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Posts Tagged ‘schools’

Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

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Year of Giving volunteer getting dirty!

If you live in DC and are not familiar with Hands on DC, check them out today!  Founded back in 1994 by a small group of friends who wanted to make a difference in DC public schools, this all-volunteer organization leads a variety of improvement projects at more than 30 area schools.  Their largest event is Work-a-Thon, held every spring.

I signed up to lead a team at the 2011 Work-a-Thon that was held April 29th.  I was joined by about a dozen Year of Giving volunteers.  We were part of a larger team that was assigned to Brent Elementary School, a Pre-K – 5th grade school located not even three blocks from the well-groomed lawn of the US Capitol.

When I showed up I was really impressed.  This school looked a lot better than I expected.  I have done two other school based projects this year and their campuses didn’t look anything like Brent.  A variety of gardens surround the brick building that sits across from Folger Park.  On the Southwest corner of the grounds is a really cool playground.  It’s got a special foam-like ground surface that helps reduce injuries upon impact.  So I’ve got to say that when I walked onto the campus I was thinking, “Did I miss the event?  Was it yesterday?  It looks like everything is already done!”

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The entire work group

But I was indeed in the right spot.  This school, which seems to be very progressive with their Museum Magnet Program, benefits from the fact that the staff and parents are very involved with all aspects of the school experience.  To give you an idea, check out something I found on their website: “Students, parents community members and Brent staff will collaboratively share leadership and accountability for empowering the highest quality of teaching and learning, everyday, in every Brent setting, for every student.”  We worked side by side several parents and staff members and I could tell that they really cared for their school.

Team Year of Giving quickly got to work on a variety of projects.  I, like most of us, spent the day weeding and mulching.  My brother and Jody planted a tree.  Kimon and Aster built a tee-pee!  So there were some interesting projects.

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Some of the Team Year of Giving volunteers

Everyone on the team had a great time.  I hope to do more volunteer projects where I have support from you guys!  Thanks to those who came out and helped make Brent Elementary look really fantastic!  Click here for more photos.

For those of you who were not able to participate in Work-a-Thon can make a donation to this great organization.  100% of your donation will be to secure supplies for service projects as well as to provide college scholarships through College Bound, a local mentoring and tutoring organization dedicated to supporting DC public schools students who want to attend college.

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Me and my bro Ryan

We are one month away from the Worldwide Day of Giving – if you haven’t signed up, and everyone can sign up, click here.  How many people do you think we can get to sign up in 30 days?!

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Thanks for all of the nice comments I received about yesterday’s post about my mother.  Although she passed away more than four years ago now, Mothers Day continues to be a day where I honor her and remember what a wonderful person she was.

To shift gears a little today, we’re going to get dirty…well, get our hands dirty at least.

April 22nd was Earth Day, a day that has been dedicated to informing and energizing people around the world to take an active role in securing a healthy future for us and our planet.  The building where I work sent out an email that they were observing Earth Day by partnering with the Fairmont Hotel next door to help revitalize an elementary school across the street: Franics-Stevens Education Campus (FSEC).

FSEC is small public school that has about 225 pre-school through 8th graders.  Despite its rather privileged location on the eastern periphery of upscale Georgetown, the school reports that 69% of the students receive free or reduced lunch.

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Me spreading some mulch.

Its worn red brick façade looked a little dated as I arrived at just before 10am.  The misty rain was refreshing even if it was foreshadowing for the downpour that would come later.

Given that I work for a conservation organization and that Earth Day is tied so closely to our mission, I was very surprised, and frankly disappointed to be honest, that so few colleagues came out to volunteer.  I think there were a total of five individuals.  All they asked was for a minimum of 30 minutes of people’s time, which is nothing.  We could all make that time up by taking a shorter lunch that day.  Thankfully the Fairmont Hotel had several volunteers and the maintenance staff of my building sent at least five people.

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Volunteers from the Fairmont Hotel.

The outside of their campus was definitely looking a little tired.  We all pitched in digging up weeds, cleaning up debris, and laying new mulch.  My earth covered hands worked to get all the soil and mulch looking good perfect for the students.  It wasn’t a huge task – from start to finish it took about two hours.

The real rock stars were some folks from Inside Out Landscaping.  I only spoke with Jenna and Damion, but there were a few others there as well.

I understand that their company donated the materials and they came to help guide all of us amateurs in the right direction.

“It’s not a big deal,”

Damion said as we cleaned up, “We enjoy doing this and are happy to stop by a couple of times a year and make sure things are doing ok.”

It was a good thing we finished when we did because the rain started to pick up.  There is something nice about the smell of a freshly mulched garden and the rain makes it more intense.  I took one last look at our work and headed back to the office to get cleaned up and get back to work.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much. ~Helen Keller

DSC_0199.jpgThe above quote is particularly relevant to today’s post.  As you know every Monday I bring you a blog post of my weekly volunteer activities.  Today’s service project was one that I took part in along with more than 8,000 other volunteers throughout our nation’s capital.

For the past 18 years, Greater DC Cares has organized Servathon – two extraordinary days of service.  The first day corporations and their employees participate in region-wide projects that focus on schools, parks, and other community areas.  On the second day, individual volunteers join in.

I registered a Year of Giving team for the second day where we were tasked with working on several outdoor projects at the Maya Angelou Evans Campus here in DC – a charter school in Northeast.

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Volunteer team at Maya Angelou Evans Campus

As I drove up to the school on Saturday morning colorless skies grew heavy and rain began to fall upon my windshield.  I was hoping the rain would hold off until we finished our outdoor projects.  We were building a garden area; from constructing the wooden frame that would encompass the area to building benches and painting concrete slabs that would be used as a walkway.

I was in charge of building some of the benches which turned out not to be to be too difficult since all the wood came pre-cut.  Thankfully we could do this work indoors, but that wasn’t the case though for several other teams who spent hours in the rain.  Mud was everywhere.  The beautiful thing about working on these projects together is that despite the thick layer of wet earth that was slathered on our clothes and exposed skin, spirits were bright, friendships were forged and cooperation thrived.  Thanks to all of those who came out to support team Year of Giving!  Click here to see more photos from the day.

Check out the Greater DC Cares website for other volunteer opportunities such as Servathon.  Their next region-wide service day will be held on 9/11, but you can find hundreds of other volunteer opportunities throughout the year on their website.

DSC_0168.jpgDC Cares also holds an annual event called IMPACT Summit which focuses on volunteerism, service and philanthropy.  As part of the event, they present a series of awards to outstanding organizations and community leaders who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in volunteering.  If you know of any organization or individual who should be recognized, please click here to nominate them.

Enjoy your week…hopefully we will have a new kindness investor soon!

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-Blog post by Traci, a Kindness Investor traveling in Southeast Asia.

The Sustainable Organization for Community Peasant Laborer Student Development and Orphans (SOCPLSDO),  a non-profit, non-governmental, non-political organization, was established in 2006 by Mr Pong Sena.  The SOCPLSDO established the Chres Village School and Orphanage in the same year for the regional orphans, students, laborers and peasants from the villages in and around the district of Bakong of the Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.

The aim of the SOCPLSDO is to alleviate the poverty and difficulties of the orphans and children of poor families in the Bakong district providing support of their basic needs such as food, clothing, education, accommodation, health services and school supplies.

More than 50% of the Cambodian population is less than 21 years old. The population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure.

I went over my $10 today, but it was my pleasure to give my temporary English students the help they needed for each of them to buy school supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC

"The Amazing Kim Perry" volunteering at Robert E. Lee High School.

Last year a good friend of mine, the amazing Kim Perry (I actually call her that too), invited me to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day doing some community service.  This past MLK Day marked the 25th anniversary of the federal holiday and I thought what better way to pay tribute to the great civil rights leader, and continue on a tradition that Kim instilled in me, than to spend my day off helping others.

The holiday was officially designated as a day of service by Congress in 1994.  So it’s actually supposed to be a “day on, not a day off.”  A day when people from all backgrounds come together to strengthen the fabric of communities we live in.

I invited lots of people to come out and serve with me.  Greater DC Cares organizes a massive effort in DC to help a plethora of organizations; from revitalizing schools to helping feed the poor and hungry.  On their website you can create a team and activate your own network to come together to work on a project.  I signed up a Year of Giving team, however, the web-portal that Greater DC Cares uses for registration locked a week in advance so many of those who wanted to join me were unable to which I think was a shame.

Anyway, the response I got from friends was interesting.  Many supported the idea of serving on MLK Day, a handful even came out and worked alongside me.  And of course there were a few who took the attitude of, “I have the day off…why would I waste a day off to go out and work?”

Fair question.  I guess because I believe that if you really want to celebrate the holiday, and after all isn’t that why we are released from our work commitments on these holidays, the best way to do that for MLK Day is to volunteer your time to help transform the dream that Dr. King had of a “beloved community” into a reality.

My team was part of a larger project that helped paint parts of Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, VA.  In all I think we had 40 volunteers there.  Although I thought the service day lacked a little overall leadership and guidance for the volunteers, we managed to complete the task.  The team I was assigned to gelled really well.  What we lacked in the way of instructions we compensated with initiative, enthusiasm and compassion – not to mention a heavy dose of FUN.

I really believe our team produced the best looking wall.  Now to be fair we had a bit of an advantage.  Several of the teams painted stripes down the hallways; we were assigned yellow, others had blue, red and green.  Yellow is the lightest of the colors and hides flaws very easily whereas those who were painting more contrasting colors, such as blue and red, had a challenging time concealing the brush strokes that escaped the painting area.

Volunteers at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, VA.

All in all it was good experience and I hope we created something that the high school students will appreciate – although I doubt that when I was a student I would have valued such an effort very much.  Back then I just didn’t appreciate the challenges that schools face financially and value the efforts that were made by others to make the learning environment a more attractive space.

Thanks to all of those who helped to keep Dr. King’s dream alive.  For those of you who haven’t ever spent the day serving, make a commitment to do this next year.

And for those of you in DC who can’t wait to get out and help your community keep checking my calendar for service events.  Also keep an eye out for Servathon in April – two extraordinary days of service organized by Greater DC Cares that bring together nearly 5,000 volunteers to help 70+ nonprofits!  I checked their website and they don’t have any information up as of today on the 2011 event, but hopefully they post it soon!

Did you volunteer on MLK Day?  If so, I’d love to hear about your experience!

Want to see more photos from this event?  Click here.

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Today’s recipients are third year medical students at George Washington University Medical School.  It seems that I have had a lot of recipients in the medical field over the last couple weeks. 

I was walking by SoHo Café on the corner of P and 22nd Street, which by the way if you live in DC you should definitely check this place out.  They are really nice there and always take good care of you. Anyway, I saw a guy in front of the café holding a bottle of booze and thought that this guy is starting his weekend off with a bang!  He turned out to be a rather bizarre individual.  He was really paranoid or on some mind altering substance and became very nervous.  Soon another individual approached him and he refused my Alexander Hamilton and walked away. 

I slowly turned in a circle, scanning the scene until I saw Kat and Ben sitting at an outside table at SoHo.  They had laptops out and seemed to be working on a project (they were actually filling out rotation schedules) or something.  I walked up to them and introduced myself and the Year of Giving

The med students were a bit curious about my project.  Ben asked a couple investigative questions about the project.  I asked them if they would accept the $10 and they looked at each other and shrugged and said “Sure.”  

I asked them what they thought they might specialize in.  They were still pretty open-minded about this and didn’t really have any decision made yet.  “Not geriatrics or psychology” Ben said.  Kat agreed. 

I asked them what they liked to do when they were not studying.  “We live pretty boring lives,” Ben lamented.  I felt bad about invading their time when he said “This is about the only time we have free.”  But that didn’t stop me!  No sir!  Not me.  Seriously, I tried not to keep them too long, but I did want to learn a little more about them.  I found out that Kate loves to play soccer and has been playing since she was 4!  She really enjoyed watching the World Cup this year.  Ben shared that he did his undergraduate studies at Knox College, a small liberal arts school in Illinois.  There he had a radio show for four years and later became the general manager.  He also studied abroad in Copenhagen.

I thought that was pretty impressive and then Kat added that she studied abroad in Spain (Salamanca) and spent some time in Switzerland and New Zealand where she jumped out of a perfectly good airplane!  Pretty impressive.

So what would two young people who seem to have it all do with this new found $10?  Ben seemed to take the lead in their decision making process and explained to me the likely fate of the ten spot.  “Honestly, I think $5 will go toward beer, $3 and change toward an empanada at Julia’s Empanadas and the rest will end up as tip probably.” 

Ben and Kat, on left, enjoy some down-time from their busy med school studies (photo: Reed)

As I always do, I asked to photograph them and get their email so that I can send them an invite to the year-end celebration.  Usually younger people are very comfortable with both of these requests, however, they preferred to stay more anonymous.  They did allow me to take this one picture from far away…that’s them sitting at the table on the left.

Well, I felt like I might have worn out my welcome a little and said goodbye.  I do hope that they check out the blog and decide to come to the celebration in December.  Time to head home before it rains.

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Versión en español sigue abajo.

Good morning and welcome to the Worldwide Day of Giving!!!

Today is a day that you can do what I have been doing for 182 days (I am behind on posting my blogs).  It’s so simple…find someone you don’t know, tell them you are participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving and give them $10, or whatever you can afford, no strings attached and find out what they will do with the $10.  Hopefully you can learn a little bit about them as well.  I always get their contact information and then try to stay in touch.  Have fun with it!  Then I hope you will share your stories here…if you take pictures or video, you can post your stories on the Facebook Page.

I have a couple of media interviews today.  This morning I am heading over to News Channel 8’s Let’s Talk Live for an interview with Natasha Barrett and Melanie Hastings.  Then around 2:30 I will be on CNN with Ali Velshi.  Finally this evening, I will be celebrating here in DC at Café Dupont (The Dupont Hotel) from 6-8pm.  If you are around, please join us!

Interviewing Sandra in her classroom (Photo: Roberto Gonzalo Ceballos)

On day 172 I found myself at the Instituto Tecnico Marco Fidel Suarez (ITMFS), a grade school in Manizales.  The kids here are similar to the those at the San Agustin school.  They come from very simple backgrounds.  Poverty is rampant and sometimes the brightest part of their day is the time they spend at school.  “Sometimes the meal they get here might be the only meal they get all day,” says Sandra, and English teacher at the school.

The bilingual chorus that I was working with at this school was made up of Sandra’s students.  After we were done rehearsing with the students, Sandra stayed to talk to me some and I found my recipient for my 20,000 pesos.  

Photo: Reed

An educator for the past 13 years, Sandra never imagined she would be teaching at a school like ITMFS.  “I was teaching at the University.” And before that she had some pretty impressive jobs translating and interpreting for the Ambassador from India.  “I don’t know how it happened but somehow I ended up teaching here and I am so happy to be here.” 

Colombia divides it’s neighborhoods into socio-economic categories called strata.  The wealthiest is six and the poorest is zero.  This school has children from the zero and one strata.  To me the concept was unfamiliar to identify people so readily by a stratum based upon where they lived, but here it was quite common.  In fact, many of the students that I met would ask me which stratum I belonged to.  A question that I didn’t know how to answer but comparatively speaking, it was surely much higher.

Sandra is passionate about teaching.  She speaks English all the time and expects her students to try their hardest.  Most of the students were lucky to know a few words in English.  The hope is that by learning the songs that we teach them that they will make a connection and learn more quickly.  There was one girl who was quite advanced in the chorus.  She had an amazing natural ability I think for languages.  Sounding almost like a proud mother she nodded her head and said, “Yes, she is quite good isn’t she.”

I learned that English is not the only thing that Sandra is passionate about.  Now the proud mother really came out and she flipped through her phone for a second and handed it to me.  “I have the most special baby boy: Juan Felipe.” He is three and looked so happy in the photos she shared.  

I shot a little video of the class singing as well as Sandra explaining what she was going to do with the $10 and why.  This one is in English.  Enjoy.

Versión en español

En el día 172 estuve en el Instituto Técnico Marco Fidel Suárez (ITMFS), una escuela del sector público en Manizales. Los niños de acá son parecidos a los del Colegio San Agustín. Tienen un historial muy simple en donde la pobreza es excesiva y algunas veces, la mejor parte del día es el tiempo que están en la escuela. “Algunas veces la única comida que tienen es la que comen aquí” dice Sandra, la docente de inglés.

El coro bilingüe lo integran los alumnos que asisten a clase con Sandra. Después de haber terminado el ensayo con los estudiantes, me quedo con Sandra para hablar un poco y encuentro a quien darle mis 20,000 pesos.

Sandra, siendo docente durante 13 años, nunca imaginó que estaría enseñando en una escuela como el ITMFS. “Fui docente  a nivel universitario” y antes había trabajado como traductora e intérprete para el Embajador de la India. “No sé cómo sucedió pero de un momento a otro terminé enseñando aquí y estoy feliz de hacerlo.”

Students at ITMFS (Photo: Reed)

En Colombia los barrios se clasifican en categorías socio-económicas llamadas estratos. El estrato más rico es el seis y el más pobre es el cero. Los estudiantes de esta escuela provienen de estratos cero y uno. Para mí el concepto no era familiar, es decir, identificar a las personas rápidamente sólo con base en el lugar donde viven; pero aquí en Colombia es algo demasiado común. De hecho, muchos de los estudiantes que conocí, me preguntaron a qué estrato pertenecía. Una pregunta que no supe cómo responder, pero comparativamente hablando, de seguro mucho más alto.

Sandra es apasionada con respecto a su trabajo, habla en inglés todo el tiempo y espera que sus estudiantes hagan su mayor esfuerzo. Muchos de los estudiantes son afortunados al conocer algunas palabras en inglés. Se espera que aprendiendo las canciones que les enseñamos, los estudiantes hagan una conexión y aprendan más rápidamente. Había una estudiante en el ensayo del coro, quien estaba muy avanzada con respecto a los otros; creo que tiene una extraordinaria habilidad innata para los idiomas. Con el tono de voz de una madre orgullosa Sandra mueve su cabeza y dice: “Sí, es muy buena para el inglés”.

Aprendí que no sólo el inglés es lo que apasiona a Sandra. Aparece una madre orgullosa quien saca su teléfono celular, busca por un momento y me muestra una foto: ¨Tengo el bebé más especial: Juan Felipe.” Tiene tres años y se ve muy feliz en las fotos.

Grabé un corto video (encima)  en donde aparece el ensayo del coro y Sandra explicando qué va a hacer con los $10 y por qué. Está en inglés. Disfrútenlo.

Este blog fue traducido generosamente por Sandra Toro en Manizales, Colombia.

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