Tag Archives: Grace

Going Head2Head to Combat Childhood Poverty in New Zealand

3 Aug

Finally, after much searching, I found a wonderful volunteer project in New Zealand. Due to the dates I’m here, and most requirements by local agencies and organizations that I commit six-months to their project, well, it’s been a challenge. So while I didn’t get hands on this time, Paul Dickson from Head2Head Charity was nice enough to take me on a tour of one of their projects and tell me more about the organization which he founded.

On the day Paul and I met he took me to meet the folks at Papatoetoe-West School, an elementary school catering mostly to students (ages 5-11) from lower-income households. It was there that I met 10-year-old Oscar who, along with some friends, proudly showed me the mock-up of a hen-house which he designed. Oscar’s class was challenged to design the perfect hen-house (also known as a chicken coop) and draw the plans. The next step was to go home and gather materials lying around and build their hen-house. Oscar worked hard gathering materials and working, through trial-and-error, to construct his house. His materials included an empty cocoa powder carton, plastic from a water-bottle, wood, a tin can, and discarded plastic tubing. The kids all brought their hen-houses to school, voted for the best design, and Oscar’s won. Once the school can gather the materials, including obtaining some donated lumber, they’ll ask the school’s grounds-keeper to build it to house the hens which they hope to get. Oscar’s hen-house design includes a rainwater gathering system, a comfortable indoor area, and even an outdoor play area with a retractable cover so, as Oscar explains, “the hens can play outside even when it’s raining!” It’s important for hens to play.Hen HouseThis is all part of a national environmental studies program, called Enviroschools, which Papatoetoe joined approximately a year-and-a-half ago. With the help of Head2Head Charity, the school now has garden-beds located Greenhousearound the grounds, as well as a greenhouse, gardening equipment, a composting box and more. The kids spend time tending their gardens each week while learning about horticulture. “Kids love getting their hands dirty,” says Paul Dickson, founder of Head2Head Charity.

Head2HeadHead2Head raises money to sponsor deserving and under-supported organizations and projects. It began in 2012, when Paul organized a simple fund-raising walk to combat childhood poverty. Paul was working in the Geo Thermal field when he and some work colleagues decided to organize the 125km walk around Manukau Harbour in Auckland, New Zealand. With the success of the first walk, Paul became hooked on being a do-gooder and quit his job to establish Head2Head Charity. The next year, in order to draft more participants, the 125km was changed to a relay.

Thus far, the Head2Head Walk has raised over NZ$40,000 by over 150 participants. And Papatoetoe has isn’t its only benefactor. Head2Dead is committed to helping with creative solutions to child poverty in New Zealand wherever they may be. The next step for the Papatoetoe-West School, its Garden-to-Table program, will be implemented soon. A kitchen is being built and the kids will learn how to harvest their fruits and vegetables, and prepare and cook them. Not only will they learn about cooking, but also table manners and social-skills. Head2Head could sure use some volunteers to help with this part. As Paul says, “There’s almost no point growing all this stuff if there’s no one around to help teach them what to do with it.” As well as volunteers, donations of kitchen equipment will gladly be accepted.

School gardenIt’s clear to see the pride the kids take in their gardens. Gardening is just a part of what the kids learn in this program. They also learn patience, a sense of ownership, teamwork, and follow-through.

gardenWhen I asked Paul what Head2Head needs most he told me, for now, it’s volunteers. While Paul quit his job to establish Head2Head, he takes no salary (other than the 100 hours he’s billed at $10 per hour to cover a small part of his time), as he wants as much as possible to go to the projects. But he’s a one-man show and could really use some helping hands. Donations of cash and supplies would also be fantastic. Hubbard Foods has become a corporate sponsor for the Head2Head Charity Walk but there is room for many more.

Head2Head is the little fish in a big pond of much larger charities. What sets it apart from many is that you can actually see the difference your money and assistance are making. Another difference is that Head2Head is committed to two major issues; childhood poverty and environmental education. It’s a worthy charity which could use, and would greatly appreciate, any help offered.

Want to help out? Contact Paul at Head2Head at this E-mail address: paul@head2head.org.nz

If you want to donate some kitchen equipment to the school, please contact Principal Diana Tregoweth at dianat@pap-west.school.nz

 

 

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Volunteer Vietnam

18 Jun

His name is Dang Van Quoc Viet, but he goes simply by Viet. He’s a child of war; what the Americans call the Vietnam War and what the Vietnamese call the American War. To him, it’s simply The War. He was one a year-old riding in a car with his family when the car hit a land mine. His father and brother were killed. He, his mother, and his unborn sister survived. It was a tragedy that caused his mother such mental distress that she could no longer care for him. He was a year old and found himself in an orphanage.

A year passed and his mother was doing better. She claimed him from the orphanage and he returned to live with her and his nine month-old sister. The war raged on for another five years. Things were tough. He finished school and went to work, saving his money with the goal of, someday, attending college. At twenty-six he enrolled in college and, at thirty, he graduated, proving that if you want something badly enough and work hard enough, you can do just about anything. He taught English at the university for some time before finding his true calling – philanthropy.

Truong and Viet

Truong, 15 years-old, and Viet, Director of Volunteer Vietnam

Viet is Founder and Director of Volunteer Vietnam, a non-profit organization supporting various orphanages, social centers, homeless centers and low-income schools. While some of the buildings Childrenare governmental, most of the staff is not. I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Social Support Center, which houses approximately two-hundred people, most of whom used to be homeless. The children, many of whom suffer from severe mental and physical disabilities which have been blamed on Agent Orange, include Hga, who is ten years-old and was found living on the streets. And Truong, who has no parents but does have a grandmother who left him a scar on his face due to her physical abuse. He’s fifteen but is about the size of a ten year-old.

Injured Child

This is Truc after she injured her foot. All I could do was hold her ankle and try to comfort her.

Then there’s Truc, ten years-old, who has severe mental and physical disabilities. She has spasms which sometimes cause her to injure herself. On the day I was there, we took her to the on-site hospital as she had injured her foot during a spasm and was crying inHurt Foot pain. The doctor applied medication to guard against infection and bandaged it and, for the next hour, I held her foot up to prevent her from re-injuring it, as well as from causing her discomfort. It was a small thing and I wished I could do more.

The center also houses abandoned, elderly people. Some are physically disable, some have lost their mental facilities either due to age or, in the case of some, due to trauma experienced from the war – they’ve never been the same.

 

Shower Bucket

Shower Bucket, soon to be replaced by an actual shower made possible by one volunteer and the contributions she collected

Showers

New showers being built

Besides the hospital, the building includes an area called “Step-by-Step” which is the physical therapy room, beds for children and adults, a schoolroom, in which Viet and other staff teach English, a newly built shower, made possible by Anouk, a volunteer from the Netherlands who raised money on a Facebook page when she saw elderly bathing from water in a bucket, as the facility had no showers. Other volunteers I met, Marikan and Danielle created a similar Facebook fundraising page which allowed for the purchase of wheelchairs and other needed equipment. Some of the money also went to painting the dank walls. While there, I also helped paint murals on the now more brightly colored blank walls in order to help make it a place of hope and comfort. And that’s what these people are doing here – creating hope and comfort where there was once hopelessness and pain. Nobody should be forgotten or abandoned.

PaintingYou may know that I once worked for Disney Cruise Line. We called each other our Ohana, a line taken from the movie Lilo and Stitch. In it, Lilo is heard to say, “Ohana means family. And family means, no one gets left behind or forgotten.” Viet truly believes this and, while their families seem to have forgotten this, Viet is making sure that his Ohana are taken care of.

When asked what Volunteer Vietnam needs, Viet responds, “Volunteers! Volunteers are our number-one need.” He makes it easy, as anyone who volunteers with them can pay a small fee which takes care of their housing at the Volunteer Center with shared rooms, air conditioning, showers and WiFi (I checked out the rooms and they’re basic, but nice and clean), three meals per-day, and transfers to and from the volunteer sites. Evenings and weekends are free to check out the surrounding area.

The second item on Viet’s wish-list is funding. They do so much with so little, but a Vietnamese Dong (the currency) can only be stretched so far.

This is not a place which exists to make life nicer for people. This place exists to make life livable for people who, through no fault of their own, are in dire straits and have little hope. If you have some extra cash, or even better, a desire to visit Vietnam and really make a difference, please consider Volunteer Vietnam.

For more information, please visit their website at http://www.volunteervietnam.vn/

Or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/vnvolunteer.org?fref=ts

Hungry in Hungary

9 Feb

Once upon a time there were three travelers who came to town hungry, yet had no food. The villagers were unwilling to share their food with the hungry strangers, so the travelers went down to the river, filled a pot with water and dropped in a large stone. They placed it over a fire and, when asked what they were doing, they explained that they were making stone soup and would be happy to share it when it’s cooked. They told one villager that, while they had the best recipe for stone soup, it would be much better with a few extra ingredients. Before long, a villager brought over some carrots to go into the soup. Then someone else showed up with some herbs to drop in the pot. After that, someone added some meat. Before long, the “stone soup” had turned into a full and hearty meal.

FoodIn the central part of District 7 in the heart of Budapest, is a restaurant called Köleves. Translated, it means Stone Soup. Köleves is one of many local restaurants in Budapest’s District 7 who are working with Heti Betevö, a local charity, to help feed the hungry.

It’s funny, most everywhere I travel, one of the most common volunteer opportunities I find is feeding the homeless and/or hungry. Perhaps funny isn’t quite the right word as, well, it’s sad that this need is so common. But it’s not all doom and gloom as, also wherever I go, I find caring people, not only willing, but eager to help.

Today I found those needy and caring people through the Facebook page of Heti Betevö, Loosely translated Heti Betevö means “weekly good food staples,” which is exactly what they provide. Well, that and perhaps a little pick-me-up to show those in need that others care about them.

FruitHeti Betevö is the brainchild of Bandi and his friends. One day Bandi, a cook at Kisüzem, a restaurant in District 7, began speaking with his friends about how much food waste there is in the restaurant business. They all understood that, as in many large cities, there are people living on the Volunteersstreets (and in Budapest, also in the forest). And even if people do have the most basic flat, many can’t afford food. Many of us have had these same conversations and commented that someone should do something about it. Well, these people did. About a year ago, they started preparing food out of Kisüzem and serving it in the square out front. Before long, word spread.

These days, fifteen-to-twenty people meet every Sunday at 12:00noon at Kisüzem, which is used as a staging area. Various restaurants in the area take turns cooking the hot food which is then collected by volunteers. People drop by bringing fruit, cakes, loaves of bread and candy. After two-hours the sliced-bread, polished fruit, hot food, and coffee and tea are carried outside to the square where there’s a growing line of two-hundred people patiently waiting for what might be their only hot meal of the week.

Budapest Hete Betevo Crowd“We don’t need to ask who they are or why they’re here,” says Hajnalka, one of the regular volunteers. “If they’re hungry, we should feed them.”

Budapest Hete Betevo ManEach week, a different person is designated to lead the team. They assign different food stations and crowd control areas to volunteers and make sure all food is brought out and trash is collected following service. And Köleves and Kisüzem aren’t the only restaurants involved. While Kisüzem acts as the staging area each week, many other restaurants in the area trade-off cooking duties.

Budapest Heti Betevo Donation JarIn addition, you can find Hete Betevö’s collection jars at over forty-businesses in the area. The change people drop in is used to buy food, napkins, plastic-wear, cups and other supplies. And two-weeks ago, Hete Betevö became an official non-profit and can now accept financial donations in the form of checks or cash directly to them. They hope to expand to other parts of the city where they see great need.

Budapest Hete Betevo Carole servingI was lucky enough to join them and their wonderful group of volunteers this past weekend and, as I’ll be in Budapest for at least the next few weeks, I plan to join them again. If you’re in Budapest, they would love for you to share just a few hours of your week with them. All volunteers are welcome and, trust me on this, you’ll meet amazing people and walk away with an incredible Budapest Heti Betevo Logomemory of your visit.

Click here for their Facebook Page in order to contact them or find out more

And, if you’re looking for a great organization to donate money or food to, please consider these people who saw a need and decided to act on it.

This Time I’m Asking for Your Help

31 Mar Book Logo

I hope you enjoyed reading about the Masonic Temple and the Spirit of Newfoundland’s effort to preserve the historic building. I’ve received great feedback about the stories on www.DropMeAnywhere.com as well as the profile on www.Rebel-With-A-Cause.org. The feedback has been so encouraging that I’ve decided there’s a book in this. And writing a book is exactly what I plan to do. But I’ll need your help.

I’m announcing my Kickstarter campaign to assist with the funding of this book. You’ll note that I said “assist with the funding” as I’ve already spent money on the project and will continue to spend more. But just as the website is a partnership between me and the readers, the book will also be a partnership.

On each Drop Me Anywhere trip I find a local project or organization to spend a day, or part of a day volunteering with. I then profile them on Rebel-With-A-Cause.org and let you know more about what they do, who they help and how you can get involved. They’ll also have their stories in the book.

As you may know, Rebel-With-A Cause began with my wish to help others who were struggling. My hope was to not only give them money, but to give them a voice. I connected Rebel and Drop Me Anywhere with that same hope of giving those people and organizations a voice.

The writing of this book is different than so many others. I can’t go to a day job and come home at night to research and write. I believe in this book, but cannot finance it on my own. While I do some writing on the side for some corporate clients and news media, the pay is not enough to finance this book. I’ve worked really hard these last few years and saved money. Still, this will cost more than my savings will allow.

I’m passionate about donating my time and money to worthy causes. It’s difficult for me to ask for it but, this time, I’m asking you to consider my cause. It will not only help me to complete the book and get it published, but it will help me continue to help others.

If you’ve not already done so, you can read more about the project on the Drop Me Anywhere announcement post here on Rebel-With-A-Cause and on the Drop Me Anywhere About page. You can also read the posts from the first Drop Me Anywhere trip beginning with Oh Canada. And, of course, make sure you vote on my next trip.

I hope you’ll consider pledging to the Drop Me Anywhere Kickstarter campaign. I’m offering some great rewards. While I had hoped for some of the rewards to include volunteering for your chosen charity, Kickstarter doesn’t allow this. All I can say is that Drop Me Anywhere will continue to have a philanthropic element with me volunteering on each trip and profiling the projects and organizations.

Please share the Kickstarter campaign with others. It ends on May 1 and, if I don’t reach the goal by then, I receive none of the funding. This time, you get to make a difference.

 

 

Grace

30 Nov

I haven‘t been lucky enough to have a child. Always wanted one. Heck, always wanted about a dozen. Just, well, just never happened. Still, I always thought if I had a girl I would name her Grace. Not Gracie, but Grace. I’ve always loved that word. Remember the show, “The Actor’s Studio?” James Lipton would ask people what their favorite word was. Mine is Grace. It’s peaceful, yet inspiring. It’s a word that can never be taken badly. It’s secular yet, when used, gives a sense of a higher power.

The other day, a stranger told me that the Rebel Project was the definition of Grace. He must have thought I didn’t hear him when, for a moment, I couldn’t speak, not even to express a polite thank you. At that moment, I realized that this project had become my child. I had been given my Grace.

So now I share the joy of my child with you. She’s not easy – no child is. She’s harder work than you can imagine, but she has brought such joy to myself and others. She is demanding of your time and attention, and can be quite exhausting. But she will open up your world because, you see, Grace is the goodness you share.

This project was about many things – paying it forward, keeping promises, giving thanks, and not keeping score. It was not just a journey across the country, but a personal journey to find out if one person can truly make a difference. While I might not have stopped hunger around the world, or saved the planet from global warming, or saved animals from euthanasia, perhaps I helped a homeless, single mom get on her feet, or kept her kids believing in Santa Claus for one more year. Maybe I helped an inspiring hurricane survivor to continue to help others. Or perhaps someone read the stories and realized that they too can make a difference. Maybe they can offer a job or other assistance to those profiled, or simply to someone they meet on the street. Or maybe, like me, they will look deep inside and consider how they might use their talent to help someone else simply because they can.

Thank you for joining me on this journey and I wish you Grace.

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