On May 5th I went to an event sponsored by Senator Comrie to help with the distribution of over 40,000 books to teachers and families in the neighborhood. Seeing these books in the huge, unsorted boxes that they came in was daunting at first, but our group leaders organized us into mini-departments by book title so that we could sort through them all before the recipients came. By the end of sorting it had only taken us about an hour and our spirit and energy were still high.
Once my help was no longer needed with stacking books, I was delegated to be the leader of registration: I was given a booth and a sign up sheet and I took down the information of new volenteers and kept track of how many service hours each participant was doing. But, due to my position including a desk and a tent that was located near the entrance, I was also approached by book recipients in need of information or help. This second unofficial job challenged me to quickly problem solve by networking people and distributing resources: I had to make sure all the staff had pens when we were running out, get food for the book recipients’ refreshments, and create a new position to combat the groups of people who tried to take more books than were allotted to each guest.
My favorite part of the project was meeting a man who was a teacher but had been given a family-size book voucher; he came up to my desk to get my help in getting the right card for himself. In the process of getting him a new voucher I noticed that he only had one leg and I asked him how he was going to get his approximately 50 books back to his car, and he told me that he planned to just walk them back and forth in multiple small trips. Seeing a way to be helpful, I went out and found him a wagon to put his books in so that he only had to make one trip. I ended up talking to him for about 20 minutes while he was collecting his books and travelling to get to his car, and it was amazing to see the excitement that would light up children’s and parents’ faces when they saw him. He was a great teacher, a community figure, and an overall cool guy, and I’m grateful that I was able to meet him through this event.
My favorite part of this year was taking the global education trip to Morocco this spring. While there we were able to explore the history, culture, and politics of the nation. Our trip was focused on not being the “typical tourist” endeavor, and as such we consciously avoided largely trafficked area and instead visited smaller shops. Throughout the trip we stopped at many workshops where artisans gathered to make goods, but the most memorable of these was a women’s center where women with skills taught other women in need of income (originally older women and widows, but it expanded to include younger women) how do make different foods and crafts. While at the center I was able to observe and eventually participate in the creation of couscous (which is a pasta; not a grain), the center we visited was directly responsible for the educating of dozens of women and indirectly responsible for even more though the centers they paved the way for.
I specifically loved the global education trip to Morocco because I got to form a more personal relationship with the places we visited by trying to not be a “typical tourist”; I was able to speak to people in stores in a language that wasn’t my own (something that was noticed and appreciated) and even picked up some Arabic from the experience. Also because our intent was to experience all facets of the culture I was given the opportunity to learn about and meet some people of the Amazigh culture and hear about Moroccan culture and history from a different perspective.
Researching charities for the YPI has brought me to the IRC, a charity of I discovered solely because of my involvement with the YPI. I’m particularly thankful that we got to meet with a representative of our charity in person because it allowed us to ask questions too personal for there to be information on the website, about things like classroom dynamics and experiences their clients have with xenophobia.
Also we were given a chance to improve our personal communication skills, since we were responsible for leading our interviews. Our YPI experience could also be considered a means by which we could improve our presentation skills, since everyone had to present in front of peers atleast once. I found this particularly challenging because I didn’t feel familiar enough with our presentation when it was our time to present and I panicked,but I think even if I had’nt’ve panicked with the group presentation I still would find the interview to be the most rewarding part of the experience.
Even though I did not win my charity the $5,000 I am still someone who finds themselves involved in charity events often enough. I strongly feel like an opportunity like this will arise again where I will be able to raise funds for the IRC. So even though its placement in the year seems quite random I owe a lot to the YPI project,as it opened my eyes to the fact that even young people can raise money for charity outside of a bake sale.