Main Street Philanthropy Week 10

I will not forget my experience with Main Street Philanthropy, and while the things I will remember most are numerous, the one thing I will not forget is going house to house asking for donations. It not only was my first time doing something like that, I had a chance to meet my neighbors and discover their kindness. Before that, to me they were simply people who existed behind closed doors. Actually going up to their doorstep and telling them about this class gave me a sense of pride because they were genuinely interested in what we were doing. They gave up some of their own time to stand there on their front stoop on a day that was very cold. That was the day they became real to me, instead of shadows that rippled curtains in the window from time to time. The most valuable lesson I learned in Main Street Philanthropy was that no matter what age one is, he can make a difference. I went into this class very skeptical. I knew we were going to raise money and give it to someone somewhere, but I did not know where that money was going come from or how we were going to get it. As the weeks went by, my confidence grew and so did my group’s progress. We started out a bit slowly, but soon after one decision and action led to others, faster and faster, and we ended up with a great sum of money in the end to donate. After this experience I would most definitely give my time and money in the future because I have seen what I can do and how far I can go with it. The reason I would have been more hesitant in the beginning was I did not know where it would lead me, and I was too afraid to try and see. This class led me to testing my limits and I found that they were farther than I thought. To nonprofit organizations looking for support from philanthropists, I would tell them to act like they really want it. They have to be able to tell me exactly what they do and why they do it. I need to know if they are sincere in what they do or simply want more help in doing just another thing for random people who need help. They will not earn the support, well, my support, anyway, of others if they seem too laid back about their cause. Genuineness is something I personally look for in the people who lead an organization. I want to see in their eyes that they truly believe and are truly devoted to their cause because just trying to make me feel sorry for them is not going to cut it. It is not enough for someone to plead that he needs help because the organization is short a lot of people, or it needs more money to continue doing the wonderful things it is doing right now to help those in need. I group organizations into two groups: one that is concerned about funding the organization and one that is devoted to the cause. Because those that are devoted to their cause will not constantly worry about how much money they have or what materials they need because it is all about giving to them. To other schools considering this program, I would say that it is worth it. It involves a lot of hard work and dedication, but it pays off in the end. It really is a rewarding experience because one does not come across a class like this often. It is class where the teacher guides here and there, but the students lead. It is up to them where they want to take it and how far they want to go. Donors who are considering funding a class like this one would really be impressed with how much is taught in ten weeks. They should invest in this class because it provides a unique, hands-on experience for kids to learn how to give back to the community. And when presented with a choice to be given $25 to keep or be given $250 to give away, after taking this class, the decision, as it was for me, is instantaneous. I would choose to be given $250 to give away in a heartbeat. But honestly, if I chose the $25 instead, I would probably end up giving that away anyway. This choice one has to make represents the whole idea of giving: if you take the $25, you can do a lot with it, but if you choose to take the $250 and give it away, you can do so much more. This class does not only teach kids how to donate wisely and be more comfortable reaching out to charities, but it also teaches children to be real philanthropists, and not the kind that gives huge sums of money to those in need, but the kind that cares about others. Nothing in the definition of philanthropy mentions anything about money, as I learned in the first week of class. We are here to give, to encourage others to give, and to replace selfishness with selflessness.

Main Street Philanthropy Week 9

I love freewriting because it is an easy way to get all my thoughts out on paper without worrying about being graded on correct grammar or punctuation. When I am having a hard time, whether it is at school or at home, it is a great way for me to pinpoint exactly what is plaguing my mind because if the problem does not get on paper and stays floating in my head, I can convince myself that is just a passing dark cloud and make myself believe there is no problem. The activity we did in class this week was an activity I liked very much because of the writing. Truth be told, I did not answer the question until I was about three-quarters of the way down the college-ruled paper, but it was still fun. Freewriting like that is difficult to start, but once one does, it is like a snowball effect: one just keeps writing faster and faster as ideas flow from one’s mind through the pen onto the page. I wrote about the volunteering at soup kitchens or orphanages I want to do after my experience at Main Street Philanthropy and how I would make that happen. I have been looking up soup kitchens and orphanages near here, but unfortunately, there are very few near Millburn; the closest ones being in New York. However, I still am looking into ways to help children because I enjoy interacting with them the most. I hope to find a few that I am interested in over the winter break and give them a call.

Main Street Philanthropy Week 8

In class we presented our power points to the class. It was the first time all of our group’s money was together, and I could not believe how much we raised! Together we roughly made $390, and I cannot wait to present our checks to the organizations we have chosen. We wanted an organization that would match our mission: to help at-risk kids, and we found our match with Crossroads. They were unable to make it to our second panel class, which was very unfortunate as I am sure their presentation would have been very interesting. However, they have great tax records and are currently helping seven girls at their southern NJ location about our age. We are proudly donating 60% of our earnings to them to help buy the girls clothes, supplies, and holiday gifts. The second organization we did not expect to give to was Emmanuel Cancer Foundation, a charity that provides care for cancer patients during and after their treatment and are cured. Patients, they said, are welcome to stay as long after they are cured as they need to until they are back on their feet. My group and I just loved this organization because their services go beyond what is expected of a charity that helps cancer patients. They take care of the families of cancer patients instead of just the patients and provide food for financially disabled families or pay their electricity and water bills. I am very excited to go present the checks to the organizations next class and hopefully, we can find rides to go!

Main Street Philanthropy Week 7

This week I interviewed a family member. It is not really something that I do, or even like to do because it is just awkward. But I did this week, and I interviewed my mother. I chose to interview her because I knew little about how she came to America and her story. She told me about her life when she was a little girl growing up in Taiwan, about how everything was militaristic, from the way they dressed to the length of their hair: up to the earlobes for girls, and military cut for boys. Discipline was very strict, and misbehavior or one bad grade led to physical punishment. A bamboo stick would be use to hit one’s hand or knuckles, causing much pain as it struck bone. For a more humiliating punishment, a student might be forced to do frog jumps in the front of the classroom, while the rest of the class looked on, until the teacher gave permission to stop. Squats were the worst punishment, as one had to squat while keeping his hands out, which were sometimes weighted with textbooks. Unlike America, teachers in Taiwan did not encourage children to speak their minds or challenge what is being taught.

When my mother immigrated to America on the last day of 1984, she came with her parents who wanted to give her the best opportunity and the best education they could. My uncles, her brother, had already come for education to stay with their uncle. And her grandfather wanted her father to come so he brought my mother  with her. My mother told me from that experience to “study English before you come to America”. She felt like a mute, like she could not connect with anybody here. She could not express her ideas and felt she had lost her voice coming to this country. It was difficult because her command of the English language was weak, but immersing herself in the big, cultural, melting pot of America quickly taught her the language. Growing up her family’s financial situation was tight. They were a one-income family, and that one person, her father, had served in the Taiwan Air Force, which is equivalent to America’s Air Force I. He was a part of the maintenance team that maintained the president’s airplane. The salary in the military was very low, and the government helped them cover tuition fees as well as supplies like rice, oil, salt, and flour, but times still were hard. They did not go out to eat or see movies like I do with my family sometimes. This has made me put more value in every movie we go out to see or every restaurant we go out to eat in.

My mother told me to always save money for a rainy day and think twice before spending it. She never really bought with abandon the latest technology for us like many families I know do. And she taught me that when saving money in the bank, the interest you make will also make interest, which is called compounding. These lessons have been a part of my life growing up, and I always hesitate to spend money, thinking first if this is really what I need. She has supported the American Heart Association, the Avon Breast Cancer Walk, Autism Speaks, and our local public library. She believes that it is important for young people to learn to give back to society because they are the future and teaching the next generation who will in turn teach the next generation will ensure that our world will never be at a loss for giving people who think not only of themselves but others as well.

From her I learned that giving to others can provide a unique happiness that cannot be attained any way else. My mother told me to be happy with what you have, to be grateful for it and not wish for things you cannot have. I then asked her, “If you could fix one serious problem in the world today, what would that be?” She told me that the stability of society is something she considers a serious problem. There are conflicts between races, and although sometimes it seems as if there is not, racism is always there at the back of people’s minds through subtle behaviors. Through this, hatred is born, and in a world full of hated, there is little room for giving. But we can make room for it. We have to or else we would be surrendering to that hate, and numerous examples in history show that we, as humans, never surrender to hate.

Main Street Philanthropy Week 6

The panel class this week was a very interesting experience. I have never been in a class where we contacted and invited people to a class to speak.   I am not sure organization that came to the panel November 25th was the one I liked the best. Comparing the two is simply impossible because they both do such wonderful things for people who need help, and one organization helps cancer patients and the other helps the mentally handicapped. Both categories are equally important. There will be another panel class on December 2nd, and I look forward to another experience with directors and board members of charities. I cannot believe we actually invited strangers on our own to an in-class interview. It was a strange idea for me because this time it was not us asking them, for instance, for help on our research project or an interview we were asked to conduct for an assignment in school. It was us this time, inviting them here to possibly give them something. It was us trying to make a change in society, and I just never really thought it was something I could or would ever do. Making a change just seemed so difficult because I did not try to, I did not try to simply pick up the phone and call an organization I felt compassionate about to offer my services as a volunteer or to donate money that I raised. I am also learning that raising money is harder than I thought it would be. There is a lot of worrying and what-ifs going on in my head right now. What if I don’t have time to go around to enough houses in my neighborhood and put fliers in their mailboxes? What if people ignore them and don’t donate money? What if even if they do it’s not enough? What if all we’ve done goes to waste? What if? What if? What if? I really do not want to let my group down, and I just feel I already have by not having time last weekend to stick fliers in mailboxes. But I am willing to do whatever I need to help make this happen. No one ever said making a difference was easy.





Main Street Philanthropy Week 5

It is important to see how each charity uses its money, so this week we filled out a quantitative rating sheet for our charities. After looking at other groups’ quantitative rating, it seemed that the management ratio numbers seemed a bit high. We found that there could be more than one reason for this. It could be that the charity is simply irresponsible, in which case we would not waste any more time on it. But on the other hand, it could be the sort of charity where its staff members are given the money to provide care for others. For example, it could be a children’s program where the staff are responsible for taking care of certain children and are given a larger percentage than a regular wage to help support the children. This is where the panel class comes in. It is difficult to know the true story just by looking at statistics, because what actually is going on could be much more than what a few numbers tell us. It might not be the case, but by asking questions and gathering more knowledge from the directors and executives coming to our panel classes, we can piece together the story and decide whether it would be wise to donate money to the cause. Evaluating organizations to see if they are worth an investment is proving to be difficult. In my group, I filled out two different quantitative rating sheets; one for Crossroads Program and another for Tomorrows Children’s Program. It was clear that Crossroads uses its money more wisely, while Tomorrows had its management ratio up in the 50th percentage. Weighing in their favor though, its sustainability scored a 2, which is 13-36 months while Crossroads scored a 1, which is 0-12 months. But Tomorrows Children spends its money unwisely, the numbers growing each year, meaning that its sustainability right now says the program can run for 34.87 months without funding, but that number will dramatically change over the course of a year according to the way they spend right now. As one can see, it is very difficult to choose one organization over another simply based on statistics. I look forward to the panel classes where we can interview the directors and executives of organizations to see if it is worth investing in them.

Main Street Philanthropy Week 4

I called a charity last Monday, the Tomorrows Children’s Funds organization (TCF), and a woman picked up. I told her about Main Street Philanthropy and she seemed to be pretty interested in what we do. The director was not in that day, but the next day, and the woman informed me of this, promising the director would call me back the very next day. And she did. I could tell this charity is organized because of their prompt response. The downside to this charity is that it is in Hackensack, a long way from Millburn. Our group wants to volunteer and work with the charity in person, not through a medium like a computer or telephone. Speaking with the director, Ms. Susan Garbe, was actually not as nerve-racking as I had thought it would be. I simply told her about Main Street Philanthropy, using the script in the workbook, and she agreed to come on November 25th out of our two panel days. She is unable to come on December 2nd, which I suppose is perfect since we are trying to fill out the slots on the 25th first. After talking with her, I went on to search up the tax returns for TCF. Their tax returns were not to be found on that site, and I have not called them yet to ask for their most recent one, but I will. I see now how important their tax returns are in our decision to pick organizations. We want to see the charities spending their money wisely, spending it on things to fulfill their promises made as to what they do. We want to see if other donations to this charity has made a difference, if they used the money to make a difference. It would not do to give money to a charity that uses it for personal benefits or does not help their cause improve in any way because we might as well throw our money and checks in the recycling. At least that way it could be mushed into pulp, dried, and made into new paper, so we do not have to cut down so many trees. But seeing that charity do something with the money, make a great change with the money, is a gift by itself. Because then we are able to say to ourselves, we helped make that happen.

Main Street Philanthropy Week 3

I am really excited to start actually calling charities to find one our group could work on. My group put a lot of thought into choosing which category we would focus on, and I believe we have chosen ‘Child Services’ as our focus. We also want an organization in which we could interact with the kids. Our purpose statement is “to serve our community by providing leadership and guidance for at-risk kids”. Our vision is to provide money as well as a hands-on program for them because I think it is important for them to move on from whatever hardships they encountered in the past and have a program where they could be happy. I am being very picky with which organization I will call because what if we do not end up donating to it? Then I will feel very guilty at even calling them in the first place because then their hopes will be up that some money will be donated to them. How are we supposed to decide that?! Well, I guess that is what this class is for. As said in class, I am sure the people we call will be very skeptical and maybe will not sound so happy because we are teenagers. They probably will not have very high hopes because of it, but that is why I want so badly to raise a grand sum to prove them wrong. Proving people wrong (in a good way) is something I, and I am sure most people, enjoy doing. Whether it is something as small as climbing a rock wall or as big as raising thousands to donate, victories like these make us feel good, and this motivates us to reach for higher goals. I hope to reach as high a goal as I can, and higher still in the end.

Main Street Philanthropy Week 2

I enjoyed the activity we did this week with the paper bags and thought it was very interesting because it made me think of what was important to me. Of course, if you walk up to random people these days and ask them to list their most important possessions or things that best represent them, the majority will begin with, “Um, ok, like, my iPhone, and, like, my – “, isn’t that right? This activity, choosing only three items or pictures of activities, involved more thought, more sentiment than just choosing what you use every day. Because the things you use or do the most might not best represent who you are but the person who you have to be. By thinking about it, being selective and summing up your personality and life with three items, means a lot more. However, you may run into the case, like I did, where you just grabbed an item and put it into your bag without a lot of thought, not because it was a careless decision but because it was just such a huge part of your life that there was no need for a decision. The other people in my group brought items that played important roles in their lives. One of the people in my group brought in pictures of her friends and of her in Costa Rica. Her friends are a great part of her life and I could tell she enjoys being with them, no matter where they are. She also had a picture of her volunteering with children in Costa Rica. Another person in my group brought a Polaroid camera, a camera that cannot have its pictures edited. This is an important item in her life because she likes taking pictures, she likes scrapbooking, and because the pictures taken with her camera cannot be edited, they capture that moment in time. With any other camera, one is able to change the image, make themselves look more flattering or change what actually happened with a sophisticated editing software. But not with this one. What happens in a moment is immortalized with that camera; it cannot be changed. I thought it to be notable that the items in our bags were very different, yet we picked the exact same issues to focus on. We are all working toward a similar goal and now have to choose a way to raise money to support the organization of our choice. I was looking at the list in our workbook, and liked the idea of hosting some sort of talent show or karaoke contest. There are many talented singers in our school, and there are not many opportunities for them to show that, except in the school play. It would be a great way to raise money because, as the workbook suggests, we could have the audience members vote for their favorite acts and allow them unlimited votes, each vote costing around 50 cents to 1 dollar. This fundraiser would be most likely on a Friday after school. In high school, homework is a heavy load, and there would not be as many attendances any day during the week as a Friday would receive. We would not want this event to be in the spring nor nearing the summer because of the stress of PARCC testing, so the most ideal time would be around February or March. I am very excited about raising money to donate to an organization of our choice, and though I know money is not everything, the experience of putting a big event like this would be a great opportunity for our organizational and promotional skills.



Main Street Philanthropy Week 1

There were so many choices that the MAD (Make a Difference) cards had, and almost all of them were of importance to me.  I was torn between cards like medical support, youth services, environmental protection, disabled service, etc.  But I found myself choosing organizations that, honestly, might not have been in the best interests of others but in the best interests of mine and basing them upon personal experience.  And the cards I picked were done so quickly; without supplementary information and without time to think things through. All of my decisions were made based upon what I believed to be important on impulse. And I think this is actually better than having all the time in the world or all the information one could possibly need on each organization because it shows, without other influences, what I am passionate about, what I want to do. I learned that others, too, made decisions using personal experiences. I hope to learn how to choose an organization by combining both the interests of others as well as my own to end up with one that is not solely based on what I want but what is needed as well. And as was mentioned in the first week of class, stage fright is something I would also like to overcome; maybe something this class will help me do.