I recently learned about Change.org, an organization founded by Ben Rattray that empowers anyone across the world to create real change in their community, city, or country. People do this by creating campaigns that fight for issues they care about. Change.org believes “building momentum for social change globally means empowering citizen activists locally.”
Campaigns can be about anything. They range from curbside recycling programs to fighting wrongful deportation to protecting against anti-gay bullying.
After a previous campaign started by teen girls, Seventeen magazine pledged to print one unaltered photo spread a month in their magazine. Today, I signed a campaign at Change.org to encourage Teen Vogue to do the same and pledge not to alter any model’s body or face and to celebrate beauty in all its forms.
I am really excited about this organization because I love that anyone-no matter their age or where they are in the world- can sign or start a campaign and be the change they wish to see.
The Women’s Media Center cites media influence as one of the most powerful economic and cultural forces today. ”By deciding who gets to talk, what shapes the debate, who writes, and what is important enough to report, media shape our understanding of who we are and what we can be.The problem is that we only rarely use half of our talent and usually hear half of the story.”
Check out this video from the Spark Summit showing examples of the sexualization of women in the media from TV and magazines to music and even cartoons and its affect on girls. Learn more at the Women’s Media Center and how you get involved in changing the media landscape for girls and women.
Nothing But Nets is a global, grassroots campaign of the United Nations Foundation founded in 2006, to raise awareness and funding to fight malaria, a leading cause of death among children in Africa. By donating $10 for a mosquito net, anyone can help prevent the millions of deaths that malaria causes.
In five years, the Nothing But Nets campaign has engaged hundreds of thousands of individuals to help achieve the UN goal of ending malaria deaths by 2015.
Nothing But Nets works with UN partners like UNICEF, the UN Refugee Agency, and the World Health Organization to purchase nets, transport them to Africa, and distribute them to families. Net distributions are typically part of a wider public health effort within a country coordinated by the Ministry of Health, the UN and other local and international organizations.
We can all have a part in fighting the world’s most pressing problems!
This weekend I visited the University of Pennsylvania and had the opportunity to learn about their commitment to service and their well developed service programs.
Penn’s commitment to service is right there in the Penn Compact, stating that Penn students are engaged in the local and global community. When it comes to service many schools talk the talk, but it was clear from my time at Penn that they want their students to walk the walk. Penn sees its commitment to service as one of the many ways in which it furthers the original goals and mission of Benjamin Franklin in founding Penn.
By working alongside others to benefit society, the campus community reaffirms what Penn’s founder Benjamin Franklin called “an inclination to serve mankind, one’s Country, Friends and Family.”
There are several components to their civic engagement and service program; however there are a couple that stand out and are unique from their peer schools.
Academically Based Community Service
The number of students involved in Penn’s Academically Based Community Service courses has grown by more than 60 percent since 2004. Last year, more than 1,800 Penn students worked in schools, health clinics and other venues as part of their academic experience.By integrating real-world application into the learning experience, Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) courses create a stimulating, challenging and meaningful forum for students and the community. In ABCS, students work with a faculty member to address a problem or issue in the local Philadelphia community – giving back to their neighbors and “engaging locally”.
The key components:
- focuses on problem-solving research and teaching
- promotes learning through service
- emphasizes student and faculty reflection on the service experience
- fosters structural community improvement including effecting public community organizations
- reaffirms Ben Franklin’s belief that “The great Aim and End of all Learning..is service [to society]“
Penn offers over 160 ABCS courses across schools and disciplines that involve engaged work in West Philadelphia through the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships. ABCS courses involve hands-on, real-world problem solving and help students become active, participating citizens of society.
Civic House is the University of Pennsylvania’s hub for student-led community service and social advocacy work. Civic House promotes mutually beneficial collaborations between the Penn and West Philadelphia communities, and beyond.
Through education, community connections, and other resources, Civic House prepares students for responsible and effective civic engagement and leadership.
Civic House activities and services include:
- Housing student-led community service and advocacy groups
- Providing orientation and continuing training and reflection for students involved in community service and advocacy
- Serving as a resource for one-time and ongoing community service projects
- Sponsoring speakers, panels, and other educational programs
- Supporting student service groups by providing meeting and office space, and transportation resources
- Providing links to and training for academically-based community service and related courses
- Linking with College Houses, the Greek system, and other groups
- Providing a resource room with publications on service, tutoring, and social issues
- Promoting and supporting students’ desires to integrate social responsibility in their career plans
- Supporting opportunities for alumni service projects
I was particularly impressed by the student-run Community School Student Partnerships and the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project. The tutoring project provides West Philadelphia school students with individual attention through one-to-one tutoring and mentoring relationships with Penn students, encouraging academic achievement and increased self-confidence. Over 250 Penn students volunteer as tutors or mentors in afterschool and evening programs across six public schools in West Philadelphia!
As a student at Penn, it would be very easy to get involved in some aspect of service whether in the local Philadelphia area or abroad. I was excited to learn about how giving back is really ingrained in Penn students because of Benjamin Franklin’s philosophies.
Watch this video by Girl Up Director Gina Reiss-Wilchins introducing a new way for supporters like you to invest in girls around the world!
Here is Part II of my interview with Monique Coleman. I am so inspired by all the work she does to helps girls and women around the world, and I encourage all of you to find ways to get involved with Girl Up to support women’s rights!
ACTBOLD: You have just stepped into a new role as a Girl Up Champion! What are you looking forward to the most about this new position?
MO: Everything! I LOVE Girl Up and I’m thrilled to use my platform to raise awareness about the various Girl Up campaigns. I also enjoy getting to know the teen advisors. They are passionate, creative, and committed to social change. Their efforts are inspiring to me.
ACTBOLD: Their efforts inspire me too! What do you think is the most important thing teens can do in support of Girl Up and the work that they do?
MO: Start a Girl Up club at school or with your friends! Use your social networks to raise awareness about the campaigns. Keep your global sisters in mind as you advance in your personal endeavors. Look for ways to apply your personal dreams and passions to global change.
ACTBOLD: In your opinion, what is the most effective platform to educate young people around the world on issues such as child marriage?
MO: This is a difficult question. I find that with any issue, the best thing you can do is to create an emotional connection. The Girl Effect is a fantastic video that achieves this. Making important issues personal, relatable, and memorable will ensure that young people commit to the cause for the long haul and not just a one-day event.
Don’t forget to follow Monique on twitter @gimmemotalk or connect with her at facebook.com/gimmemotalk!
MO: I’ve always desired to make a difference. When I was in middle school and high school, I volunteered with several organizations and participated in a lot of community activities. As far as role models, I deeply admire the work of Martin Luther King Jr., and from a young age, I aspired to walk in his foot steps. Getting involved with the UN was not something I ever expected, but once I became the Youth Champion, I felt that it was where I was always meant to be. I love working with the United Nations Foundation because it gives me the opportunity to further the efforts of the UN by supporting extremely impacting projects.
ACTBOLD: That’s so cool! Can you tell us a about your role as the Youth Champion for the United Nations?
MO: When I was appointed the first ever UN Youth Champion for the International Year of Youth, my role was to promote the theme of the year which was dialog and mutual understanding. I took this a step further by initiating a 6 month global tour to understand first hand the unique experiences youth face all over the world. I visited 24 countries in the six months. In each country, I facilitated dialog in schools, met with NGO’s, spoke with government officials, did media interviews, and volunteered with local and international organizations. The experience was multifaceted and life changing.
ACTBOLD: From all your travels, can you tell us briefly about one or two highlights or encounters that have had a significant impact on you?
MO: Bangladesh was a highlight because I had never seen such extreme poverty. At the same time, the people I met were some of the most gracious and positive people I’ve ever met.
A project that was particularly impacting was visiting a sanitation project in Lodwar, Kenya where a local woman had employed women in the neighborhood to sew sanitary napkins for girls in the community. It turns out that during a girl’s time of the month, she was forced to sit under a tree and miss a week of school. After a few months, girls typically dropped out of school completely. This project was especially meaningful to me because I saw how something so simple could make such a huge difference.
Make sure to check out Part II of our interview tomorrow! For More Mo’, follow her on twitter @gimmemotalk or connect with her at facebook.com/gimmemotalk.