Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Tee Shirt Says It All

Teens all wear tee shirts to express who they are and the members of youth2-youth helping youth are no exception. But when you read the quotation on these teens’ shirts you immediately know these kids have picked a pretty admirable role model:
 “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others.” Gandhi
On Saturday youth2 organized the second annual “Youth for Change:  Community Giving Fair.” These youth are looking to transform how we view holiday giving. Their challenge, “Let’s create opportunities to give meaningful life-giving gifts to change the world.” And they offered fairgoers the opportunity to do just that. Participants could bring gifts to help local organizations such as food for the Child Advocacy Center, pajamas for families in the domestic violence shelter, blankets and toiletries for the Backstretch Employee Service Team, hats and gloves for the teens at the Ballston Area Community Center. The focus didn’t end with Saratoga County though. There were opportunities to help the Heifer Project, purchase garden tools for Hospice Africa, and support drilling of wells so children can have safe drinking water in Africa. While many of us feel that the world’s needs are too great these kids emphasized that no contribution is insignificant. Even a nickel can purchase seeds so  our local organization Seeds for Peace can provide seeds for Haitian families to grow food and become self-sustaining.

Throughout the fair the youth inspired us with messages of how giving builds a community. An old familiar story, Stone Soup, took on new meaning when fairgoers lunched on delicious homemade stone soup from bowls crafted by Skidmore’s pottery class… and then took the bowl home as a reminder to keep the day’s theme of helping others in mind throughout the year. The Saratoga Performing Youth Artists wowed the group with their performance of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree (in fact they were brought back by very popular demand later in the day for an encore performance of the play.) Fairgoers were challenged to pick up a 5 gallon container of water. For those who basked in pride with well exercised biceps, the glory was short-lived when they learned that young girls in third world countries don’t go to school, but instead spend eight-hour days carting vessels with this amount of water from the river up mountains so their family can have water. Eight hours a day they carry the equivalent of 5 gallons of water (that’s 41.8 lbs) on their heads up a mountain and climb back down and do it all over again-- every day!

Did you miss the Giving Fair? No problem, check out the Youth2 website  www.youthsquared.org  to view their Book of Good Deeds and find out about local volunteer and social action opportunities. Here’s a suggestion from the fair to get you started:
Take the H20 Challenge.  For 2 weeks drink only water, no soda, juice, etc. Save the money you would normally have spent on soda, juice, etc. Donate this money to drill wells in Africa so children and their families will have safe drinking water.

Just Another Dark and Stormy Night

Let’s start with the hackneyed cliche, “It was a dark and stormy night” to describe the setting for last week’s Homelessness Awareness Vigil in Congress Park. It was dark, it was stormy, and windy and unexpectedly cold as a hundred concerned citizens gathered in recognition of homeless persons in our community. We huddled a bit deeper in our jackets, digging our hands into our pockets for warmth, spattered by raindrops, but hoping that the imminent downpour would hold out until the end of the vigil. Before the vigil began we all commented on the nasty weather, but we commented sheepishly because in the back of everyone’s mind was the thought that for the homeless this is just another night living on the street.
Once the vigil began we heard Theresa Taylor’s moving account of a childhood characterized by domestic violence, mental illness and substance abuse and how this experience contributed to struggling as an adult and eventually finding herself homeless, desperate and terrified living in this very park where the vigil participants were gathered tonight. Her life transformed by the assistance provided by Shelters of Saratoga where she found not only shelter, food and warmth, but the support to change her life. In shelter her perception of who the homeless are changed as she met working people and professionals who were homeless. The experience contributed to her decision to go back to school. She now attends college and is working towards a degree in human services. So as we huddled in the park buffeted by wind, we found warmth and hope in Theresa’s story… and raised awareness of the need to help others who call these streets their home. We left the vigil without lighting our candles as the wind blew too hard, yet we each carried that light within us as we left knowing that while Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week was ending, the Saratoga County Housing Alliance and organizations like Shelters of Saratoga, CAPTAIN’s Youth Shelter, Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services and Guardian House need our support all year long.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why 'Shine a Light'?

As this is the first post to the Shine a Light blog, please let me introduce myself ... and invite you to join me in this blogging adventure.  I'm Maggie Fronk and I am the executive director of Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County. While this blog represents my personal musings and not those of the agency, I find that the work I do every day influences the issues I care about even after I’ve left work. While the title of the blog originated from a fantastic campaign launched in 2009 by the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence to Shine a Light on Domestic Violence, the focus of the blog will be to not only discuss issues associated with domestic violence and sexual assault but also to shine a light on the great work being done by people in our community to make this a better place to live.  We often focus on what’s wrong with the world (and that’s important if we want to make positive changes), but every day people are doing good things to help others…right here in Saratoga County. Let’s support their efforts and celebrate their successes.

There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
                                                                                    Edith Wharton