Having spent the last two days buried deep in the rabbit hole, and after yesterday’s attack in New York, I was having a hard time pulling myself out of the ol’ rabbit hole last night. But it was Tuesday night, today is Wednesday, and I felt committed to bring my friends, my faithful readers, news of good people on Wednesday. I had to leave part of me in the rabbit hole as guarantee that I would return, rather like collateral, but I finally made my way out for a few short hours to tell you about a wonderful organization that is doing good itself, but teaching others to do good also.
Earlier in October, I wrote a post about young people reaching out to others with kindness, compassion and caring. Some of those stories came from Youth Serving America (YSA). A bit about what they do from their website.
Founded in 1986, YSA supports a global culture of engaged children and youth committed to a lifetime of meaningful service, learning, and leadership. With half the world’s population under age 25, our mission is to help all young people find their voice, take action, and make an impact on vital community issues. Starting in 2016, YSA will focus all our assets and outcomes on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
YSA was founded and led by Roger Landrum and Frank Slobig for its first 10 years, with help from the Ford Foundation. Both of these men have spent years doing good things and I could do an entire post about each of them. Landrum, a world-renowned award-winning photographer, began by serving in the Peace Corps in West Africa. Slobig has dedicated his lifetime to working with youth, and in addition, he and his wife currently “feed the hungry to the tune of 60,000 meals a year, and clothe and provide regular food distribution to 1000 families in need.”
The activities of YSA fall into four main categories:
- Activate – Large-scale mobilization campaigns, such as Global Youth Service Day and Semester of Service
- Fund – Grant Opportunities of approximately $1 million annually. YSA Grants are available to youth, educators, and organizations around the world for youth-led service projects
- Train – YSA Learning Center, a new YSA initiative that equips youth and their adult mentors with high-quality, high-impact service and service-learning programs
- Recognize – Awards that recognize exceptional youth and the adults who are champions of youth voice
They work with youth, educators, families and communities to inspire, motivate and teach young people to engage in a lifetime of giving to others.
In September, they launched a new initiative called Be Fearless, Be Kind, the goal being to inspire and empower kids to have the compassion, empathy and courage to stand up for others and be inclusive throughout their lives. Sounds to me like a great way to end schoolyard bullying! They don’t pull any punches, either. This year they are encouraging teachers to talk about the hatred in America and even about the events in Charlottesville in August, and they provide toolkits and training information to help teachers do so.
But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding, so let’s look at some of the young people who are a part of YSA …
Mai Griffith is 16 years old and lives in Mission Viejo, California. Her first philanthropic deed was early in life, when she set up a lemonade stand and donated the profits to the Marines, but she didn’t stop there …
“Mai finds a purpose in making sick orphans smile or changing a bandage for a sick person in need. Therefore, she decided to bring awareness to her friends and community about the people of Ghana by having fundraisers and tents at the local farmers market and reaching out to companies. She has even been able to contact a representative for Johnson & Johnson in Dubai UAE to get the test strips for the glucometers she had donated.
Last summer, Mai started her own nonprofit organization the Hearts for Hearts Foundation and, although she tried to do all the work on her own, she realized that she needed help from her peers and relatives. She understands that working with a team is more powerful than working by herself.
Her plan is to volunteer in developing countries every summer because she believes that traveling will give her the opportunity to spread the word about countries that people in her community are not familiar with. Traveling will also help her contact local hospitals to see what they need and find donors to acquire and collect medical supplies for them to use.”
Christopher Suggs of Kinston, North Carolina, may be only 16 years old, but he has frankly done more in the name of peace and goodwill than most of us who have lived for decades. Kinston is a city notorious for its violent crime …
“When he was 14 years old, he decided that he wanted to take control of the situation and create a safe and peaceful environment for his fellow citizens. Chris is the founder of Kinston Teens – a youth-led organization that amplifies the voices of Kinston youth and provides them with a platform for civic engagement and community service opportunities. He believes that if youth realize their fullest potential, they will be able to create a strong and powerful community.
Kinston Teens is the first violence prevention effort that is based on a youth-inclusion model in the area. Since the start of the organization, young people in Kinston have been actively involved in serving their local community. Chris strives to make his community safer by providing youth with community service opportunities, as an alternative to violent activity. Some of the initiatives he has started include beautification projects, voter registration drives, mentoring programs for elementary and middle school students, and youth leadership seminars. According to the Kinston Department of Public Safety and Kinston Police Department, the youth-driven criminal activity significantly decreased in 2015 and 2016. Having witnessed these major changes, youth and all the other residents have taken an active role in improving the life of the city.
Apart from being active at Kinston Teens, Chris serves on several state and local advisory committees and participates in local TV shows where he shares his experience in youth empowerment. Chris’s initiatives are great examples of how engaging young people in important policy decisions can benefit safe community building. Chris has been awarded the Youth of the Year prize by the NC Gang Investigator’s Association for serving as a role model for his peers and providing positive alternatives for young people through community service.”
Then there are the Carr sisters, Bridget (11), Charlotte (9) and Lucy (8) from Wyckoff, New Jersey. They looked high and low for volunteer activities that they could participate in together, but to no avail …
“They then saw a tweet from one of their favorite soccer players, Raquel Rodriguez of Sky Blue FC and the Costa Rica national team about an incredible organization called Soccer Without Borders (SWB). With some help from their father, they decided to join the SWB’s Ambassador program and they started a Greater Goals fundraiser focused on SWB’s programs for girls in Granada, Nicaragua and Kampala, Uganda.
The Carr sisters wanted to focus on helping girls who do not have the same opportunities they have every day, such as getting an education, playing, joining sports teams, eating healthy, and overall having the social, educational, and economic support children need in order to overcome obstacles and achieve personal goals.
Bridget, Charlotte, and Lucy set up social media accounts to spread the word about SWB’s work and sent many emails and messages to local soccer clubs, media members, and professional soccer players. Their club, World Class FC, made a $500 donation to the campaign. Several other people from the club also made personal donations. They also teamed up with another non-profit, called Positive Tracks, whose motto is “Youth + Athletics + Philanthropy = The New Awesome.”
The girls have worked very hard to engage other young soccer players, both at a local level and via social media. Their hope is that kids like them across the country will be inspired to start their own Greater Goals campaign for SWB or give back in some other ways.”
If the proof is in the pudding, I would say this is one amazing batch of pudding, and YSA is doing a fantastic job of helping to create that pudding. This organization is certainly worthy of being featured in today’s “good people” post, and I would also like to give thumbs up to founders Roger Landrum and Frank Slobig, as well as all the young people who are engaged in helping to make this world a little bit better, one act of kindness at a time.