What are you doing for others?

“Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” – MLK Jr.

Volunteering Online

Does anyone know of any online/virtual volunteer opportunities with non-profit organizations? Preferably human rights organizations, but I’m looking for all possible opportunities at the moment.

I’m doing a search right now through Volunteer Match. I’ve been having a difficult time trying to find any weekend opportunities at organizations where I live & even in Boston. I would love to go & help out at an office or even do some sort of internship, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be a possibility with my full time job. Which is why I’ve expanded my search to online opportunities. I know that there is so much that can be done outside of an office!

If you know of anything, please let me know. If I hear of anything [that I don't snag for myself ;)] & people are interested, I’ll post the opportunities & maybe some people & organizations can connect!

Idealistic v. Realistic

I think that to some extent, I will always be an idealist.

Over the years, I’ve certainly made a transition & my views are more realistic than they used to be. I would credit this change to my education, both through school & through life experiences. As I engaged more in the world of activism, it made more sense to adopt a realistic view in order to get things done. I need to know what I’m up against if I’m going to have a chance of being successful.

However, I can still get caught up in those idyllic thoughts that rush to the surface. I indulge in them, thinking of how nice it would be if X just happened or if something like Y would lead to X. Things usually aren’t that easy, or in some cases just not possible. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try, it just means that I need a different game plan. And I like to set myself up to cushion the blow if something doesn’t work out or if the outcome isn’t as stellar as I had hoped.

The reason I’ve been thinking about all of this has to do with this post.

I decided not to complete my application for Teach For America. (Yesterday was the last deadline for the 2011-2012 school year.) After talking to one of my friends who did TFA for a year, I had a lot to think about. I realized that I wasn’t giving myself enough time to make an informed decision about applying for the program. Making such a commitment takes more than a month or two of tossing the idea around, & I owe more to myself, the program, & children currently going through the education system.

I’m not sure what I will wind up doing in regards to TFA. My plan is to take more time to think about it as an option, to be more realistic about the program, the challenges, & my expectations of participating. I think I’ve covered the positive aspects already, which is what lead me to considering applying. Believe me, those positive aspects have stuck with me & made it hard not to apply by yesterday’s deadline.

I would have to say that the biggest deterrent I had was the fact that there is no guarantee of being placed in a job for the beginning of the school year. That coupled with what I know about the school district which was my first choice … I’ll be honest, it scared the heck out of me. I can’t commit myself to something & incur the costs of moving practically across the country (not to mention to a state which is so plagued by unemployment) without the guarantee of a paying job. I wish that I could, but I can’t.

For now, I need to find out more about the challenges facing schools & students in these poor, disadvantaged areas of our country. I can’t think that I can go in & change the problems facing the education system. Yes, I can help make a difference, but not in the way I was envisioning when I first started thinking about TFA.

I believe that the balance I have between my idealistic thoughts & realistic thoughts is what works, for me. Sometimes I need to be my own critic & point out that I’m not working with that balance though. This is a case where the scale was tipped to one side, for sure.

I’m not sure what the road ahead looks like. I don’t know if I’ll wind up doing TFA, if some other program will wind up being the place for me, or what other opportunities I might come across. I just know that eventually I’ll get to the right place … I told you I’ll always be an idealist!

 

PS — I just realized how ironic it is that a non-profit job listing website I use is called idealist.org!

Off Track

I’ve been so off track with updating, setting my sights on projects, etc.

Right now I’m home sick with some ridiculous, exhausting, I don’t know what – cold maybe? So forgive me for possibly not making sense, but here are some things I want to share …

One of the bloggers I read is currently in Uganda. I’m looking forward to reading about the rest of her trip & if you’re interested, here’s a link to her posts tagged “Africa”:
moments with love

I’m following the events in Egypt with the Amnesty International blog.
Amnesty International

I can’t express enough how important freedom of expression is. And I admire journalists worldwide.

I can’t remember if there were any other misc. items I wanted to cover. I’ve been watching Dr. Phil, so I think it’s safe to say that I’m not in my right mind at the moment.

What human rights, political, &/or social justice news has caught your attention recently?

Social Justice Reading Suggestions

I have always been an avid reader. Despite my appreciation for auto-biographies & other non-fiction, I’ve been reading a lot more fiction since graduating from college. Maybe it’s because I greatly scaled down the amount of reading for pleasure I did while I was in college & felt the need to catch up. I’ve been neglecting the non-fiction world of books though & I’m trying to make amends for that now.

I own tons of books, fiction & non-fiction, that I still haven’t got around to reading. I’m making a point of going through my own library in addition to the local library. Several of those books are non-fiction & most of them I’ve either read sections of when I was writing papers, or began reading before getting distracted by other books. So I’ll be reading the following over the course of 2011:

Triumph: Life After the Cult – A Survivor’s Lessons by Carolyn Jessop

I actually don’t own this book. I had requested it from the library & didn’t have a chance to finish it before it was due back. I read the first book Carolyn Jessop, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), wrote about escaping from the cult. Her second book is about her life after escaping, specifically focusing on her role as a media liaison during the raid of a Texas FLDS compound.

A Mighty Heart: The Inside Story of the Al Qaeda Kidnapping of Danny Pearl by Mariane Pearl

After seeing the movie A Mighty Heart, I knew I had to read this book. However, I kept putting it down for long periods of time because of the heavy subject matter. I suppose heavy subject matter applies to a lot of the books I read, but something about seeing the story played out in a movie in addition to my morbid curiosity leading me to watch the actual videos of Daniel Pearl, I couldn’t get through the book.

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson

A few of my friends got me this book as a gift a while back after Greg Mortenson gave a lecture at their school. They certainly know me well, as I did enjoy the book & find it inspirational. I just haven’t finished it yet. Considering my potential application to Teach For America, I think I’ll appreciate reading it even more now. I’ve also seen a version of the book geared toward the classroom & want to check that out once I finish this book.

Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Romeo Dallaire

I’ve read sections of this book for various papers & projects, but haven’t read it in full. It’s also a very long book, but I’m going to make it through the whole thing! The book is written by a leader in the UN peacekeeping mission during the Rwandan genocide.

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Holt McDougal

Enough said.

Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia by Carmen Bin Laden

Written by the ex-wife of Osama Bin Laden’s oldest brother. I am a sucker for books about women’s lives in the Middle East.

I Live Here by Mia Kirshner et al

After Mia Kirshner spoke at an Amnesty conference a couple years ago, I put this on my Christmas list. It’s considered a “paper documentary” & consists of four books: one about Chechnya; one about Mexico; one about Malawi; & one about Burma. Each of those focus on a particular aspect, such as ethnic cleansing in Burma. I’m really interested in reading this series, since it’s geared toward activism.

So that’s the beginning of my non-fiction book list. I’m looking for others to add to this list, so please let me know if you have any suggestions – I have a wide taste, so don’t leave anything out just because it doesn’t sound like any of the books listed above.

The Right to Education

Lately I’ve been thinking about my career. I don’t consider the job I’m doing right now to be a career at all, for me it’s always been a placeholder: I need a job to pay my bills, unfortunately!

I want to be able to enjoy my career. I want my career to involve making a difference. I’m not willing to give that up.

So, I’ve continued looking for jobs & different opportunities. Then the other night I had a dream. I was subbing in a second grade class. There was a whole lot of other stuff going on in the dream, but the take away point is that I had a dream about teaching. I haven’t really given much thought to being a teacher since I was in middle school & that was my aspiration for the future. I had a brief moment where I wanted to be an interior designer & then set my sights on the human rights arena.

I thought the teaching dream was kind of strange, & then I thought about it more. Teaching would be much more enjoyable than the job I have right now. Teaching would be a much better stepping stone into the type of career I want. Teaching is definitely making a difference.

Then I started looking into Teach For America. I haven’t completely made up my mind, I have a lot more research to do, but it’s become a consideration. They offer great training, help with whatever certification you need or want, & it’s a great opportunity. They focus on areas that really need great teachers – a lot of cities facing poverty, education gaps, etc.

I’ve been reading about all of these different places I could request to teach in. At the moment, I keep going back to Las Vegas Valley. I already knew about some of the challenges facing education in Las Vegas because of one of the blogs I read: a mother with four children in the Clark school district. I’ve read about kids leaving their classes because their parents have had to send them off to live with relatives in other states due to unemployment or under-employment. I’ve read about parents who are supplementing their children’s educations with homeschooling so that they don’t fall through the cracks in the system.

Of course there are so many hurting school districts, which is why I’m doing my research not just on the districts, but also the cost of living & other things that are relevant to me. There’s a lot that goes into making a decision like this, in many different aspects & for many different reasons.

However, I feel myself becoming more & more drawn to the idea in general. Regardless of where I decide I would want to be placed & where I’m actually placed, the thought of teaching is really growing on me. I think it might be the step in the right direction that I’ve been looking for.

I certainly know that I would be making a difference, even if it’s not the way I imagined. I’ve been so influenced by the teachers who have been present in my life & will always be so grateful for them.

For any of you who are teachers, what lead you to make that decision?

Leyla Zana quotes

The first political prisoner whose case I worked on for years, & a constant source of inspiration …

“I shall struggle so that the Kurdish & Turkish peoples may live peacefully together in a democratic framework.” — Leyla Zana

“I have appealed for peace & dialogue. My crime has been to use a Kurdish phrase for the friendship of Kurds & Turks & their coexistence during my oath of loyalty in parliament.” — Leyla Zana

“Let us refuse to be silent! Speaking freely is a decisive step forward on the road to freedom.” — Leyla Zana

“I had always said that even if they shut me up in a fortress or chained my body, they could not shackle my spirit. With my last breath I would continue to speak out, write & declare my message of peace, brotherhood, & democracy.” — Leyla Zana

“The action being brought against my Kurdish parliamentary colleagues & myself represents a first in Turkish political history. It is in fact the first time that, under a supposedly civilian government, elected representatives of the people have been arbitrarily jailed & brought to trial for their opinions & threatened with death sentences. This trial has no legal basis. It is entirely political.”

“When governments oppress a minority, the rights of all its citizens — not only those of the minority — are threatened. For the sake of democracy in Turkey, Leyla Zana ought to be freed.” — Elie Wiesel

Leyla Zana &  her colleagues were released in 2004.

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