adults are more self-conscious than children and
more inhibited by their ignorance.”


The students’ buzz is constant. They participate, talk and share all the time. The teaching process seems simple, but it’s nothing but. An important task I had to accomplish was to get an idea of what the students’ level is, so that I could correspondingly prepare the proper material. That is a work in progress, since I’m constantly trying new things and observing the students reactions. For example, last week I brought them a Time magazine article about credit card charges to read and then answer GED-like questions that I came up with, based on the content. They found it original and refreshing, even though many of them had a hard time understanding it entirely.

What I’ve found I always do wrong is that I take it for granted that as soon as they don’t understand something, or dislike something, they’re going to tell me right away. But what I’ve realized to this point is that it’s not the case; adults are more self-conscious than children and more inhibited by their ignorance. I’m always working on that and try to find new ways to approach them.

Currently we are working towards the second half of the semester, and the students can relax from school during spring break. I cannot really claim I have a clear picture of where everybody is standing in terms of progress but I definitely do intend on working even harder to help them realize their potential. Unfortunately, we are constantly in lack of time and resources, but the intentions are always well-meant. After spring break we’re going to continue working on our material, so if any one out there has any suggestions on how to improve the quality of the class, please join the dialogue!

I would be happy to hear from teachers, students, parents or any other perspective available.


This post was written by Marina Sapountzoglou, M.D., Human Rights and Regional Development. Marina currently works with Commerce Bank, is an aspiring Human Rights Lawyer, active community volunteer and volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. Please leave your comments or email marina.sapountzoglou@gmail.com with your questions.

January 19, 2008

Eating healthy: a necessity or an inconvenience?

Someone I know received a treadmill for Christmas. What a fun and purposeful piece of equipment! You can walk...jog...run like wind, in short, you'll get a great workout. That got me thinking about how important it is to eat healthy and exercise regularly. Great for the body...ehhh not so great on the wallet.

Now yes, you don't need exercise equipment to get and stay in shape but without fresh veggies and meats (let's just say fresh food), how could your inside be healthy?

Well I eat fresh food. I really do enjoy them and never understood why kids put up a big fuss about it. And so, I know the pro's (and con's) of eating healthy. But if obtaining these fresh foods weighs down your wallet and there are things you NEED to do with that money - pay a light bill, mortgage, car note - how do we choose which is more important?

What do you think?



This post was written by Chanelle Carver, social entrepreneur, nonprofit consultant, and founder of the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project.