Poverty Simulation event at the UDC during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (November 11-19, 2017)

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The Department of Social Work at Binghamton University’s College of Community and Public Affairs and the Southern Tier Homeless Coalition are again partnering to draw attention to the challenges of poverty through a Poverty Simulation, happening from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16 at the University Downtown Center.

The simulation experience is designed to expose participants to the realities individuals and families in poverty face, by having them assume the role of a low-income family member struggling to provide basic necessities and shelter over the course of a month.

Participants, may find themselves newly unemployed and facing eviction; a senior citizen unexpectedly raising grandchildren on a fixed income; or the victim of domestic violence seeking safety for themself and their young children.

The Simulation will be followed by a debriefing period to create space for participants to share their experiences and consider opportunities for change.

REGISTER HERE FOR THE POVERTY SIMULATION EVENT

The event will be facilitated by Shari Weiss, community housing manager with Catholic Charities of Cortland County and moderated by Cassandra Bransford, associate professor, Department of Social Work, Binghamton University.

The Poverty Simulation will also incorporate a panel discussion from regional experts on local challenges and community efforts. Panelists include:

  • Scott Beattie – assistant superintendent for instruction, Windsor Central School District
  • Rev. Greg Johnson – senior pastor, Cornerstone Community Church; chaplain at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, and instructor with Broome County’s Re-Entry Program
  • Majeedah Razzaq – intensive housing family advocate, Opportunities for Broome, and member of the City of Binghamton’s Community Development Advisory Committee
  • Tonia Thompson – superintendent, Binghamton City School District
  • Nancy J. Williams-Frank – commissioner of Social Services and Community Mental Health, Broome County

Plan to arrive prior to 6 p.m. start of the simulation, which will begin on time. Food and refreshments provided.

Moments from Malawi: Reflections from student volunteers

Binghamton University student volunteers are improving life for children in Malawi through participation in the Malawi Children’s Mission Partnership (MCM) 
Prof Lisa Blitz with her two best friends
Associate Professor Lisa Blitz, CCPA Social Work, with two friends.

The Malawi Children’s Mission Partnership (MCM) is a collaboration between a local businessman and members of CCPA that helps students from a range of disciplines address the profound intergenerational cycle of poverty in Broome County and the far-flung African country of Malawi.

Program volunteers repeatedly say they come away from the experience feeling they received more important life lessons than they delivered.

Moments from Malawi: Reflections from student volunteers
 is a blog series sharing the thoughts and experiences of MCM student volunteers in their own words. New stories will resume with the fall semster, but we’ve included three recently-featured student experiences to enjoy in the interim!

Thomas Mastro, MPA-SSA ’18

Tom and the boys

Shannon Rudy, Syracuse, MSW 2018

Eboniqua Smith Bronx, NY, MSW 2018

Join us soon for a new Binghamton University student volunteer experience!

Moments from Malawi: Reflections from student volunteers

Thanks to all for the positive feedback and support of these posts on social media. We are so proud of our students, faculty and all who contribute to the work of the Malawi Children’s Mission Partnership (MCM).

This week offers a glimpse into the essence of the MCM and what it is Binghamton University student volunteers, faculty and others, accomplish through their dedicated efforts to improve the quality of life for the children of Malawi who have been orphaned.

Is it just us or do those happy smiles reflect success?

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“The MCM’s goal is for children to see themselves as loved, valued and thriving.”

Seven girls will be attending school in Malawi for one year, thanks to the fundraising savvy of an extraordinary 10-year old!

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MCM recently thanked Joely for raising over $700 for the Young Women’s Initiative at the farmer’s market this summer.

An ambitious, in-progress career goal for this MCM student.

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We can see why Wisdom’s bright future requires shades! He’s studying journalism, working toward his goal of becoming a radio announcer.

A rare and unusual show of technology (in Malawi).

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A generous donation of iMacs from the Riverdale School offers a big technology step forward for the staff and students of the MCM.

Effervescent fun, courtesy Team Binghamton University!

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“Bubbles. The universal language of fun! A small part of the joy brought by the Binghamton University team.” #binghamtonuniversity

Moments from Malawi will be back next Thursday, we look forward to seeing you then!

Moments from Malawi: Reflections from student volunteers

Featuring Eboniqua Smith, MSW ’18

Malawi Children’s Mission (MCM) Partnership
May-June 2017

Eboniqua Smith Bronx, NY, MSW 2018

“Experiencing economic poverty does not equate to unhappiness.”

Part 1:  Cautious anticipation and the bolstering effect of a journal

As the time quickly approaches to travel 7,762  miles away from family and close friends, I am at a loss for words. When I initially heard about the service learning trip I was head-over-heels, I knew it was an experience I wanted.

Now that I have completed all the requirements, packed my bags, starting planning and laid the foundation for the projects–I feel stuck. My family and friends continuously ask me “if I’m excited” and I reply with a soft and simple “yea.”

I’m not sure what’s going on, but I think it has a lot to do with nerves. Embarking on a journey I’ve never been on before, flying for over 15 hours to my destination, new food, new people, the unknown – I’m  on autopilot. I keep thinking once I get to the airport, I’ll shake it off and re-light my fire of excitement, but for now, I guess I’m ready.

My ho12191168_893388424043743_2309800312640665944_opes for arrival in Malawi is to take it day-by-day and to fully absorb everything I’m hearing, seeing and feeling.

I also took the advice of my peers, those who embarked on this journey last year, and invested in a journal. I want to be able to track and take notes of my journey and experiences as they happen. This, I know, will be a good resource for my own growth and the change I will experience when I get back to New York.

I also can’t wait to run around and play with the kids. The videos and pictures of them from the past trip were something that made me submit my application and I can’t wait to make my own memories.

Part 2: A feeling of home, the kid connection and the unimportance of things

This first week has been nothing less than heartwarming. I must say my excitement stems from a feeling of finally being “home.” Taking a trip to the motherland was a dream that has now turned into reality. Oddly enough I don’t feel out of place–driving around Malawi makes me feel at home. I feel as if I belong here and I’m already sure that this will not be the last trip I make to the country.

After landing in the Malawian airport and driving to Annie’s Lodge, I couldn’t wait to call my Mom and tell her how similar it is to being on the island of St. Croix, where my family is from. Attending church here and trying the local food helped me immediately identify parallels between the Malawian culture and the culture of my Caribbean family.

After traveling over a dirt road to the MCM community and finally meeting the children, I have to say I was surprised by their immediate connection with us. I felt even more at home with them at my side. They were not afraid to take a hand and play a game, but honestly kids are kids no matter the location.

There were moments that took me aback during visits to the village. I believed I had a vast amount of knowledge concerning the struggles these families endure. However, as we well know, hearing about something is not the same as actually seeing it.

Touring the homes of some of the kids, and hearing guardians share their experiences, stories, dreams and hopes for the children, warmed my heart. Each time a guardian shared something, the wheels in my head were turning, trying to figure out how I might be able to help these families after I leave. Their work ethic, sense of community and care for each membe10750329_744290485620205_652511957943088434_or touched my heart.

My main concern so far is the confused perception of these families’ situations with the absence of happiness. I cannot and will not cease to express that these families are strong, resilient and HAPPY. Experiencing economic poverty does not equate to unhappiness.

My concern is more for their well-being. For example, the challenge of obtaining water. It is unbelievable how much they have to go through to get this necessity of life. One of the projects I would like to concern myself with when I return home is raising money to provide water bore holes for each village community that is home to children from the MCM academy. It may not be a project that will reap an immediate outcome, but it will happen.

Part 3: Girls demonstrate the value of “teaching a man to fish”

The services that MCM offers the families and children of the villages exceeded my expectations. I am amazed at the work being done to serve 150 students. One of the things that impresses me the most is that, even with limited staff and resources, they still manage to do so much.

The project that I came to MCM prepared for was to work with the Young Women’s Initiative. As we prepared projects and ideas to share, nothing felt effective because I didn’t know the girls I was going to meet; I didn’t know their attitudes, their work ethic or what they like to do. I was thinking of the girls I met in New York and how making sanitary pads, one of the proposed projects, would not have appealed to them. But it was a brilliant idea and we decided to proceed with it in Malawi.

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As the time came closer for us to show the MCM girls the steps to make the pads, I became nervous.

To my surprise the girls were motivated to complete this project. They never complained, never gave up and the week-long project was completed successfully.

The girls exceeded my expectations and their work ethic surpasses that of most people I know. They were also very grateful to not just be given something, but to learn such an important skill.

MCM’s Ken shared his thoughts on “handouts,” saying that he finds it important for the children to learn skills, to have the ability to create things themselves and also to pass those skills on to peers and future generations. The community seemed to share that view.

We met with the village chiefs, who expressed their gratitude about the skills being learned by people in the villages. The chiefs also expressed their want for the young men to be included in similar learning.  At the mention of this, my wheels started turning as to what ideas I can contribute to help the boys find a project, so they can learn valuable skills and potentially make money for their communities and themselves.

I love and appreciate all the possibilities for entrepreneurship that MCM allows. This organization will continue to have a place in my heart, as will the people of MCM, the driving force behind such a phenomenal mission to change lives. The children of the three villages are lucky, in my opinion, to have such a strong community raising them. My time here illustrated to me the well-known saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Part 4: Gratitude 

I remember when I initially told family and friends I had applied to a service-abroad project, that their reaction was one of excitement. Everyone couldn’t wait to hear about how I helped “those orphaned kids on the other side of the world.” Even I couldn’t wait for what adventure might unfold. During the two-and-a-half weeks of our trip, my mind raced to process and interpret everything that I saw, smelled, touched and heard.

The most mind boggling part for me, as I previously shared, is that everything felt so familiar, that I felt so at home. The only thing different was the language, although the language barrier did not interfere with the love and care I quickly developed for the people and the country of Malawi.

On my immediate return to New York, I began sharing stories of my Malawian experience. Many of my family and friends were shocked, unaware of how westernized Malawi is, especially referring to how much English they spoke.

Many people were also amazed that the children at MCM didn’t look “starving.” (The images of starving orphaned African children was what many people unfortunately knew about Africa.) One thing I always share about the people I met in Malawi is how extremely hard working they are. Everyone I met was inquisitive and ready to learn.

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As I write this, I’m still trying to understand fully the ways this experience will stay with me forever. Of course I’ve met a great deal of people that I may never forget, thanks to special photographs and videos, but what can I take away and apply to my professional life?

The answer currently is that this Malawian experience has added onto my drive to help people excel in life. It has also pushed me to take advantage of everything that I am afforded. I am fortunate to be in a position where my parents still  work countless hours to afford necessities, but they can acquire them.

I interacted with people in Malawi who have few material things, but a lot of heart and drive. If the opportunity to further themselves or their community presented itself, I’m positive they will take advantage of it.

As a person living in America, I see opportunity and feel obliged to take advantage of it. Whether it be an opportunity to help myself excel or to help others, an opportunity presented should not be passed up.

I don’t want to take anything for granted, because even my ability to walk to the supermarket is an opportunity that children and families living in a rural Malawian village don’t have. As I continue to process my thoughts, reactions and reflections from this trip, I will remind myself to not take my situation for granted.

~Eboniqua

My Philanthropy Journey Continues: Reflections on the Youth Philanthropy Connect Conference

I first became interested in philanthropy and grant making through Professor David Campbell’s Philanthropy and Civil Society course, which I took during the spring semester of my freshman year. I left the course with a passion for philanthropy but no true “next step” in applying the concepts and critical thinking skills I had learned. Volunteering at a local non-profit and attending several MPA information sessions confirmed my interest in making a career out of philanthropy, but I found myself, a year later, still with absolutely no idea how to make that happen. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the Youth Philanthropy Connect Northeast Regional Conference on June 14th. Alongside my fellow Philanthropy and Civil Society alum, Nick Doran, I headed to the Centre for Social Innovation in New York City with the hope that I would connect with other young people and adults who could provide me with a “next step.”

Upon my arrival, I was immediately impressed by the energy of the other conference attendees. I knew that I was surrounded by a truly special group of people, united by the common goal of promoting youth philanthropy in our region. The day’s program offered sessions for both young people and adults, with the adult sessions focusing on increasing youth civic engagement in our communities.

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The conference itself was not very large, with maybe 50 to 60 people (young people and adults) in attendance.  However, this made it much easier to get to know the people that we would be spending our day with.  Most of the program, including presentations on philanthropy models from some of the foundations and programs represented at the conference, and a presentation on philanthropy in New York City, included all attendees.  However, there were breakaway sessions in which we could choose what small group discussions we wanted to take part in.  I chose to attend a workshop about the relationship between social justice and philanthropy, in which we discussed the importance of supporting organizations that get to the root of social issues, rather than simply providing temporary solutions. Additionally, I participated in a discussion about careers and futures in philanthropy where I learned that there is not one set path that will lead me to a successful career in philanthropy. Listening to the life stories of various philanthropic leaders inspired me to identify the causes I care about and to decide how I want to become involved with those causes.

The most beneficial aspect of the conference for me was definitely the smaller discussion groups.  These groups allowed me to network not only with impressive figures in the field of philanthropy, but also with inspiring youth philanthropists.  Some of the young people had started their own nonprofits, while others, like Nick and I, had participated in grant making courses at their own schools.  One of the adults who was running the conference had actually participated in a course funded by the Learning by Giving Foundation during her time at Tufts University, so it was interesting to compare our experiences!

We ended our day by giving away microgrants based on research we had done and grant proposals we had received and reviewed prior to attending the conference.  We went through a process similar to that used in the Philanthropy and Civil Society course, although this process moved much faster than our class’ did.  It was exciting to hear how other young people had approached a process like this in the past, and I enjoyed working with them to come to a consensus.  We ended up giving $2,500 to The Possibility Project, a youth-led program that puts on musicals inspired by the teens’ own life stories, and $2,500 to Youth Communication’s Intensive Summer Writing Program, which provides workshops to inner-city youth and allows them to share their stories and develop critical writing skills.

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Overall, I found the conference to be an excellent way for me to rediscover my passion for philanthropy and to connect with other youth philanthropists who share my passion!  Although I still do not know exactly what my future in philanthropy holds, I now know that I am a part of a larger network of young change-makers, and that my “next step” is to stay connected with these leaders so we can work together to change the future of philanthropy.

Martha Engle

Binghamton University, Class of 2017

B.A. Psychology and B.A. French Language and Linguistics