To Be Inspired — Volunteer

June 17, 2011

I went to be inspired, and I was.

Hands On Greater DC Cares held their annual conference, called the Impact Summit, on June 15 in Washington, DC. I think everyone has an obligation to give back, so I wanted a closer look at an organization and at people who live that philosophy every day. I wasn’t disappointed. Volunteerism and partnerships were the buzzwords of the day. The people I met are doing truly great work.

Although the opening session started with some not-so-good statistics, it was followed by an outline of issues facing the area, along with potential solutions and some success stories. I felt as if I was receiving an insider’s view of the District, and it was very interesting.

Washington, DC facts on file:

The poverty rate ranges from18 to 35 percent.

Unemployment rates are 15 to 23 percent.

Up to 21 percent do not have high school diplomas.

However, DC is a knowledge town. Unemployment is only 3 percent for the college-educated over the age of 25, according to Sylvia Benatti, University of the District of Columbia professor, who also listed the above stats. It was mentioned later that there used to be quite a few trade schools in the city, but the focus changed to information, and many of the schools closed. A number of people cited the need for a renewed focus on manufacturing and trades.

Tough issues facing the District include education, health and employment, as with most urban environments. Transportation was also raised.

Dr. Bruce Anthony Jones, University of South Florida professor, noted that urban school leadership is in a perpetual state of crisis. He said we need to focus on retaining our leaders and developing a collective purpose.

Dr. Pierre Vigilance, George Washington University professor, stressed that “health is not medical, it is social, and it is environmental”. He said that only 7 percent of the population lack health insurance, but we don’t have good health outcomes.

A later session focused on the economy. After identifying barriers, panelists were asked to identify solutions and emerging trends that are making a difference. All three panelists stressed the need for partnerships and working together.

Lindsey Buss, President of Martha’s Table, described how farms outside of DC are helping with the recent increase in need for food. He said we need to continue to look outside the region for solutions.

Stephen Glaude, Director of Community Affairs in the DC Mayor’s Office, said we need to recognize our interdependence on outside regions, as well as our interdependence within the city wards. Just five months into the new city administration, Glaude said that they are making progress in some areas, albeit all the problems in the news, but that some programs need review. He also stressed that government, as a rule, is not quick. (Don’t quote me on that; I can’t remember his exact words, but I do agree that governments are not known to be quick responders. That’s just the nature of the beast.)

Michael Ferrell, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless, agreed. He noted the successes he’s had collaborating with other service providers, particularly in the area of moving people into transitional and permanent housing.

According to Buss, housing should come first. It’s very difficult to get people to focus on education or employment when they’re worrying about where they’re going to stay for the night.

Throughout the day, collaboration kept coming up. Many nonprofits partner with other groups for services they don’t or can’t provide. Most organizations also rely on volunteers, but volunteerism seems to have risen to a whole new level. Now we’re talking about the need for skilled volunteers. Rather than just coming in to do what’s needed, many volunteer positions now have an explicit work plan with goals. Many nonprofits couldn’t get by without these people, or at the least would have a difficult time.

That’s what I think is so interesting about Greater DC Cares. They’re connected all throughout the city, with the government, businesses and nonprofits. They train and steer volunteers to appropriate opportunities, and also help businesses either determine what type of volunteers they need or how to encourage employees to volunteer where needed. They do a lot of other stuff as well.

The people I met are doing such good work. When I asked, “what do you do?” responses included: “We provide vehicles for people.” “We run after-school programs for at-risk kids.” “We provide transitional housing.” “We support young people in high school and through their first two years of college.” “We feed people.” Wow.

A bunch of awards were given out, which I won’t mention here. You can go to their website: www.greaterdccares.org. You should, because the winners have great stories.

What really struck me though throughout the whole conference was the attitude of those in attendance. I was delighted to be among such a large group of positive and happy people. Although they’re trying to solve daunting problems, I think they know they’re making a difference, and that’s what matters in the end.

Advertisements

Endangered Species Affect Our Ecosystems

February 17, 2011

Species on the brink of extinction affect us all more than we may realize. Sure, the pandas are cute, and the rhinos are fun to look at, but is there any more to it than that? Absolutely.

All animal and plant life is part of a complex ecosystem that also includes our lands and our waters. Remove one or more of those parts and you damage the ecosystems, sometimes beyond restoration. These ecosystems provide clean water, breathable air, fertile soils, climate control, food, medicine, energy, building materials, transportation, as well as recreational and spiritual uses. Many groups are working to protect endangered species and their habitats; they are mentioned throughout this post and at the end.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service:

415 species are endangered in the US

164 species are threatened in the US

541 species are endangered in other countries

50 species are threatened in other countries

In 1973, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Why should we save endangered species? The introduction recognizes that endangered and threatened wildlife and plants “are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people.” The purpose of the ESA is to “protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.” It is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) , “destructive human activities” have increased the rate of species extinction from 100 to 1000 times the natural rate. WWF lists the following 8 animals as flagship endangered species. Flagship species are used as icons to denote the broader problem. (All info on the 8 taken from wwf.org.)

Tigers

Tigers are one of the most threatened species in the world, with only about 3200 Tigers left in the wild. The biggest threats to these animals are growing human populations, habitat loss, illegal hunting, trade of tiger parts used in medicines.

Adopt a Tiger here. *

Pandas
Although pandas are one of the most popular and famous animals on earth, there are only about 2500 pandas left in the wild. The biggest threats they face are habitat fragmentation and unsustainable development.

Adopt a Panda here. *

Sumatran Rhinoceroses
This smallest of the living rhinoceroses is critically endangered, with only 300 alive in the wilds. The biggest threats to these animals are habitat loss and poaching. The forests in which they live need to be saved.

Adopt a Rhino here. *

Polar Bears
Not endangered as yet, polar bears number between 20,000 to 25,000, perhaps due to the 1973 International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears and their Habitat. However, culture change and warming trends pose a very real threat to polar bears over the next century.

Adopt a Polar Bear here. *

Whales
Seven of thirteen whale species are endangered or vulnerable. The greatest threats include oil and gas development in feeding grounds, collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing lines, commercial killing, toxic contamination, climate change and habitat vulnerability.

Pygmy Elephants
Smaller than other Asian elephants, pygmy elephants number only about 1600 in the wild. Biggest threats to these elephants are habitat loss and human conflict.

Adopt an Elephant here. *

Marine Turtles
Many marine turtles are endangered and critically close to extinction.
“Having traveled the seas for over 100 million years, sea turtles have outlived almost all of the prehistoric animals with which they once shared the planet. Having survived the extinction of the dinosaurs, marine turtles still inhabit the oceans’ open waters and coastal habitats, feeding on jellyfish and other aquatic plants and animals.”**
Marine turtles can reproduce abundantly, but even under “natural” conditions, few young turtles survive, and it can take decades for turtles to reach maturity. Biggest threats include habitat destruction, egg collection, hunting, entanglement in fishing lines, and climate change.

Adopt a Sea Turtle here. *

Great Apes
This group includes gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees, and are all endangered, some critically so. They are also our closest wild relatives. Serious threats to the great apes include disease, hunting, trade, habitat loss and climate change.

Adopt a Gorilla here. *

 

What You Can Do


Humane Society Campaigns

National Wildlife Refuge System You Can Help

Endangered Species Program How You Can Help

Humane Society International

Humane Society of the US

World Wildlife Fund Act Now

 

*I am a big fan of the World Wildlife Fund, so I’ve included links to their “adopt an endangered species” program, simply because I think it’s a cool and fun idea.

** From wwf.org.

Note:  Pictures do not accurately represent species listed. They’re just cute pictures. And, yes, I went a little nuts with the bears. (www.classroomclipart.com)

 

 


%d bloggers like this: