Everyday Conservationist

written by Koranis Tanangsnakool (Gig) from Thailand

To be honest, it has been a while since last time I got up early to catch sunrise on the weekend. Somehow I feel an extra sleep on the weekend could potentially help alleviate tiredness from working days, and just recently the research has suggested that sleeping on weekend could compensate lost of sleep during weekday. With a strong determination, I got up early to join my host family for their morning activity which is walking up the hill picking up garbage.

Volunteer 2

Their daughter, Christina, started it 10 years ago. She went out every morning with a strong passion of ‘do-what-she-can’ and make it at least one less trash to keep the neighborhood clean. She has moved to the mainland years ago, the retiree couple decided to continue her mission and what makes this activity interesting is that the neighborhood they are trying to keep clean is the forest. Their house is located at the edge of reserved area, a 5-minute walk will lead you to Mount Tantalus part of Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve, one of seventeen forest reserves on Oahu Island.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, is authorized and responsible for land management for multi-use that incorporate a variety of public uses and benefits. Though each reserve requires individual management scheme for its unique natural resources, the same philosophy is applied for the entire forest reserve. This includes the conservation of biological integrity of native ecosystems, watersheds protection to secure fresh water supply for public uses today and in the future, provision of recreational opportunities, and economic empowerment through high quality forest product and sustainable forest industry.

Interestingly, stuffs thrown out on the edge of Mount Tantalus range from common trash like bottle lids, cigarette, plastic package to bed mattress, umbrella, drugs package and MONEY. Nice weather with fresh air, cool breeze from the pacific and morning light make this community service a very enjoyable activity. Besides seeing scenic view of Honolulu downtown and Diamond head is a marvelous feeling of getting close to the nature.

A’ohe hana nui ke alu ‘ia
No task is too big when done together by all.

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My Impression of a Variety of Americans

written by Potjaporn Joonlaoun (Garn) from Thailand

TH Garn at Cook County Bureau of Economic DevelopmentIt has been a couple weeks since I arrived in America. I have met a lot of people and had many stories sharing including cultures foods languages and tourism attractions. Since the program has allowed me to live with an American family and to work with American professionals, I am always afraid of embarrassing myself in front of them from my English with Thai accent and from any possible cultural awkwardness. Therefore, everywhere I go I always begin my conversation with the same statement that ‘As English is not my first language and there will be a lot of culture differences between here and my country, please bear with me and I will try to adjust myself as best as I can.’

Surprisingly, my sincere self-defense incredibly brings further interesting conversations regarding people’s roots. My gold hearted host mother, Rose, who is addicted in Korean soapies and loves Kimchi noodles, is originally from Kenya. A smart IT man in my worksite who has a lot of good Thai friends and knows about the employment situation in Thailand very well is originally from Greece. Further to that, the warm feeling of connection with my supervisor, Mohammad Elahi, could be the reason that we both have Asian culture background as he is originally from Bangladesh. Mohammad who is knowledgeable, experienced but humble has been publicly respected for his leadership

TH Garn with Host Mom

skills and for his passion to develop Cook County.

To be honest, I have been surprised in the variety of Americans but in the same time I am so impressed in the contributions they have made to the country as citizens of America. Regardless of birthplace, here in America people appreciate in and give value to what you do more than where you were born. Additionally, instead of creating conflicts, this variety expands the understanding of cultural sensitivity and promotes harmonization.

PFP Experience at MassChallenge

written by Olivia Seow from Singapore

Headquartered in the United States and with locations in Boston, Israel, Mexico, Switzerland, Texas, and the UK, MassChallenge strengthens the global innovation ecosystem by accelerating high-potential startups across all industries, from anywhere in the world for zero-equity taken. As MassChallenge’s flagship location, MassChallenge Boston brings together corporates, policy makers, and innovation leaders to support and inspire the next generation of innovators. In total, it has accelerated over 1,000 startups from across the world, creating over 80,000 jobs.

I was given the privileged opportunity to support Round 2 judging for the 2018 batch of MassChallenge Boston startups. From an original applicant pool of 1,600, 350+ startups pitched at MassChallenge Boston for Round 2 judging, and 128 finalists were eventually accepted into MassChallenge Boston’s 2018 accelerator program. Over 6 consecutive days, I arrived in the office at around 7am and supported various elements of Round 2 judging. I am grateful to have been given this unique chance to meet with passionate founders from all over the world. For instance, one startup from Hawaii created agricultural robots, which could support many on the path to self-sustainability!

Looking back, I am deeply inspired by how MassChallenge teams from across all

olivia rockstar awarddepartments pitched in to support this critical event. Despite the long days, the company’s collective drive to support startups is evident in the team’s dedication and cheerful, tireless attitude. Another excellent attribute of MassChallenge’s culture is the strong support by co-workers and even upper management. At the end of the event, the organising team distributed awards to acknowledge good efforts. I was pleasantly surprised to have been given a ‘Rockstar Award’, despite my short stint at the company.

It is bittersweet that my fellowship is coming to an end. I will be returning to Singapore inspired by my experiences, and hope to maintain strong ties with the connections forged in the past month.

Volunteer Work as Part of Community Service in San Diego

written by Akmal Sabaruddin from Malaysia

During my stay in San Diego, I had the opportunity to volunteer in the food redistribution program – feeding the hungry. This is a weekly (every Thursday) event and organized by Dharma Bum Temple, 4144 Campus Ave, San Diego. We gather to prepare peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and carry it directly to those who are hungry especially to those who are living on the streets of downtown San Diego. From this activity, I have learnt about being generous and taking care of others that are in need. Practicing generosity means to give our time, energy and resources to help others without judgement. Generosity is the first of the Six Paramitas and is practiced to remove the conditions that lead to greed, which causes our suffering. I love this activity and I did it twice on 10th May and 17th May 2018. There were 2 other fellows, Midha Karim from Indonesia and Anastasiia from Ukraine joining this activity.

San Diego Fellows Volunteering

Other than the food redistribution activity, I had the opportunity to volunteer in beach cleaning activity too. The event was held in Imperial Beach on Saturday, May 19, 2018 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM and organized by I Love a Clean San Diego (ILACSD) and City of Imperial Beach Council. Volunteers are met at the corner of 13th Street and Imperial Beach Blvd for briefing and equipment distribution like buckets, garbage plastic, thongs and gloves. Snacks and waters were also provided by the organizer too. All volunteers are required to fill out a waiver form to participate and anyone under the age of 18 needs a waiver signed by their parent or guardian. It was a great event with a mission to have a zero waste, litter free and environmentally engaged San Diego region. Two other fellows were also involved in this activity: Midha Karim from Indonesia and Sirasar Boonma from Thailand.

Akmal Sabarudin (Malaysia) and Midha Volunteering in San Diego.jpg

Michelle Morales of Mikva Challenge: On Family, Women & Leadership, and Being a Servant-Leader

by Fleire Castro from the Philippines

Michelle Morales is the CEO of Mikva Challenge Foundation, a nonprofit that was founded on the premise that youth voice and participation matter, and that our civic and political life will be stronger when youth participate and help shape their own destinies.

She has been running the organization for three years and has been working hard to take the 25-staff nonprofit here in Chicago, Illinois, taking care of both management and focusing on fundraising to support the programs of the organization.

In this interview, Michelle talks about being a servant-leader and managing time for work and family. She talks about how she balances time between fundraising, running the org, and also being a mother and wife. She also talks about how self-care is done and how women leaders should have the empathy to be able to run projects that has the buy-in of her staff at Mikva Challenge.

Aside from that, Michelle also talks about how women leaders also need networks to make sure that they are able to talk about their challenges in management and

Listen to the interview by Fleire Castro with Michelle Morales below:

 

Fellowship in DC

written by Liz Liew from Malaysia

DC excites me for so many reasons – beautiful sunsets, walkable meanders, social messages enveloped in artistic street murals, talented buskers around every corner playing instruments of sorts, just to name a few. For an outdoor enthusiast, politically savvy nut and a lover of arts and music, Washington D.C IS living a dream.

After 2+ weeks of working in the capital of the nation, I’ve fallen in love with this city.

I love the massive safari-like zoo, the endless row of well-maintained museums and monuments, the free outdoor fitness events, the cultural festivals in Kennedy Performing Arts Centre where I watched the U.S Army Blues perform, the diverse food truck options parked just outside my office and the reasonable proximity to stunning national parks just outside the city. I love the Free Speech corner, a physical space for small and large political rallies outside the White House, where people protest, demonstrate or just stand up for a cause or concern they feel strongly about – no one is judged, hated, or prosecuted: I have never seen nor felt so engaged in power of expression on a daily basis. But most of all, I love how the spirit of social justice binds activists and passers-bys like myself.

Every spring, DC’s Mayor Muriel’s team organises a series of free outdoor activities for the D.C community – Yoga, Pilates, cinema, live jazz music, and even an outdoor office “Outdoor Office at Farragut” – a co-working space in open green space in the Golden Triangle of D.C.

Last week, as sirens blared and cars honked, as heavy clouds loomed across the grey sky, threatening to rain on us, and more than 100 women held themselves up in side plank, the Yoga instructor said something that summed up my gratitude for this experience: “Breathe and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Now ladies and gentleman, how amazing is this – to be in the middle of the city, the capital of USA, in downtown Washington D.C, amidst this chaos, amidst the threat of thunderstorm…we are here doing core Yoga with a hundred different strangers.” That moment is one I will always remember.

Liz Farragut Yoga.JPG

The secret of the project, “Financing Our Future with Village bank”

written by Morxay Vongnakhone from Laos

I am having the chance to do my fellowship at Operation HOPE which is a non-profit organization that provides services to help the working poor, the under-served and struggling middle class.  Operation HOPE has become a best- in-class provider of financial literacy empowerment for youth, financial capability for communities, and ultimately, financial dignity for all.  Because of Operation HOPE’s work, my supervisor has shared such a surprising thing I have never even thought about. She shared that there are over 1,500,000 non-profit organization in the U.S and in Atlanta itself where I am based has more than 37,000 organization (2013), the figures made me shocked for awhile because I haven’t though or imagine that in the U.S there would be so many nonprofit organizations available. I immediately felt that I could do something more for the society.

During my fellowship time, I have participated the program called Banking on Our Future which is actually the first and oldest program of Operation HOPE provides financial literacy class for their target groups including high school students. This was very exciting for me because it caused me to think about what my home organization is doing, it is almost the same thing what we are doing at home but the difference is that in my organization in Laos doesn’t offer financial literacy for high school students. My supervisor explained me the benefits of providing financial literacy for high school students, she has included some important points like they could prepare early for their life after high school, they could start saving for their universities, startup their own small businesses, settle down, create generational wealth and so on. After that, I got the idea what I want to take back home, what I want to do for my outbound project, I want to do a project called Financing Our Future with Village Bank or FOFVB. This program will teach high school students about financial literacy and how they can manage their money to start saving with village bank for their own futures, it is truly significant idea that must be implemented.

Morxay Vongnakhone at Operation Hope

Morxay at Operation Hope.jpg