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Posts Tagged ‘volunteers’

Photo: West End Phoenix
Journalists at other outlets love the idea of this hyperlocal, print-only newspaper and are tapping their inner paper boy to help out.

There’s nostalgia in this story but also a hint of things to come. As entertained as I am by the image of journalists helping out a pal by delivering newspapers (visions of my husband’s long ago paper route), I’m really counting on the idea of high-quality, hyperlocal, print-only papers sprouting up everywhere. When giants falter, something new fills the vacuum.

Kristen Hare writes at Poynter, “Almost six months ago, a Canadian rock star started a community paper. Amazingly, that’s the least interesting thing about West End Phoenix.

“It’s non-profit and ad-free. It comes out every five weeks. It’s created by a staff of six. Subscriptions cost $75 for the year. It covers Toronto’s West End. And it’s not online. …

“It’s been almost a year since Dave Bidini, the rocker/author/founder, first decided to start a print-only community newspaper. … He’s learned a lot in the past year about the power of patronage (ahem Margaret Atwood), how hard it is to get to subscription goals (they’re at 2,100 and figure 3,200 gets them to sustainability) and what’s possible when people believe in what you’re doing.

West End Phoenix offers home delivery thanks to 50 volunteers. Among them are three journalists who don’t work as journalists for West End Phoenix. Instead, they’re paper … men.

“Brendan Kennedy is an investigative reporter for the Toronto Star. Josh Visser is managing editor of Vice Canada. And Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter at The Globe and Mail. All three know Bidini.

“Visser worked with him at the National Post, he said in an email, ‘and felt guilted into helping him. That’s the truth, but I also live in the community, work in journalism and think the Phoenix is a really cool initiative and wanted to help out. I could also use the exercise.’ …

“Wheeler was an early subscriber, and when his copy wasn’t making it up to his second-floor apartment, he sent a complain-y email and asked if they needed people to help deliver. After he sent that email, Wheeler worried that he sounded snarky, ‘but sure enough, they did need people and they gave me a route that was fairly near my place.’ He now delivers in the Riverdale neighborhood.

“And Kennedy, a fan of Bidini’s band, Rheostatics, interviewed Bidini as a college journalist. They stayed in touch, and when the call went out for people willing to deliver papers, Kennedy signed up. …

“ ‘The idea of riding around my neighborhood on my bike and delivering this paper, it just felt kind of romantic to me.’ …

“That sense of nostalgia appealed to Wheeler, too. He was a paperboy and said that his first delivery day felt like Christmas morning.

“ ‘And then that first hill took all the romance out of it.’

“Wheeler thinks the Phoenix’s appeal has something to do with a yearning for things that are more tangible and less corporate. …

“People want something real and honest, he added. ‘Honest’s a good word for what Dave’s doing.’

“But honest does not pay salaries. Newspapers in Canada, like the U.S., are evaporating. West End Phoenix is the only newspaper to have started in the country last year, Bidini said. …

“Growing subscribers will be key, [Visser] said, along with support from patrons. …

“ ‘It’s all uphill,’ Wheeler said. ‘I don’t know what I got myself in for here.’ ”

More at Poynter.

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Photo: Isabelle de Pommereau
Anja Reefschläger has taken Ahmad Madarati and other refugees under her wing since they arrived near her Berlin home last year.

The Christian Science Monitor always has great stories about good works around the globe, and this one on ordinary Germans who are volunteering to help refugees get settled is no exception.

Isabelle de Pommereau writes, “ ‘Frau Anja.’ Hearing this name for a Berlin volunteer who teaches refugees German – and has become a second mother to many of them – brings a smile to Ahmad Madarati’s long, sad face.

“Mr. Madarati, who fled war-torn Aleppo, Syria, and Anja Reefschläger met on a freezing November morning last year. …

“Today, Madarati works practically gratis at a youth center in Berlin, helping young people build furniture. And in a few weeks, he is set to move out of the so-called Treskowallee camp into a house. The house is next to Reefschläger’s, and she is the one who persuaded the owner to rent it out to Syrians.”

Ordinary Americans are also showing kindness and warm hearts, even when state government refuses to participate.

In Texas, for example, when the governor refused to sign on to the federal effort to resettle Syrians, ordinary Texans and nonprofits stepped up to the plate.

Jim Malewitz writes at the Texas Tribune, “Texas’ top elected officials have not exactly welcomed refugees over the past year. [In September] Gov. Greg Abbott followed through on his threat to end cooperation with the nation’s refugee resettlement program because federal officials refused to ‘unconditionally approve’ a Texas plan requiring extra vetting of applicants. Such a move will not keep refugees from coming here, but it eliminates the state government’s role.

“But everyday Texans seem to be more willing to help refugees from Syria and elsewhere start new lives in the Lone Star State. Nonprofits that resettle refugees say volunteer turnout has increased — in some cases dramatically — since Texas Republicans first suggested they threatened security.” More. See also an article in the Nonprofit Quarterly, here, for details on the critical role of nonprofits and volunteers in Texas at this point in time.

I have personal knowledge of the many volunteers reaching out to refugees in Providence via the Providence Granola Project (how about giving their yummy products as holiday gifts?), the Refugee Dream Center, Genesis Center, and Dorcas International. The Diocese of Providence is also at the forefront of service as an official resettlement agency, like Dorcas.

You know what else? I just heard of a woman in my town who is selling her house and moving to “wherever she’s needed.” She wants to use her years of language-teaching skills to help refugees.

[10/15/16 Update: Read about the outpouring of support for refugees in Lowell, Mass., here.]

Photo: Marjorie Kamys Cotera
A group gathered at Wooldridge Park in Austin on Nov. 22, 2015, to show support for refugees.

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