11.15.2015

Helping the Homeless



"It's not how much we give, but how much LOVE we put into giving." 
- Mother Theresa 

Like I said in last week's blog post, this week's meeting would be devoted to assembling care packages to give to the homeless. Homelessness is something we're all very aware of because we see it a lot here in Houston. We see them all the time on the side of the road holding up signs and asking for someone to help them. Our sense of privilege is stronger than ever as we sit in our climate-controlled cars waiting for the light to change so we can go wherever we need to go. We have the privilege of transportation to take us from place to place. We have the privilege of a purposeful life of to-do lists and people to see. But amidst all of that, right there on the street is someone in tattered clothing, holding a sign because they have no other options. 

A great lesson that the girls and I encountered during the privilege lesson what that no matter how much we think we know someone, we may not truly know
their story. We're all so quick to judge a person by the community they live in, the language they speak, and the clothes that they wear when in reality, we know nothing about them. We don't know their story. I don't know about you, but I LOVE hearing someone's life story. Their story is what really makes them the most beautiful. It defines their character, it enhances their strength, and it makes them completely unique. 






So, the girls and I talked about changing the way we all perceive the homeless by giving them the power of story. We won't write the story for them anymore. We will show them that we care, tell them that we believe in them, and make them feel like they are people too. Because we are aware of our privilege, we can share our privilege with the people who need it most. 







We spent our time on Thursday putting together bags of goodies! Because of the donations from many of you (THANK YOU!), I was able to buy 50 pairs of socks and plastic bags. The girls donated things like granola bars, crackers, fruit snacks, and water bottles. 


But, of course, that wasn't quite enough so the girls had the idea to write some inspirational notes as well! They wrote things like "You will overcome this" and "We care about you!" on hundreds of slips of paper. We were able to fill each care package with several notes that will definitely put a smile on everyone's face that gets one. 







It felt SO good to do something like this! The girls and I couldn't stop smiling the whole time we were making them. Each girl got 2 bags to take with them to keep in their car. I have some bags myself that I will be giving as I drive around as well. I can't wait to hear the reaction from the girls as they get to serve others throughout the week! 



"You have two hands: one to help yourself and the second to help others." 

Do something today to share your privilege with others. 



11.07.2015

Serving Others

"Our souls ought to be on fire yet no one seems awake." - Susan B. Anthony 

Last week, the girls learned about the importance of being aware of their privilege in order to take control of their future. It was a really special moment for the girls. As they watched their friends step forward and backward within the circle, many of the girls felt saddened and even surprised as they learned about the disadvantages that their close friends face on a daily basis. In that sacred moment they learned that no matter how much they think they know someone, their real story may be completely different. 

My girls are some of the most loving, sensitive, and compassionate people that I know. I am consistently inspired by their genuine desire to share their heart with others. After last week's lesson, the girls went home and wrote the most heartfelt entries in their journals. Almost all of them talked about their desire to share their privilege with people less fortunate than them. It was so humbling to listen to their charitable reflections. These girls are 8 & 9 years old and they're already willing to jump into a world of helping others and making a difference. I didn't ask them to write about helping others - they did that on their own. Their souls are on fire and they are most definitely awake. I am so proud of the young women they are becoming. 

I want RISE like a girl to be 100% driven by the girls. I create lessons every week they are inspired by what they truly want and need. So, in order to align to their passions, we devoted this week to brainstorming ways to serve others. Timely enough, a coworker of mine actually shared a documentary with me that completely aligned to what we were talking about. The documentary is called CodeGirl. The documentary highlights high-school aged girls seeking solutions to their community's problems through technology. In the world of technology, 4 out of 5 app developers are male. CodeGirl supports young women entering a field traditionally occupied by men in order to make the world a better place. 

Here's the trailer:

In the documentary, high school girls from Moldova, a country in eastern Europe, were upset that people in their community didn't have access to clean water. Instead of standing by and allowing the problem to keep happening, the girls sought a solution. They created an app that helped people locate wells in their area with clean drinking water. 

I showed the documentary to the girls for this reason: when we see a problem, we fix it. We stand up, we own our privilege, and we use our voice to make a difference. So, the girls and I make a list of the problems we see in our community. Here's what we came up with...




Then, the girls met in small groups to brainstorm some possible solutions for those problems. It was beautiful watch how passionately they came up with ideas to serve others. Although, it's not common for women to be CEOs, business leaders, and other professional/social innovators, the girls are learning that they have what it takes to make a difference too. Our brain is worthy, our ideas matter, and our voice is significant. Little by little, we're breaking through genders barriers and making our mark as the empowered girls we were born to be. 

One of the problems that was super close to their hearts was homelessness. Here in Houston, there are displaced men and women on the street almost everywhere you go. Many times, you'll see them at an intersection holding a sign asking for money. We want to help those people - not by giving them money, but by giving them care packages to make them feel cared for and valued. Next week, the girls and I will spend our meeting assembling bags of snacks, water, warm socks, and kind notes. I'm so excited to work on this project with the girls. We saw a problem and we're seeking a solution to share our privilege and serve others. 


If you would like to support this service project or our other projects in the future, click the DONATE tab to make a contribution. The girls and I will be eternally grateful!  



"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself to others." - Gandhi 

11.02.2015

Privilege

A couple weeks ago, the girls and I joined Michelle Obama's #62milliongirls movement in support of making sure that girls everywhere can have access to an education. We reflected on how our education has made an impact on the trajectory of our lives by finishing the statement "In school I learned ...".
Surprisingly enough, none of the girls completed the statement by saying they learned how to write a persuasive essay or divide double digit numbers. I mean, that is what we teach them in school, right? But, no - school teaches us so much more than that! Going to school provides us with the values to overcome challenges, make friends, and set goals. Getting an education opens the door to a plethora of opportunities that simply weren't available before. Without school, we wouldn't know what our options were. Without school, we wouldn't know that our destiny is in our hands. Without school, we wouldn't be able to use our voice to speak up for ourselves and others. Education is a freedom that so many of us get to enjoy without ever thinking twice. Education is a privilege

In RISE like a girl this past week, I decided to continue the conversation about privilege. To put it simply, a privilege is anything you have that you don't have to think about. It's just something you have - you didn't ask for it and you didn't have to do anything to get it. The girls already learned that their education is a privilege because it's something they just have and they've never had to question whether or not it would still be there. Their education is an expectation, a privilege. It's important to be aware of that privilege because it forces us to appreciate what we have as well as help other who may not have that same luxury. I wanted the girls to discover the many other social privileges that exist and how those privileges are affecting their day-to-day life. 

So, we played a game. 
The girls took a seat at the tables and chair in my classroom. I didn't tell them where to sit, they just sat down wherever they wanted. Then, I gave them a blank piece of paper and instructed them to crumple it into a ball. Finally, I told them that were all part of a new society and if they do one thing they can become super rich. All they have to do is shoot their paper ball in the trash can. 
Easy, right? 
Not necessarily. There's a catch. I positioned the trash in front of only one of the five tables so that only that table could shoot their paper ball in the trash can successfully. The other girls were sitting at tables that were either too far away or trash can wasn't even visible from their position. So, I let them shoot and even with great effort, only the table closest to the trash can was successful. 

I'm sure you can imagine that there was an uproar of girls saying things like, "That's not fair!" and "How am I supposed to do that?!" Exactly. It's not fair. But that's what privilege is all about. The group closest to the trash can was successful not because I told them to sit there, not because they worked hard to get that position, but they were successful solely because they were in the right place at the right time. Their luck gave them privilege. We discussed the feelings that developed from being unprivileged as well as the ways our advantages & disadvantages make an impact on our futures. 

Now that the girls had a firm understanding of what privilege means, we did another activity to show the variety of privilege. Social privilege comes in many forms - such as racial privilege, gender privilege, religious privilege, sexual privilege, socioeconomic privilege, and, of course, educational privilege. Our privileges play out in many aspects of our lives. Sometimes they work for us, and sometimes they work against us. To test this idea, the girls formed a standing circle with equal distance to the center. I read them a list of statements. Some of the statements described a privilege, while others described a lack of privilege. For every privilege that was true for them, they took a step forward. When the lack of privilege was true for them, they took a step backward. Here are some examples: 

If English is not your first language, take a step backward. 
If you identify as white, take a step forward. 
If you were born in the U.S., take a step forward. 
If you or your parents are immigrants, take a step backward. 
If you can buy new clothes whenever you want/need them, take a step forward. 
If you've ever felt like your family doesn't have enough money, take a step backward. 
If you're expected to go to college, take a step forward. 

Once I finished my list of statements, the girls assessed their new position in the circle. They noticed that some girls were now in the center of the circle while other were far away. I told them that step forward signified privilege and stepping backward signified a lack of privilege. The girls in the center are the most privileged and the ones far from the center are the least privileged. 

Now, the point of this activity was not to make anyone feel bad about who they are or where they come from. Rather, the point was to make the girls aware of their privilege so that they can use that knowledge to directly impact their future. The girls reflected on how it felt to be in their position in the circle as well as reflect on how it felt to see their friends in a different spot that they may have expected. Quite a few of them were able to come to the beautiful realization that even when we think we know someone, we may not know their real story. When we're aware of our advantages & disadvantages, we can use it to make a positive change in our lives and the lives of others. 

those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act - einstein:

Own your privilege. Whether it's a little or a lot, use it to make a difference. Don't settle for a life that is less than your best. Things don't have to be the way they are. YOU have the power to be extraordinary.