Friday, February 26, 2010

Thoughts on Fundraising

I hope everyone's fundraising is going well! A couple of weeks ago I spent an afternoon at a booth at the Gravenhurst Canadian Tire selling my cards. This was my second time selling cards there and once again I was overwhelmed with the response. I absolutely love talking to people about the program and I love it even more when people tell me about their own stories!! Unfortunately though, there are people at the entirely the other end of the spectrum.

I can really appreciate what charity canvassers go through when they are out there at malls and stores on a regular basis. As fun as it is when people come over and talk to you and share with you, it is endlessly frustrating when they pretend you don't exist.

From my years as a tour guide I think it has just become second nature to make eye contact and smile at everyone and for the most part people smile back. But those same people, as soon as you are there with a booth for a charity will do everything they can to avoid looking at you. I lost count of the number of people who became fascinated with their receipts or something off in the distance, or the floor – but only until they are past my table. I promise I won’t bite! I don’t care if they don’t want to buy or donate anything it would just be nice to be treated like a human being, like I’m worthwhile. I was so frustrated I just wanted them to look at me, acknowledge that I existed. It feels so strange to be intentionally disregarded. For me it offers even just the tiniest glimpse into what it must feel like for all the Dalits who are treated like that on a daily basis and far worse. All it would have taken was acknowledging I was there!

The people who did approach me more than made up for the alienation of the others. I met so many people that had been all over the world and they were so excited that I was doing the same. It’s nice to hear from people who have been there and done this already and gives me more confidence that I will be able to do it too. I was really touched by this woman I met who travelled to Bangladesh years ago. She was so excited to meet someone going to a similar area that she immediately graded a pen and gave me her number. She said it would mean a lot to her if I would take her sari with me when I go, then at least someone would get use of it. She was so nice and so excited – possibly my most enthusiastic customer of the day. I really need to call her back. So she knows I still want to, it just still seems so far away.

I feel like the cards are in a lull, I’ve sold hundreds and in a small town I feel like I may have saturated the market. I’m still going to keep up the cards but on a much smaller scale. I think I need something new and fresh and im considering asking the high school if they will have a hat day, where you can pay $2 to wear a hat and have the proceeds go to Beyond Borders. I’m still not sure. I’d love to hear what other people have planned. The ones I have heard about all sound really neat.

In a couple of weeks I will be presenting to my Rotary Club and I will let you know how it goes. I’m nervous though! Wish me luck !! :D


Thursday, February 18, 2010

People That Eat Together Laugh Together

I want to talk this week about my volunteering because I haven’t been very good about keeping you up to date. (Just as a recap I am volunteering at a local Supper Club on Thursday nights at Trinity United Church)

I really enjoy me weekly get togethers where we make a yummy meal for a wonderful group of people and have a great time. I feel almost guilty – it’s not work at all. We have so much fun in the kitchen joking around and teasing each other or coming up with new recipes or doing impossible puzzles one of the men always brings and the night passes by so fast. I have trouble linking it to the big issues that we have addressed in our courses, because it’s just a part of my Thursday now. I read Cat’s blog a few weeks ago about people at her placement looking down on the people they were there to help and I have to say that I have experienced the exact opposite. After we have finished plating all the food and making up the to go dinners and if there is leftovers- and there is always leftovers- we each make a plate of the exact same food everyone goes out and sits at the tables. There is a great companionship between the long time volunteers and the long time attendees and its fun to watch everyone joke around. Last week my mom and I got talking about the food that we serve there and really what a special place the Supper Club is.

Prior to this term my impression of a soup kitchen was line ups to get donated castoff food like slightly stale bread and lots of beans and rice and canned food. Yet week after week this is not what I have seen. When patrons enter there are tables of snacks, fresh fruit, veggie trays, cheese and crackers, chips and dip and always a new and interesting food to learn about its never the same twice. Each week features a unique fresh made menu offering lots of variety for our picky eaters. Every week there is dessert and goodie bags for all. Last week we served roast beef, with horse radish, gravy, sweet potatoes and carrot, the week before we made pork roasts and all kinds of sides. All the food is bought at the grocery store. And all the meals are the same as you or I would for make with our own families at dinner. And we realized that it’s not about giving whatever can be spared or won’t be missed just so these people can have a warm meal, it’s about making something special for a community. People come who don’t need the food but come for the company, to share a meal with friends. It gives everyone a place they can go once a week and forget about whatever else is going on and go have fun together. Today we had cotton cane ice cream sundaes for dessert, hardly a necessity or staple food but it was a huge hit. Everyone needs spoiling sometimes. I don’t come away on Thursdays smiling just because people got to eat; it’s simply contagious how much fun everyone is having.

Despite the fun it’s still tough to see that these are mostly people that are struggling to get by, but what is even worse for me is the fact that this is a fairly new program. It has only been a couple of years at the church, and though I know there have been other smaller projects over the years there isn’t really much offered in a small town. It’s sad that there was probably a time that there wasn’t anywhere local to go to get a hot meal. There are consistently around 50- 60 in house diners each week plus to-go meals and sometimes there are more. Poverty is not all that visible in Gravenhurst I can count the number of homeless people I saw growing up on one hand. But it’s there none the less and it was really never addressed this directly until now. The Supper Club is not organized by a recognizable charity or sponsored by a company; it is run by one young woman who does this on her own time. I don’t know a lot about the organizer but she seems to be involved in a lot of charity work and I really want to talk to her more about what made her start the program and when she became aware of this unmet need. Hopefully in a few weeks time I can update you on the roots of the Supper Club.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Undeducated Verdict on Education

It was so great to be back with everyone on Monday and so neat to learn more about where everyone is going!! I certainly didn't used to know anything about funny superstitions in Ukraine or that one Buganda, is a Muganda who lives in Uganda. I'm going to have so much fun following your adventures this summer.

Also, thanks so much for all the great book suggestions last week! :) The sneaking suspicion that I have had all week that my mom bought me Three Cups of Tea for Valentine’s Day is now confirmed and I can't wait to get started!

So for this week I had an entirely different post planned and even drafted but I found this online today, linked to one of the webpage of a lawyer, and I was so annoyed that I had to share it with the rest of you.
National Post editorial board: Women's Studies is still with us - Full Comment

This editorial was posted on the National Post’s Full Comment Website on January 26, 2010. It goes perfectly with my discussion of Women’s Studies from last week, and stands in stark contrast to Lady Doak’s take on Women’s Studies.

The author has proposed that society in general, but more specifically the legal system, takes some sort of affirmative action in favour of women over men. And he blames this apparent disparity on Women’s Studies courses. The author (identified only as “NP Editor”) outlines all the ways he feels Women’s Studies has ruined society and the family court system.

There are too many things wrong with this article to address in one sitting, but as a legal studies student I want to make sure I cover the legal inaccuracies and the misleading comments that this author makes.

Working in a family law office I see numerous clients a day who are going through separations and divorces. First hand I know that there are tedious and painstaking calculations that take place when determining what each party brings to a marriage and a predetermined table of support that outlines, based on income who is entitled to what. Women don’t just pick numbers out of thin air and get a judge to sign off, it is a computerized calculation and it doesn’t get much fairer than that. If the man makes less money and has custody of the children then he is just as entitled to support as a woman would be. I admit that I see a higher proportion of women with custody than men but we have worked successfully for multiple fathers and won custody. It’s all circumstantial! I also need to mention that in today’s legal system children can have access to their own lawyer called an OCL that will listen to the children and present their position in custody battles.

I won’t say that women’s rights issues didn’t affect the legal system, because if I did I would be as blind to the truth as the author of this article. But the scale is hardly tipped in anyone’s favour. “NP Editor” claims that women as a whole are considered a “disadvantaged” group. This is twisting the wording. The court is not directed to “give preferential treatment” to traditionally disadvantaged groups, but to give special consideration how their circumstances affect the case. Take for example a woman who forgoes education to start a family and raise the couple’s children while her husband works. If there is a breakdown in the marriage then the woman – and here comes that controversial word – is at a disadvantage because she has no formal education and can’t get a high paying job to support her family. According to the legislation a judge has to consider this in his decisions, consider but not necessarily account for or agree with.

So yes, what the author is saying is based somewhere in the truth but it has been so diluted with anti-feminist ranting, and the terminology so twisted to support it that it is being used to mislead people. I would chalk this article up to a disgruntled ex who is unhappy paying support. He or she obviously doesn’t have any background in law or in women’s studies and yet feels justified in commenting on it.

I encourage you all to read the comments of others that are posted below the article. There are comments that blame the feminist movement for the number of children in the ghetto, and that a feminist can’t be a scholar, and so on. This proves exactly the point that I was trying to make last week – here are people who have obviously never been educated in women’s studies – or legal studies for that matter – and look what it has lead to; to a stereotype of all women as radical feminists, to name calling, to misquoting, to blaming feminists for everything thing from poverty to corrupting children. Maybe if these people had taken some women’s studies courses they would see things a little more objectively, or at the very least have firsthand experience to justify the claims they are making. In the same breathe that these people complain about feminists generalizing all men as victimizers, they are generalizing about all Women’s Studies courses and profs. Yes there are radical feminists but that does not extend to every woman who chooses to call herself a feminist, chooses to take a Women’s Studies course, or chooses to work in a male dominated field. If anything this article, though it is intended to disparage Women’s Studies, is exactly why we need Women’s Studies and need to educate people.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Better Together

Even though I will be telling my BB family all about Lady Doak on Monday, I am so excited about the program and the campus that I want to share with the blogging world as well! So for all the BBers I hope this doesn't spoil anything for Monday!

Lady Doak College is the Christian women's university in Madurai where I will be spending my volunteer term. From what Elyse talked about in class I knew a little bit about the school. I knew it was a school for women only, I knew that I would be staying on campus with the students and I knew that all of the young women are required to take part in service learning projects throughout their community. This sounded great to me and I, until recently, didn't dig too much deeper. In preparation for my presentation I had started to gather more information, but it wasn’t until earlier this week when I was actually putting together what i had found that I realized what a powerful and inspirational place that Lady Doak is. The school itself and all its activities are centered on the empowerment of women through holistic education and promoting women as leaders in society. Not only are every single one of these girls educated in women’s studies (no matter what faculty they are in), but these same students also run service projects with women in the community, offering skills classes and other support programs that promote independence and self sufficiency. They also run outreach programs that promote further education for girls in primary schools. Every project that the school takes on is aimed at bettering the lives and position of women in their society.

And now I want to pose to you a question about what it is to be disadvantaged. A lot of people would say that others are disadvantaged when they don’t have all of the things that western culture would tell us we need. Someone is disadvantaged when they don’t have to right clothes or the latest technology. The village that I will be going to is filled with people that would be called “disadvantaged”. And held to the above standards, even Lady Doak would seem disadvantaged, with its 2 AV capable rooms and its 4 computer rooms. But look what they are teaching in their school; it’s in their curriculum to teach about equality, and to push each one of their students to get out there do something good for the sole purpose of helping someone else grow or be empowered. So their facilities may not be as new or high tech as ours, but look at the values that they are instilling in their students. Then think about the competitive nature of Western schools; programs like this aside, the drive is often to be the best, to make the most money, to get the best job, all the while leaving others in your dust. Is that the kind of morals that we really want our leaders to have? So aren’t we the disadvantaged ones, aren’t we the ones missing the point? Now I’m not saying our way is all bad, we need a push to do well, but does doing well have to only be about that one person? Each university will have isolated groups that push for empowerment or equality, and work to better the community outside of the university, but think how powerful that would be if it was school mandated; if every single student worked to help others in their community –it would completely change the value system of our society. Rather than being the best on our own, we could be better together, as a whole.