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Archive for the ‘The life of the Morgantown Philanthropist’ Category

 
-Picture from Amizade website

Can you imagine tutoring children in Mexico or Navajo Nation? Would you like to take care of orphans in Bolivia? How would you feel about assisting on a clean water project in the Amazon? Amizade, pronounced ah-mee-zha-jee, will more than likely have the perfect program for you if you are interested in participating in this type of volunteer work. All you have to do is go to room 343 in Stansbury Hall and talk to Trey Goff.

Amizade is a worldwide service and learning, non-profit organization dedicated to human equality, community development, and building friendships through intercultural immersion. Amizade serves 9 countries on 4 different continents. Participants are also educated in the culture, concerns and assets of the site.

Amizade volunteers come in all shapes and sizes. Anyone can volunteer between the ages of 12-100. There are even programs that be accommodated for younger children. Volunteers can be students, faculty, adventurers, philanthropists, and leaders. Different programs include the service learning trips, which could be a semester long or just a few weeks. In these trips, the participant could earn credit by taking courses, and even learn a foreign language.

Other programs include open groups with no coursework, and private groups, which could be churches or families.

90% of Amizade volunteers reported to have a great experience abroad. Many said they changed their life goals after their experience, or that their life’s work had been vindicated.

Amizade is a Portuguese word for friendship. The organization is dedicated to connecting with families and building lasting friendships.

“We are in it for the long-term,” said Goff.

Picture from Amizade webiste

A prior trip to Ghana was designed for community development in one of the villages. Goff said that when the group first arrived at the site, the village was very remote. Today the village has wifi and cell phones.

“We got experience from ground zero to what they are today,” said Goff.

I participated in the Amizade Water Walk event a couple of weeks ago. 200 people participated, and $5000 was sent to Tanzania for clean water initiatives. In the past, Amizade has succeeded in bringing clean water to 350 school children at their site in Tanzania, and have promoted water harvesting rain water.

Buckets used for the water walk

I am seriously considering going on one of these trips…but not for awhile. Maybe I can talk my parents into a graduation gift for next year. Doing something like this would be so mind-opening. I really think that a lot of people don’t realize what the rest of the world is like outside of our country. Pretty strong words, I know…but seriously. Goff said that a lot of the volunteers come back to the states and talk about how all too easy life is in the U.S.

If anyone else is interested, there is always a trip going on. You could go for a semester, a summer, spring break, winter break, or just a few weeks at the beginning of summer. Amizade has sites in Tanzania, Bolivia, Jamaica, and Ghana. There is something different going on at each site as well so the type of volunteer work varies.

Call 304.293.6849 if you have any other questions, or visit the website!

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-WAR’s facebook page
 

So far, I have discussed attending events, local organizations, and short-term/long-term means of a way to do volunteer work.  This week’s post is about joining a club on campus.  This should hopefully be a more convenient way for busy students to offer their time to the community because, well, we spend most of time on campus anyway right? Right.

 

WVU’s Women Against Rape (WAR) is what I want to talk about today.  I felt it to be appropriate to choose this particular group because April happens to be sexual assault awareness month.  WAR is one of the newer organizations on campus that only began a year ago.  The group’s mission is to promote fighting back.  They concentrate on ways to teach women how they can protect themselves.  They also strive to teach women how they can take steps to preven

 

t such attacks from happening in the first place. 

WAR hosts “Drop a Cop” events at least once a month on campus.  The university campus police come to the Lair to teach women how to take down an attacker.  Participants get a chance to “take down” a cop at first hand. 

Today, Wednesday 20th, WAR is hosting the event “What would you do? Sexual Assault Panel.”  Numerous speakers will join together in room 109 of Woodburn hall to discuss preventing and coping with assault.  The event will begin at 7p.m.

Thursday, from 12-3 there will be a mace demonstration in front of the lair.  Women will be taught how to properly use mace as a self defense- yes they will actually get to spray it!

 

WAR also does some pretty neat things like passing out these little nifty tests to check if your drink has been spiked.  That should be must-have for the clutch ladies. 

“It’s a thin, square-shaped piece of paper.  You dip the corner of it in your drink,” said Tasha Tully, member of WAR.

The club will have a stand set up in front of the lair to pass these out on Thursday, April 28th.

Sexual Assault Bracelet

If WAR seems like a group you might want to invest your time in, meetings are held on Thursday’s at 7:30 in the lounge at the Lair.  You can also follow the group on Twitter @WVUWAR or facebook.

“People are graduating, we need to get more people involved, or WAR could be nonexistent,” said Tully. 

Since WAR is fairly new, many of the originals are now graduating.  Tully said this was the only group she could find on campus that supports women fighting against sexual assault.  Honestly, there probably should be more, but as it stands, I’d really hate to see the only one go.

For more information you could email the group at wvuwar@gmail.com, or check out their blog.

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The 4th annual Amizade Water Walk took place behind the Lair Sunday afternoon.

This past Sunday, I helped women and children in Africa get clean water.  My dear mother and I participated in the 4th annual Amizade water walk.  Our mission was to raise money and awareness for the women who have to walk up to 3-4 hours just for a bucket of clean water, and the children who miss out on an education because their help is needed at home.

The walk began behind the Mountain Lair at 2 p.m.  The participants carried 5-gallon buckets down to the river, where we filled up our buckets.  I’ll be honest with you.  Most of us didn’t even fill our buckets up half way.  Actually, a lot the participants didn’t even

The 5-gallon buckets used to gather water for women and children's rights.

fill their buckets up a quarter of the way.  You know what else?  It was HARD.  We did not walk for 4 hours.  We merely walked for an hour and half around Morgantown, buckets held high above our heads parading through the busy streets, where every building had access to clean water.

I can’t speak for everyone else, but my arms hurt after…oh about a minute.  I had to alternatively switch hands until someone finally got the bright idea to put a t-shirt on my head and set the bucket on top.

Sometimes, you do not really fully understand something unless you take a walk in someone else’s shoes.  This event made me realize the distress women and children go through in Tanzania just to gather the bare minimal amount of water needed to survive.

Participating in an event is one way to volunteer your time, but consider taking it a step further and actually put yourself through something that someone has to live through every day.  You never know what you may become passionate about, and from there you never know what you can change.

My beautiful mom sporting her bucket.

You can go to room 343 in Stansbury Hall to find out more about Amizade.  Amizade has a program with WVU that allows students to study and volunteer abroad.  Upcoming summer trips include traveling to Ghana, Tanzania, Brazil, or Jamaica.  Two different fall 2011 trips are going to Bolivia or Tanzania, and a winter break trip will go to Ghana.

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The living room in the Ronald McDonald House

Okay, let’s be honest.  Each Wednesday I write these posts with every intention to try to offer up ideas to get my peers involved in the community.  Nevertheless I realize that we are about down to the last month of classes for the semester, which means crunch time.  Even worse, the dreaded finals are only weeks away.   With that said, we are all very busy trying to juggle classes, internships and jobs.  The last thing most of us are looking for is something to take up our free time.  Where did this free time come from?

For those of you who are sticking around Morgantown for the summer, I am not giving up on you. 

The Ronald McDonald House is seeking volunteers as the semester is coming to an end. 

Welcome to the Ronald McDonald House

“With the summer approaching, we could definitely use volunteers, “said Jessica DeHaven, Volunteer Coordinator.

The House serves as a “home-away-from-home” for families who have to travel to get their child hospital care.  The House has 16 bedrooms accommodating 4 people per room.  At any given time, there can be up to 64 people living at the Ronald McDonald House.  DeHaven said that the house is typically always full.

There are only three requirements that a family has to meet in order to stay at the House, said DeHaven.  They must have a critically ill child who is receiving care, the said child must be under the age of eighteen and the family must live at least 50 miles away.  On

Front of the Ronald McDonald House

the other hand, DeHaven said that any family is welcome to stay as long as they need.  In fact, some families have stayed up to a year.

Families who reside at the House are not required to pay any fees.  They are only asked for a donation of twelve dollars per night.  However, if a family cannot afford this price (because it does add up…. $360/month) they are not expected to and it’s not a big deal, said DeHaven.  Families who stay at the House receive free food, board and laundry facilities to help alleviate the burdens of traveling or finances.   By residing at the House, families can stick together when they need each other the most.

The House receives funding from corporate sponsors such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, said DeHaven.  The bulk of the funding however comes from the community members who either contribute monetary donations, items off of the House’s wish list, or donate pop tabs and empty ink cartridges.  Items on the wish list include: hair dryers, twin-size cotton blankets, garbage bags, cleaning equipment, postage stamps, batteries, gift cards for groceries, and food.  The House also collects empty pop tabs and ink cartridges to recycle.  They then use that money to pay for the utilities in the house.

As a volunteer, the House asks that you make your mission be to “help provide our families with a pleasant and comfortable stay by assisting the staff with the day-to-day operations of the House, and by offering a supportive presence to guests as needed.”

You would be asked to be an understanding listener, but not a counselor to the guests, make families feel at home, clean, answer and direct all telephone calls, perform guest check-ins, conduct tours for families, and collect and accurately record all donations.

DeHaven mentioned that you could also volunteer by donating any items that were above mentioned.  Another way to devote your time is by gathering a group of friends and coming to the House to cook a dinner for the families.

“Nine times out of ten most are happy stories,” commented DeHaven about when the families check out of the house.

DeHaven said that she loves seeing kids who lived at the House at some time or another come back to volunteer.

For more information Jessica DeHaven at jdehaven@rmhcmgtn.org or by telephone:304-598-0005.

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LDR 2009

This Wednesday I wanted to make a point that there are numerous ways to volunteer.  I’m not talking about the different organizations you could become a part of.  I’m talking about the actual actions you could partake in, or the ways in which you prefer to offer up your time.  You get out of your volunteer work what you put into it right?  There are easy ways to volunteer just as well as lengthy, time-consuming ways.  If you have a busy schedule, maybe you just want to contribute to your community with a donation that you can quickly drop off.  If you have more time, like a spring or summer break, maybe you want to go on a mission trip.  Another option could be something you are very passionate about, in that case, you might want to make your work an on-going process at which you spend a few hours a week.

My point is, there is something out there for everyone, you just have to look around and see what works out best for you!

For example, my first post was about donating books to prisoners through the Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP).  This is a good example of a way to make a quick and easy donation of a box full of old books for someone else to benefit from.  Other ideas may be to donate old clothing to shelters or a local Good Will.  There is a Good Will on Green Bag Road in Morgantown, or there is a bin outside of the Student Rec Center that collects donated Clothing.

My previous post was about So.Zo, the coffee shop downtown on High Street that promotes social justice.  If you are someone who is passionate about social justice, organic food, and going Green, you could spend a few hours a week volunteering at So.Zo.  Better yet, you could periodically check into So.Zo to see what events they are showcasing that promote social justice and sign up!  For example, on April 10th, the Amizade Water Walk will take place behind the Mountain Lair.  Registration will be going on all week.

On the way to Madisonville, Kentucky

This week’s volunteer organization is going to feature The Lutheran Disaster Response Team (LDR), which is located right on campus beside St. Johns Church.  LDR is a coalition of WVU students who respond to disasters as they occur.  The goal is primarily to help those who don’t have the skill or money after a disaster, such as a flood or earthquake.  The group usually plans one big trip over spring break to any place that is in need of assistance.  They also respond to sites locally in West Virginia. 

The type of volunteer work includes, rebuilding people’s homes, replacing roofs, dry wall, staining, etc.  Though this kind of work is more hands on than other volunteer organizations, you do not need any prior experience before signing up.  You will learn all of the skills once you get to the site.

That truck was blue before the gps system got us lost in a muddy cow field.

I was a part of LDR my freshman year.  For spring break we went to Madisonville, Kentucky to help those who needed our assistance after the ice storms had hit in 2009.  Our mission while we were over there was to help people clean up their properties.  Though this wasn’t really the type of work LDR was used to (they were used to gutting out and rebuilding homes), there was no doubt we still made a difference for people. 

Half standing trees were everywhere. Their trunks and branches were strewn through yards and clogged ditches.  The half-standing trees were posing a danger to falling on homes, roads, telephones lines, or other properties.  We came to clean it up. 

The sides of the road as we drove through Madisonville, Kentucky.

While everyone else was off in Cancun or Panama taking in the sun, I was in Kentucky cutting down trees (that’s right, I learned how to cut down a tree) unclogging ditches, sweating, ripping my clothes, and removing wheel barrel after wheel barrel of debris out of people’s yards for 8 hours a day.

“LDR is an Organization that works hard and does things right,” said Mary Klinestiver, treasurer of LDR. 

What I remember the most from that trip was a little old man who was in his eighties.  He lived alone in a little log cabin out in the woods with his two dogs.  He didn’t have any family around and he was starting to lose his eye sight.  Because he was in the middle of the woods, the storms had done a great deal of damage to his property.  We typically only spent about a day at each site, but it took two or three days to help him clean everything up.  He really appreciated everything we did for him. I could tell he was emotional about our help.  On the last day, he thanked us with a large cookout.  I remember thinking that helping this man was the highlight of my trip. 

The log cabin.

“I think LDR has helped people do what they cannot do for themselves. It has been a joy to know that you made life a little easier for people,” said Klinestiver.

If anyone would like to find out more about LDR contact chaplain@lutheranmountaineer.org

Klinestiver also said that any girls who are interested in service organization can contact her about Kappa Phi, a Christian service organization for women in college, at mklinest@mix.wvu.edu.

To conclude, this post isn’t about me telling you to go on a mission trip because it’s the best way to make a difference.  The best way to make a difference is simply to do what you can, as well as what you enjoy.

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Did you ever think that you could make a difference in the world just by drinking a cup of coffee?  Well you can at So.Zo.  So.Zo is a coffee shop on High street closer to campus.  In fact, you can find it right after Casa.  The coffee shop is owned by Chestnut Ridge Church, which first began on campus.  The church soon blossomed and thus So.Zo was opened as way to stay in root with the Church’s basis.

The purpose of So.Zo is so that students can have a place to go where they feel comfortable, partake in unorganized Bible studies, do homework, check out some of Morgantown’s local artists, and drink cheap coffee (only $1.25).

“One really cool thing that I have noticed is that kids feel comfortable enough to come here with their friends and read the Bible on their own time,” said one of the volunteers at So.Zo who declined to give his name.

I have been hanging out at So.Zo myself since I was a freshman and somehow stumbled across it (probably literally, but we won’t go there). I have always felt comfortable going there.  I love the enormous coffee mugs they give you.  One of my favorite things to do in between classes is to stop in and wrap both of my hands around a great big cup of hot tea and curl up on the couch with a good book….or you know, homework. 

One of my favorite features about So.Zo is that the business is a non-profit organization that serves to promote social justice. The coffee shop welcomes people to engage in making the world a better place. 

First of all, you are contributing just by drinking a cup of coffee at So.Zo.  All of their coffee is organically grown and the to-go cups are eco-friendly.  So.Zo also recycles, and just last year the coffee shop had hundreds of pounds of recycling. 

Secondly, So.Zo serves as a showcase for non-profit organizations.  For example, the coffee shop promotes “Dry Tears,” which is a fundraiser to increase awareness of the world’s problem with dirty water.  Did you know that 3,900 children die every day due to dirty water, according to the United Nations Human Development Report?  Every 15 seconds someone dies from a water-related disease.  That equals out to 5,000,000 million people a year dying from a water-related disease, and HALF of the world’s hospital patients.  Compare this.  According to the U.S Geological survey, the average American family uses 100-176 gallons of water a day, while the Average African family uses 5.  Doesn’t this make you want to do something?!  Go to So.Zo and buy a “Dry Tears” bracelet for $2.  All profits go towards projects gaining access to clean water.

Additionally, coming up on April 10th is the 4th annual Amizade water walk for woments rights. All you have to do is carry a bucket of water on a 1.5 (or 2, I have seen both numbers on a few different flyers) mile route walk beginning behind the Mountain Lair.  Walk in harmony with the 1.1 billion people around the world who do not have access to safe water.  For more information click here.

            This is why I love So.Zo.  I walked in and interviewed one of the volunteers, and I walked out signed up to be a volunteer.  So.Zo is a Greek word meaning “to save.”  Anyone can make a difference. It’s just a matter of wanting to, and knowing where and how to do it.  The greatest part about So.Zo in my opinion is that you feel like you are a part of an important kind of community when you walk in.  You feel welcome, and it’s a pretty common notion that others around you at least all have the same passion to pursue making the world a better place.

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“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.” –Mason Cooly.

The Appalachian Prison Book Project, located on Spruce Street, is a non-profit organization that sends books to prison inmates throughout the Appalachian region.  The books are donated by the public, and then sent out by volunteers according to letter requests from inmates.

The organization launched when graduate English Professor Katy Ryan and her class used the idea for a class project.  Realizing there were not any prison book projects that served the Appalachian region, APBP became permanent.

If you are reading this and you are wondering the same thing I was, then you’re asking yourself why in the world anyone would want to help prisoners.  Consider this: Would you rather spend your time volunteering at a soup kitchen feeding unfortunate families, or would you prefer to help members of your own community who have previously been taken out of the community for criminal behavior?

I love reading.  In fact, one of my favorite places to be is in a library (yea, I’m that girl).  I can certainly not protest to promoting literacy, but I can’t help but wonder what might drive people to put forth their volunteer time helping prisoners. 

Let us consider the bigger picture:

Angie Iafrate, an APBP volunteer, said that what most people do not realize is that many inmates are eventually going to re-enter society. 

“We desire that persons come out of the prison system making better decisions and being better contributors to society than when they went in.”

Iafrate said that studies have been found revealing reduced recidivism rates thanks to education and literacy. 

Joseph Pusateri is not an APBP volunteer, but he does spend his time writing letters to prison inmates. 

“No matter what you’ve thought, felt believed or done, no matter what’s been done to you, there is nothing that can happen in a person’s life, that God cannot transform into something magnificent,” said Pusateri.

Pusateri would like to remind us that we are all God’s children, and God loves us all unconditionally, no matter what we have done.  It is our responsibility to spread God’s unconditional love.

I believe that most people all too quickly forget to imagine what life can be like kept away from the outside world.  Books are an escape for all of us and that includes inmates.  They provide a way for prisoners to educate themselves and free their minds.  Unfortunately, prisons do not advertise for the program.

“That’s what’s crazy, it’s all word of mouth by the inmates,” said Alicia Petrarca, an APBP volunteer. 

Each inmate is allowed to have one book per letter, or one book and a dictionary or Bible.  The most popular requests APBP receives are for educational books or dictionaries.

“There are no dictionaries on our shelves right now,” said Petrarca.

Volunteers are always needed at APBP.  Volunteer work includes stalking the shelves, reading and responding to letters, packaging books, and sending them out

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