All of Us. by Abby Jones “The more we increase the active participation and partnership with young people, the better we serve them… And the more comprehensively we work with […]
All of Us. by Abby Jones
“The more we increase the active participation and partnership with young people, the better we serve them… And the more comprehensively we work with them as service partners, the more we increase our public value to the entire community.” – Carmen Martinez
I’ve been volunteering for EYEJ, Empowering Youth and Exploring Justice, since October of 2017. I’ve been working with the same group of 7th grade girls in the Discussion Series, and for some reason I hadn’t noticed a quote painted over the door to their classroom until this last discussion in January. It’s a quote from Malala Yousafzai: “The content of a book holds the power of education, and it is with this power that we can shape our future and change lives.”
It is with the power of education that they can shape their future and change lives. Education is essential, but I want to emphasize that education isn’t simply from school or books. Education comes in several forms, and what EYEJ strives to do is educate these young people: They have a voice, and they may not know that. They can be heard and they have a right to be heard, and that’s something they may not have ever been told before. In these discussions, I’ve heard the worries and joys and stresses of these girls. The EYEJ Discussion Series is a desperately needed opportunity for them to express themselves, to speak up, and to make their questions and opinions and thoughts and plans heard. And we hear them all, believe me. The discussion is not an “Us” and “Them.” It’s an “All of Us.” And that makes all the difference.
As volunteers with EYEJ, we allow for a two-way discussion to occur. They’re joining the conversation we as adults have every day on the news, in the paper, over coffee, or on our lunch breaks. They’re thinking about many of the same things we are, they just don’t get the chance to say it. We discuss things like money, stress, conflict, and nutrition. And in those discussions, these young people are contributing to the larger dialogue of our City: what’s happening and what they hope will happen in their private lives, and in their neighborhoods and communities. This is a platform, and hopefully one of many platforms, for them to speak up on issues of social justice and feel empowered to do so.
I’m currently working with an organization called The Borgen Project. It’s a national non-profit organization that is striving to make global poverty reduction a primary focus of U.S. Foreign Policy. The organization engages with Congress to enact bills that will reduce poverty around the world, open educational opportunities for girls who would never see the inside of a classroom, improve healthcare and eliminate preventable diseases for mothers and newborns. But the Borgen Project doesn’t do this from an office in Washington.
The Borgen Project is a vast network of volunteers spread out in over 500 cities across the United States, working for the most part independently by calling our Congressional Leaders, writing emails, scheduling meetings, and attending town halls. We are everyday constituents who study the issues and contact our leaders. The Project has taught me it doesn’t take some in-road connection or deep knowledge of the political system to make my voice heard. In fact, every message made to a Congressional Office is noted by the staff. Like EYEJ, The Borgen Project educates and empowers young people on their position of influence in global poverty impact. Everyone has a voice that will be heard by their Congressional Leaders. And that’s a very empowering notion, indeed.
Volunteering takes many forms, but EYEJ and the Borgen Project have similar goals – amplify the voice of the individual to help those who are quieted and pushed to the sidelines – Empower Youth and Explore Justice. It doesn’t take any previous experience to help make your City or your World a better place. Check out EYEJ.org for opportunities to get involved – you absolutely will not regret helping these girls and boys speak up and hear what they have to say! And check out BorgenProject.org to see ways you can contact Congress about life saving programs to reduce global poverty.
For more information on the Borgen Project, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter at @ajBorgenProject
Volunteer Coordinator for EYEJ