How are you creating positive change in your community?
The Up To You Project encourages people to solve problems and create sustainable solutions in their communities. By sharing our experiences we can inspire and encourage others to get involved. A single person can do amazing things, but together we can change the world.
Mission: To encourage community involvement on a local and global scale.
This will be accomplished in three ways:
1. Promote the work of individuals and organizations around the world who need volunteers to continue creating positive change.
2. Share the experiences of all people who volunteer to improve their communities.
3. Give Up To You books to libraries and schools
When I was a graduate student attending Regis University in Denver, CO, I joined Ameri Corps, the domestic-based equivalent of the Peace Corps. The organization I chose was Community Educational Outreach (CEO), a non-profit that outreaches to the at-risk and in-need community members providing free GED, ABE, Life Skills and other valuable classes and training. I took on the volunteer assignment with only one expectation: to help someone pass the GED. I had no idea that I would be gifted with much, much more.
The CEO outreach partner where I chose to begin volunteering was located in a community corrections facility which housed male and female offenders out on probation/parole transitioning back into the community. The program was created due to over-crowding and a need to get these folks out of the “encaged” mindset and into one of independent thinking and doing. Although the facility was run by security guards and other correctional professionals, when the offenders walked into the CEO classrooms, they became students. They were no longer referred to as inmates.
Most of the young people (those under 30) were clearly high-strung and not very trusting of me. Most couldn’t understand why I would wish to help them for nothing. Even after explaining to them that I just wanted to help them, they couldn’t “get it.” I then started answering them with, “Well, if you continue to fail, all of society continues to fail. I want to be a part of a successful community and helping you is a step toward belonging to a healthier community.”
This approach seemed to work. I guess in their thinking, there had to be SOMETHING in it for me. There was something in it for me but much more than many could imagine.
I helped men who had never had a proper job in their lives fill out applications and compose their first resumes.
I got to see a woman who had lost most of her teeth to meth addiction, smile proudly for the first time in many years after we found her a dentist who was willing to give her new teeth pro bono.
I saw the simple joy in the eyes of many after passing the GED on their first or second attempt.
I got to see that there is hope and that rehabilitation and cognitive therapy and learning programs can help some of the forgotten and thrown away in our society.
I also became very aware that many can’t be helped. Many need the correction system because they can never change their mindset.
But I was thankful that I could be a part of a program and project that helped those who desperately wanted to be helped. Regardless of a person’s past or upbringing, they are human and deserve our empathy and trust, at least until they prove, one way or another, that they deserve it and respect it.
My most intense and personal volunteer experience has been with organizations such as LifeShare Oklahoma, and DonateLife Tennessee, helping to spread the word about the importance of organ donation. I was given the opportunity to hand out organ donor cards and informational brochures; help with the kidney walk events; speak to groups about the importance of organ donation, from a personal viewpoint; and help with a fundraising gala.
It was wonderful to see the support and interest in the cause. Getting involved really made me realize that people do indeed care and see the need. It also reminded me that getting involved is necessary to remind people just how important organ donation really is.
Not to bore you, but in case you are interested, a brief synopsis of my story:
My Mom birthed me, and my dad extended my life by giving me one of his kidneys when I was 17, a week from death. That kidney lasted me a wonderful 14 years, and then I was put on dialysis as I awaited another transplant. A wonderful family responded to their loved one’s wishes to donate upon death, and I received my second blessing not long after. Two years ago this month (June) another amazing and special family again blessed me. Because of these incredibly unselfish people, I have been able to live a full life, going on to college, getting married, and even having a child. If you are reading this now, whomever my unknown donor families’ are, thank you!