Every semester, each group of Carter Center interns presents a gift to President and Mrs. Carter. In the past, this has been a cookbook with recipes from each intern’s home country or a pledge that each intern wrote down about how he or she could improve the community. This semester, we decided to volunteer our time for a local organization. We chose the Global Village School, which prepares girls between the ages of 13 to 20 for high school or a GED, and eventually college. What is special about these girls is that they have just come to the United States from countries as diverse as Liberia and Afghanistan, but all devastated by war. These girls and their families have spent years in a neighboring countries in displacement camps before they were finally able to come to the United States as refugees, unable to return to their home countries because of poor conditions that still exist against them there. One of the girls currently at the Global Village School had never even been to school before she came to the United States.
We have just started tutoring them in subjects such as English and science. The most difficult subject to teach them is social studies because it is hard to explain the concepts. Most of them don’t even know why it was necessary for them to leave their home countries. The girls live in a town called Clarkston, GA, which has one of the highest percentages of refugee populations in the United States. By some estimates, half the population was born outside of the United States. Many of the parents of the girls work at the local chicken farm or clean motel rooms because there is no need to speak English. However, Clarkston is not the best neighborhood in the Atlanta metropolitan area. It has a high crime rate and most parents don’t allow their children to go outside. The only time that the girls speak English is while they are at the Global Village School, and it is usually the only time that they have to socialize as well. The Global Village School has a bus that brings the girls to and from school every weekday. The school also provides them with breakfast and lunch. Sometimes their family incomes are so low that they barely eat on the weekends and wait until it is time for school to eat.
The Global Village School is entirely non-profit and receives no funds from government to continue its operations. I feel really honored to be able to volunteer at this school, because it’s helping to educate these girls who have already gone through so many hardships in their lives. I wish that their new community in Clarkston would be a safer place, however, and that the government could provide some more help in terms of their transition to American life.
For more information on the Global Village School, click here.
Glenn Close, an Emmy, Golden Globe, and Tony Award winning actress, has been very involved in eliminating the stigma of mental illness for several years now. She has played characters that have mental illness in three of her films: a borderline personality in Fatal Attraction, a woman with post-traumatic stress disorder in A Streetcar Named Desire, and a delusional individual in Sunset Boulevard.
In her offstage life, Glenn Close understands the societal constraints that individuals with mental illness must deal with as well. Her sister suffers from bipolar disorder and her nephew from schizoaffective disorder. There has been a lot of depression and alcoholism in her family as well. The traditional approach by her family members toward mental illness was silence. Glenn Close describes scriptwriters as portraying those with mental illness as “dangerous threats who must be contained, if not destroyed.” Their portrayals serve as entertainment.
Glenn Close says that moviegoers consider her character Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction to be “evil incarnate.” Yet while Glenn researched her behavior, she ended emphasizing with Alex. She was in a lot of pain psychologically and should have had medication. After consulting with psychologists, Glenn realized that she was in much more danger to herself than to others. The original ending for the script was changed to make Alex’s death reflect the hatred that viewers had for her character. Glenn says that changing the ending projected a misleading image of mental illness to the public.
1 in 6 adults and almost 1 in 10 children suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. But the stigma associated with the illness can be as challenging as the disease itself. While we are openly raising awareness about breast cancer and AIDS, we shy away from the same open response to raising awareness about mental illness, marginalizing the very people who need our acceptance the most. Support and open conversation for family members is also needed.
One of the best ways we can help those with mental illness is by understanding what it is and what it isn’t. Myths about mental illnesses contribute to stigma, which often prevents those who are living with mental illness from seeking help. Mental illness is a disorder of the brain, and like most diseases of the body, it has many causes, including genetic, biological, environmental and social or cultural factors. Mental illnesses are treatable through medication and psychosocial therapies, which allow those with mental illnesses to be vibrant and productive members of our society.
Here are some Facts vs. Fiction about mental illness from the Bring Change 2 Mind non-profit, which Glenn Close created to counter the stigma associated with mental illness:
FICTION: People with a mental illness are often violent.
FACT: Actually, the vast majority of people with mental health conditions are no more violent than anyone else. People with mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of crime.
FICTION: Mental illness is a sign of weakness.
FACT: A mental illness is not caused by personal weakness—nor can it be cured by positive thinking or willpower – proper treatment is needed.
FICTION: Only military personnel who have been in combat can suffer from PTSD.
FACT: While PTSD is prevalent in men and women who have seen combat, experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event can trigger PTSD, including violent personal assaults such as rape or robbery, natural or human-caused disasters, or accidents.
FICTION: People with a mental illness will never get better.
FACT: For some people, a mental illness may be a lifelong condition, like diabetes. But as with diabetes, proper treatment enables many people with a mental illness to lead fulfilling and productive lives.
FICTION: Children don’t suffer from mental illness.
FACT: Millions of children are affected by depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. As a matter of fact, 1 in 10 children suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. Getting treatment is essential.
FICTION: “Mental illness can’t affect me!”
FACT: Mental illness can affect anyone. While some illnesses have a genetic risk, mental illness can affect people of all ages, races and income levels, whether or not there is a family history.
Hello fellow East Villagers. I'm adding my own personal answers to the questions that EV scholars will address at our conference in April.
Introduce yourself (age, grade, school, favorite subject in school, hobbies, what you do in your spare time). “Hi my name is …..”
My name is Karina. I am 21 years old and a senior at Emory University. My favorite course while in college has been Contemporary Chinese Politics. More generally speaking, however, I enjoy anything related to international relations and political science. I enjoy photography and film, and chase my family's new puppy around the neighborhood in my spare time.
When did you start the idea of doing community service? How did this all start?
Initially, I began volunteering because it was mandated by my high school in order to graduate. My passion for volunteering actually started when I went to China specifically to volunteer. I always loved playing with children, and I have a soft spot for orphans, so I decided to volunteer in orphanages for disabled orphans in China. Seeing the direct impact that my actions had on making the lives of the orphans a little brighter made me truly love volunteering.
Growing up, what are some of the events/reasons that lead you to see a need for this project?
Living in America, it seems that we are separated from many of the crises and disasters going on in the world. Furthermore, as young people, there is a stereotype that we are lazy, self-centered and materialistic. I hope that this conference will prove that at least some of the young people of today care about the problems happening in other countries.
What are you learning through the EVSS Internship so far?
I believe that I am learning a lot about leadership through this conference. Having to be prepared for each team meeting and organize conversation for an hour is a more difficult task than it seems. But I have a wonderful team and I think we're working together equally and successfully.
What are your future dreams in regards to helping others?
I want to live my life as someone who brings hope to others. My future career will most likely be in academia and research, and even though those areas seem a bit more distant from professions that directly help others like the medical profession, they do inspire hope in the future and future generations. I want to help others more practically in my everyday life. This is a continual process of molding my actions into being a person that I truly want to be.
If you were to say something to inspire your peers to do the same, what would it be?
Patience. It's so rare today, and it's a golden quality if you possess it.
My name is Karina and I am the leader of Team 2. Our EVSS+ idea is the East Villagers Global Service Conference, which will occur on Saturday, April 9, 2011 and will be broadcast live from 10AM-4PM PST.
We hope that the individual experiences of volunteers can be the focus of this conference. Interns will be split into workshops for Q&A sessions (10 people each with facilitator). Please have a 5 minute speech prepared with PowerPoint and 4-5 photos of you in action. If you cannot attend the conference in California, please make a video. Your speech should address:
what you do in your spare time). “Hi my name is …..”
2. When did you start the idea of doing community service? How did this all start?
3. Growing up, what are some of the events/reasons that lead you to see a need for
4. How did your family play a role in supporting your work?
5. What are you learning through the EVSS Internship so far?
6. What are your future dreams in regards to helping others?
7. If you were to say something to inspire your peers to do the same, what would it be?
Please email me your Powerpoint/video before January 31, 2011. Videos are only for those who cannot attend in person. Videos should be uploaded to Youtube and the link sent to me in an email. Looking forward to a successful conference!
In almost every American high school, community service hours are a mandatory requirement that must be fulfilled in order to graduate. Some students complete the hours drudgingly, while others approach it with enthusiasm. The majority of students, however, lie somewhere in between complete drudgery and enthusiasm. They have varying amounts of enthusiasm depending on the cause and specific task. This begs the question of whether high schools should mandate community service. On a larger scale, is service something that one grows into? A development whose importance is fully realized long after the task is completed? When service is a requirement for a larger goal [like graduation from high school], then does the worth of the service decrease?
It has been three years since I have graduated from high school. I think back to the variety of service activities in which I participated. What did I learn from them? Or is it even necessary to "learn" anything from a service activity? Isn't its primary goal to benefit other individuals? When I first started high school, I joined my best friend to volunteer in a retirement home. It began as something we could do together to get our mandatory community service hours. But looking back on it now, I realize a deeper importance. Only my immediate family lives in the United States, so I have had a limited relationship with my grandparents. I did not learn how to interact with elderly generations until I volunteered at the retirement home. Although it sounds like an terrible cliche, I realized that my generation and this generation that was my age during World War II are not as disparate as I first believed. Sometimes the men would share tidbits of their experiences in the war and even talk about their first loves. I wish I could have spent enough time there to develop a close relationship with the residents, but I did not. However, simply spending a couple of hours a week enjoying music, poems and Bingo together, I learned to appreciate this generation that is gradually leaving us with time. As for the residents, I hope that I was able to lighten up their lives a little bit, especially those who did not have many visitors.
The volunteer activities that I did in high school were sporadic and often unrelated to one another. Often, the same project is emphasized as truly worthy of pursuing. I myself tend to emphasize my work with the disabled orphans in China as my signature service involvement. But looking back now, that is not what service should be. It should be our daily interactions.
Think about all the people you know in your life. You met them at different points in your life. They don't all know one another. Some of them are more difficult to get along with than your other acquaintances. Service should be a daily, continual lifestyle approach. Like the people in our lives, some tasks may be more difficult than others. But we each have a limited time frame to interact with the people in our lives because we never know exactly what the future holds. How others will view us will depend on our behavior toward them; that will become our legacy.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. // 1 Peter 4:10
The 2009 documentary film The Last Train Home by Lixin Fan has left me feeling helpless and even guilty about migrant workers in China.
The film chronicles the struggles of a married couple who are migrant workers. Their job is to sew together American brand-name jeans in a factory in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. The Zhang couple’s son and daughter live a two-day train ride away in a village in Sichuan Province with their grandmother. Qin is the Zhang family’s elder daughter, who just started high school when filming begins. The rural landscape in the village in Sichuan is depicted in stark contrast to the urban, industrial factories in Guangzhou. Qin helps her grandmother with farmwork, and her grandmother constantly reminds both of the children to study hard. The Zhang’s son, in particular, is nagged at for dropping in rank from number three in the class to number five.
Mrs. Zhang describes how she decided to leave Qin at the age of one with her husband to work as a migrant worker. The parents only see their children once a year during Chinese New Year, and the grandparents raised them. The children’s grandfather recently died, who was a confidante and father figure to Qin. As the story develops, it is evident that the relationship between Qin and her parents is far from friendly. Both the parents and Qin seem to have resentment over their situation. Qin resents that her parents were never present to emotionally support her and that they never followed through on promises to return to the village and end their lives as migrant workers. Qin’s parents resent that they have no authority in their childrens’ lives, and that the reason they became migrant workers was to financially support Qin, but she is ungrateful. The climax of the film occurs after Qin decides to drop out of school and become a migrant workers as well. She feels confined in school and wants to earn money for herself because “freedom is happiness.” However, her parents are strongly opposed, and eventually travel to Qin’s factory to return her back home. Crowds wait for up to one week to get onto a train out of Guangzhou and return home for the Chinese New Year. In the beginning, Qin laughs as the crowd pushes, but it soon becomes clear that the situation is serious. The police attempt to maintain control, but people are hungry and exhausted. Some are nearly trampled in the crowd and are shown gasping for air and yelling for loved ones with sweat all over their faces. When the Zhangs finally return home, Mrs. Zhang tells her son that she promises that she will finally quit being a migrant worker and stay at home. Qin remarks that she never keeps her promise. This escalades into an altercation between Qin and her father, with Qin challenging the authority of her father and her father saying that he cannot tolerate her any longer.
Interspersed with the story of the Zhangs are the comments of other migrant workers. One comments about the 40-inch waistline jeans that they sew for Americans. he says that no Chinese person would ever need to wear those jeans. Another comments that he makes 2000 yuan in a month, 1800 of which he saves. An American, if he earned 2000 yuan in a month, would spend all 2000.
The film left me feeling quite helpless and guilty. I believe that this film showed the genuine reality that many Chinese people face. I have travelled throughout China, and was sometimes annoyed at the reactions that I would receive simply from being a foreigner. I could mentally understand the poverty, but this movie showed the emotional aspect of the poverty. As an American, it also made me feel guilty about the negative perceptions about my country, but realize its basis in the reality of outsourcing.
The East Villagers interns are planning a conference to be held on Saturday, April 9, 2011 geared to youth from middle school and through college. We hope to invite representatives from non-profits like the China Care Foundation, Invisible Children, and Room to Read. The conference will address international issues such as HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking, poverty, environmental issues and more. The technology that we have will enable us to also host the conference live on the internet so that viewers all over the world can pose questions for the organizations and also share their own experiences. The goal of this conference is to provide opportunities for service and illustrate how youth have been able to work to alleviate various global problems, one step at a time.
Next semester, I will be interning at the Carter Center, which was founded by the former president Jimmy Carter and works in coordination with my university, Emory. Since 1982, the Carter Center has worked in 70 different countries to resolve conflict; advance democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; prevent diseases; improve mental health care; and teach farmers to improve their crop production.
Perhaps the most success initiative of the Carter Center has been its efforts to eradicate the Guinea worm disease. The roundworm parasite infects the body after an individual drinks water that has been contaminated with Guinea worm larvae. After a year, the worm becomes an adult that can grow up to 3 feet long (1 meter). It emerges from the body through skin blisters that are so painful that they can destroy the ability to walk. The disease is passed on to others when patients immerse in sources of drinking water to relieve themselves from the burning sensation. The water stimulates the adult female worm to release hundreds of thousands of larvae through the skin blister into the water. Water fleas (copepods) then eat the larvae, and drinking unfiltered water perpetuates the rate of infection.
The disease has existed for thousands of years and there is no cure. The only way to rid the body of the worm is to slowly pull the worm out of the skin blister for weeks. Since 1986, the Carter Center has worked with the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and UNICEF to reduce the incidence of Guinea worm disease by 99%. In 1986, there were 3.5 million cases of the disease in 20 countries across Africa and Asia. In 2009, there were 3,190 cases primarily in Ghana and Sudan. Through educating the people, supplying water filters, applying chemical treatment to water, and providing water from underground wells, the Carter Center has been able to nearly eradicate this disease. If successful, the Guinea worm disease would be the second disease after smallpox to ever be eradicated. It would be the first parasitic disease to be eradicated, as well as the first disease to be eradicated without vaccination or even medical treatment. The value of education to use filters to prevent the spread of larvae has been especially critical to eradication efforts. Pipe filters are individual filtration devices that are worn around the work and work like a straw to allow people to filter their drinking water while they are away from home. These pipe filters are especially useful for those who have displaced by war such as in Sudan and nomadic people.
Within the next year or so, it is expected that this disease will have been eradicated!
In lieu of preparation for our inaugural East Villagers conference on April 9, 2011 (for which we still need a formal name!), I thought that we should start a Facebook initiative to promote East Villagers. There are currently 407 fans on Facebook, and we should at least reach 500. So please add East Villagers on your Facebook and invite your friends as well. This will help our conference be a great success!
My name is Karina and I am very excited to be an EV Service Scholar intern this year!
This first blog will just be a basic introduction about myself. I am originally from Hungary, but grew up in Boston, MA and Tampa, FL. I am a senior at Emory University in Atlanta, GA majoring in International Relations and Chinese Language and Literature.
Without a doubt, my passion is for the disabled orphans in China. I first volunteered in orphanages for disabled children in 2005 when I was in high school. I played, laughed, and cried with these children from morning until night, and I couldn’t bring myself to leave at the end of the three weeks. I worked in two orphanages primarily, one in a city called Taiyuan and the other in a village called Dongergou, both in north-central Shanxi Province. The children had a wide range of disabilities, including cleft lip and palate, cerebral palsy, autism, and visual impairments.
Upon returning to America, I sponsored one of the orphans as he went into a foster home. I have been the co-president of the Emory China Care Club, which raises over $7000 every year to fund surgeries for the disabled orphans in China. I studied abroad in Beijing last year and returned to visit the orphans from five years ago, and also hosted a Christmas dinner which raised $1000 for coal to heat the orphanages.
I have a strong faith in the Lord and I am excited to meet like-minded individuals during the course of this internship. I hope that we can bond together as a team and develop a lasting friendship that will continue long after the internship ends! This encompasses my basic goals for the internship: to learn from the experiences and insights of my fellow interns and develop as a Christian.