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Posts Tagged ‘service’

Photo: Yehor Milohrodskyi via unsplash.
Ukrainians of all ages are offering to help others in wartime.

Volunteering an hour or two a day with journalists in Kviv to refine their English for social media, I am continually struck by the spirit of the people. A fence riddled with bullet holes gets transformed into a fence painted with flowers, the bullet holes becoming the flowers’ centers. Everyone does what they can. Today’s story is about a teen who put away childish things to serve her people.

“ ‘Some of them ask my age and when I say, “16,” they’re shocked,’ Anna said. …

Washington Post reporter Hannah Allam writes from Lviv, “The adults who approach teenager Anna Melnyk sometimes cry, sometimes yell. They see ‘information’ on her green vest at the train station in the western city of Lviv and ask questions: How to get to Poland? Where is the bomb shelter? What to do next? Anna’s calm demeanor seems to reassure these new arrivals, displaced by war from besieged cities. They turn to her for a sign that everything is going to be all right.

“Anna, herself displaced from Kyiv, is undergoing a drastic transformation alongside other Ukrainian teens, who are trading high school concerns for work that will shape the kind of nation they will inherit once the fighting ends. …

“Just a few months ago, Anna was a typical 10th-grader. … She would plead with her mom and stepdad to let her stay out late. She didn’t always do her chores. If she got a bad grade, she said, she’d sulk and think, ‘Life sucks.’

“She now laughs at such frivolous cares. The camera roll on her iPhone traces the abruptness of the before and after. Photos show her posing and singing with classmates, followed by footage of Russian helicopters she recorded from her window. Since a harrowing escape from the capital in March, she has lived with her mom, grandmother, dog and cat in a tiny two-room flat in Lviv.

“She spends mornings in class via Zoom, then hops a bus to cross town for an afternoon shift at the train station. She said she feels empowered when she slips on the green vest to assist bewildered families.

‘Something changed in the way I see my troubles, my daily life,’ Anna said. ‘Now, every day I wake up and think, “Okay, I can do something.” ‘

“An only child who didn’t grow up with her biological father, she learned to navigate the world from the hard-working, churchgoing women who made sacrifices to give her a middle-class life in Kyiv. Her mother, Olga Kuzmenko, 36, is a linguist who interprets for Italian companies in Ukraine. Her grandmother, Olena Shevchun, 60, is an ophthalmologist who taught her poetry on walks through their favorite parks. …

“Anna’s mother took her on trips throughout Europe and the Middle East, always reminding her how lucky she was to have such opportunities. She also instilled in her daughter a love for Ukraine, visiting cultural museums and spending time in the Carpathian Mountains. Anna said the stunning vistas were ‘like freedom.’ …

“Like many adolescents, Anna’s family said, she became more rebellious and stubborn around age 13. She reveled in new freedoms such as going to McDonald’s alone with her friends. She crafted her own look — Billie Eilish-inspired baggy clothes, black combat boots, no makeup and short tousled hair. She would spar with her parents over walking the dog or helping with dishes.

“On Feb. 23, the day before Russia invaded, she and her classmates chipped in to buy a chocolate birthday cake for a favorite teacher. At the time, rumblings of war were background noise. … At sunrise the next morning, the sound of explosions jolted the family awake. Kuzmenko crept into her daughter’s room.

“ ‘Don’t panic, Anyuta,’ the mother said, using her daughter’s nickname. ‘Just take your stuff, whatever you will need for a couple of weeks.’ Kuzmenko remembers that Anna insisted on bringing the cake.

“Anna, her mom and stepfather quickly packed some clothes and important documents — as well as the cake. They drove to her grandmother’s house in the northern suburbs, where that night Anna sat bitterly in front of the TV, eating birthday cake while watching news of a war that was suddenly unfolding just outside her window.

“[Soon] Anna’s parents realized they’d made a grave mistake by driving north. Shevchun, the grandma, lives only 10 miles from Bucha, where Russian ground forces would leave a trail of death and destruction. They could hear the bombardment, and they stayed up night after night gaming out how they would react, what they would say, if Russian troops appeared on their doorstep.

“Then the first photos emerged of atrocities in Bucha, ‘and we understood.’ …

“The stress and pressure on the family mounted. One day, Anna locked herself in a closet for hours, crying and refusing to eat. The family prayed together and decided to make a run for western Ukraine. … They had no idea which districts were occupied by Russian forces, but their Protestant pastor told them about an escape route through back roads. …

“By luck, friends found them the two-room flat in Lviv. … They had shelter, but they were far from settled. Kuzmenko said she developed an uncontrollable tremor. There was bickering given the cramped space. The dog started growling at air raid sirens. Kuzmenko said it was her daughter who adapted best.

“ ‘There were some times when I stayed here and just cried without even seeing the future, the next day, how to go forward,’ Kuzmenko said. ‘And then she comes and says, “Mom, do you want me to hug you?” ‘ …

“During her shifts at the train station, Anna has developed a close bond with other volunteers. … Watching the girls’ enthusiasm gives Anna’s mother and grandmother hope that Ukraine’s next generations won’t grow up feeling yoked by a Soviet legacy.

“ ‘She doesn’t have these fears, that she doesn’t have dignity, that she doesn’t have the right to exist, to have her opinions.’ “

More at the Post, here.

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This weekend, I’m thinking about people who served our country in the military. And especially about the sacrifices of those who came back from combat with physical and emotional injuries — and how little the country does for them or their families after their service.

And I can’t help thinking at the same time how much I wish humanity had evolved to the point of solving conflicts in some other way than combat.

When I was a teen, I was friendly with the family of Charles Lawrence, who was head of the US branch of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and I learned this Ed McCurdy peace song from them. I still sing it.

Last night I had the strangest dream
I never dreamed before.
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
And the room was filled with men.
And the paper they were signing said
They’d never fight again.
And when the papers all were signed
And a million copies made,
They all joined hands end bowed their heads
And a grateful prayer was prayed.
And the people in the streets below
Were dancing round and round,
And the swords and guns and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground.
Last night I had the strangest dream
I never dreamed before.
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.

(Lyrics © T.R.O. Inc.) There are several versions on YouTube. I kind of liked this creaky one by Johnny Cash.

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Restaurants are having trouble finding trained workers, and many low-income people have trouble getting themselves qualified for a job.

Enter the Culinary Arts Training Program at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center in Dorchester, Mass.

Sacha Pfeiffer writes at the Boston Globe, “A recent business survey found that the state’s dining sector is facing its worst labor shortage in more than three decades. That survey, by the Federal Reserve, called the staffing situation a ‘crisis,’ and Boston-area restaurants of all types report that hiring at every level, from dishwashers to chefs, is a major challenge.

“But those industry woes pose an opportunity for graduates of free culinary training programs offered by the Salvation Army, Pine Street Inn, Lazarus House Ministries, Community Servings, UTEC, Roca, and other local nonprofits, which have become a small but valuable source of employees for the region’s food service industry. …

“At [November’s] culinary graduation at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Corps Community Center in Dorchester, for example, several prospective employers attended the event to canvass for possible hires. …

“Aimed at low-income students, the programs generally offer basic training in cooking techniques, knife skills, food terminology, menu planning, nutrition, and kitchen safety standards. Many also teach ‘soft skills,’ such as resume writing and effective interviewing, and job-readiness, like the importance of punctuality. …

“Most also provide job placement assistance at not only restaurants, but school cafeterias, hospital kitchens, nursing homes, sporting venues, corporate cafes, and large food supply companies such as Aramark and Sodexo.

“ ‘There are more jobs than we have students for,’ said Paul O’Connell, the former chef/co-owner of Chez Henri in Cambridge who is now culinary director at the New England Center for Arts & Technology, which offers a 16-week culinary training course. … And even low-level jobs in the food sector can lead to lasting careers.

“ ‘The beauty of our industry is if people have a really good attitude and want to learn, they can go from the dish room to the boardroom and everywhere in between,’ said Robert Luz, chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, which collaborates with many nonprofit programs.

“ ‘I’ve seen an incredible number of people grow their career from line cook to assistant kitchen manager to kitchen manager to chef and beyond,’ Luz added, ‘so it’s the road to middle income for a lot of people.” More here.

Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
A graduate of the Culinary Arts Training Program at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center shows off his certificate.

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I asked around whether any local nonprofits were providing a service opportunity in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on the Monday holiday. Here is what I learned.

Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society told me it published a 12-page booklet to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March. The Dr. King Booklet is free. Postage is $3 for one booklet or $4 for two or more copies.  To have one mailed, send a $3 check to RIBHS at 123 North Main Street, Providence, RI 02903 or call 401-421-0606.

“Let Freedom Ring: 50 Years Later …” Woonsocket, RI. Memorial Service, King Memorial Sculpture Garden, South Main Street, across from St. James Baptist Church, 10 a.m., January 19, 2015. Youth Service Learning Project, St. James Baptist Church, 340 South Main St., 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Participants will help collect basic-needs items and snack food for the homeless. Contact nofokansi@neighborworksbrv.org or call 762-0993, ext. 234.

Providence College MLK Jr. Day of Service (2nd annual). Open Mic Night and Potluck, PC/Smith Hill Annex, 231 Douglas Ave., Providence. 2-5:30 p.m. Click here for info.

Special programs are being held to celebrate Martin Luther King Day at Audubon’s Environmental Education Center in Bristol, January 19, 10 – 2. Click here to volunteer to do crafts with children on Monday.

RI School of Design (RISD) has planned MLK Jr. events in Providence. Day of Service, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, 35 Camp St., RISD and the Mt. Hope Learning Center partner to celebrate King’s teaching by inspiring children to reach their full potential through the arts, crafts and special activities. 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Click here for details.

Greater Boston

I also wanted to check on what Kids4Peace Boston was doing because I know they are into service. Youth from the interfaith organization are volunteering on MLK Jr. Day at Solutions at Work. Matt says, “Approximately 12 of our teens will be helping to revitalize the space at Solutions at Work, which works to end homelessness in the Boston area.” Click here for some of the nonprofit’s other MLK Jr. service options.

Next year I hope to reach more nonprofits to give them — and the idea of a service day — publicity.

Photo: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki
Martin Luther King Jr., Washington DC

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Today at work we had a holiday team-building outing to the nonprofit Cradles to Crayons. A lot of organizations bring employees to the group’s Giving Factory for their community service projects. Our team volunteered at the same time as Blue Cross Blue Shield and Bank of America.

First we watched a video about the history of the organization, which takes donations of clothes and equipment for children, sorts them, and fills orders for individual children at the request of social service agencies. The donations come from ordinary people and from partner corporations.

A group of us sorted donated coats. I was with the group that “shopped” among the warehouse shelves for bundles of sorted and age-labeled items, looking for the needs listed on individual order sheets. For example, we might have a sheet for a boy, age 4, that said “clothing pack, book bundle, craft packet, boots size 6, coat size 6.” It was very well organized. If we found that Cradles to Crayons was  out of something, the staff would fill the order anyway and invite the requesting agency to reapply for missing items. They like to provide whatever they can as fast as they can.

Cradles to Crayons says, “Our vision is that one day every child will have the essentials they need to feel safe, warm, ready to learn and valued. Through the Giving Factory, we provide those essentials, as donated clothes, shoes, books and school supplies to homeless and low-income children. We also offer meaningful volunteer opportunities to hundreds of corporations and thousands of individuals and families each year.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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