Posts Tagged active citizenship

Crisis Mapper – Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier, a Ph.D. candidate at The Fletcher School, recently starred in a video inspired by the work of the Standby Volunteer Task Force (SBTF).

SBTF group includes 1000+ digital humanitarians in more than 80 countries around the world. They are responsible for some of the important live crisis mapping operations that support humanitarian and human rights organizations. Crisis mapping involves monitoring use of information communications in conflict and disaster areas in order to improve response.  SBTF is committed to rapid learning and innovation as well as creative uses of technology due to their dedicated volunteers, Mapsters.

Check out this short video about Meier and SBTF that first aired on National Geographic Television Channel.

For more information visit Meier’s blog here.

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Alum Creates New Words With Friends

It’s been about two weeks since Loren Brichter, E06, launched his first-ever mobile game, Letterpress, and it has already reached the ranks of #14 most popular app and #1 most popular Word Game in App Store charts. Before launching Letterpress, Brichter created the Twitter iPhone app we know and love today before it was officially Twitter’s.

His new game revolves around taking turns with a friend spelling words on a 5×5 grid of letters. Each time you use a letter, you claim its tile, but if your friend uses the letter in his or her word, he or she can steal the tile back. The game has been called “the next Words with Friends“ and was recently featured in the New York Times’s Business of Technology, BITS, blog.  The game has been so well-received it has inspired a new form of poetry and off-line game for those addicted but without power during Hurricane Sandy.

Brichter has also found a way to give back to his loyal customers: he is donating all sales of his Letterpress t-shirt to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief. To follow his work, check out his website.

 

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Exhibition and Social Change

Rising senior Charmaine Poh, A13, lives international relations: spending her time between Singapore, New York City, and the hill, and she has even fit in a few trips to Nepal, India, and Burma. She’s merged her life experiences around the world with the Jumbo focus on active citizenship and shared her thoughts via her personal blog.

She recently attended a few exhibitions mixing art and social change:

Photo by Charmaine Poh, "You've Got a Fast Car"

And she was inspired to bring what she saw to the hill:

Over the last year or so, I’ve been trying to put what I’ve learned into practice at Tufts…. What I’ve managed to do is miniscule in scale in comparison to what could happen in the future, but I’m nevertheless optimistic.

I’d like to see the corporate and the non-profit world team up, breaking down the stereotypes each industry sees in the other, and in turn focusing their eyes on a common cause. I’d like to see fashion entities, arts festivals, museums and the like adopt this into their corporate social responsibility strategy, knowing that it can benefit them. And likewise, non-profits need to know that creativity does not necessarily mean a waste of funds. If anything, it’s time to think relevant. You need no further proof than charity:water to see the truth of this.

Check out more of Poh’s moments of inspiration here.

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School’s in Session!

It may be summer, but that doesn’t mean that minds are not a-churning on the hill! Aside from students in the always enlightening Tufts Summer Session courses, the hill is bustling with students taking part in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies. The Institute is an intensive, two-week, interdisciplinary seminar that brings together advanced graduate students, faculty, and practitioners from diverse fields of study. For those wishing to take part in the Institute outside the class, one of their main lecturers, Peter Levine, has taken to the blogosphere to give us an insider’s peek into his summer course. Check out a snippet from his lecture on Roberto Unger:

Here is a little fable (mine, not Unger’s) that illustrates how his theoretical position relates to everyday civic efforts:

A group of middle class students has volunteered to serve meals at a homeless shelter. They love the experience. During the reflection session later, one remarks, “Serving the homeless was so great! I hope that shelter will still be open in 50 years, so my grandchildren can serve.”

A progressive educator cries, “No! Our goal must be to end homelessness. You need to think about root causes, not just serve free food once a week. What are the fundamental causes of homelessness?” Chastened, the students do serious research and determine that homelessness results from poverty, which, in turn, is a byproduct of late capitalism.

They are trying to figure out what to do about capitalism when Roberto Mangabeira Unger happens to walk by. “No!” cries Unger. “You are assuming that the link between poverty and homelessness is natural or inevitable. You have seen patterns in our limited experience and have derived ‘lawlike tendencies or deep-seated economic, organizational, and psychological constraints’ from the data; these now limit your imaginations. We human beings have made the social world and we can change any part of it–not only the parts that you have identified as deep structures, but also any of the other elements or links.

“Your ‘confining assumptions … impoverish [your] sense of the alternative concrete institutional forms democracies and markets can take.’ By focusing on the biggest and most intractable factors, you guarantee defeat, whereas any part of the picture could be changed. It would be possible to have a capitalist society with poverty but no shortage of homes. What if we got rid of all zoning rules and rent control but gave everyone a voucher for rent? What if public buildings were retrofitted to allow people to sleep comfortably in them at night? What if some houses were shared, like ZipCars, and homeless people occupied the temporarily empty ones? What if …?

Peter Levine is the Research Director of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service and Director of their CIRCLE oranization, The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement. For more of his lectures, check out his blog on the Tufts Roundtable Commons.

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Tufts GlobeMed in Achham

This past June, Tufts GlobeMed reached their one year anniversary! GlobeMed is a student organization that partners with Nyaya Health to strive to bring health equity to rural Nepal. In their short time as an official organization at Tufts, they have accomplished an impressive goal:  they reached their fundraising goal by 161%. Three of their members are currently interning with Nyaya Health in Achham, Nepal, as an international GrassRoots On-site Work (GROW) team creating sustainable healthcare and providing knowledge to the Achham community. They detail their eye-opening experiences as they grow abroad in their blog, GROWing in Achham. In one of their entries, David Meyers, A13, describes the difficult contrast between his surroundings the reality of the area that he’s helping:
There is so much beauty here. Beauty in the scenery, and in tricks of the light. Beauty in the wedding of two staff members, and all of the staff’s incredible commitment to the hospital. Beauty in the resilience of the patients who walk for hours in the morning to get their treatments, and then walk hours back at night to go work in their fields. Beauty in the son who stays by his mother’s side as she struggles through MDR TB, and in the kid that pulled through from a case of Kala Azar.
But there is also hardship here in Achham. In the patients who we can’t help and who don’t make it back home.
This is a land of beauty that deserves beauty. That is why we do our work.

Keep it up, Tufts GlobeMed! Feel free to send some praise their way on their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

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Engineering Land

As current STOMP Fellows, Emma Rubin, E14, Hannah Garfield, E14, and Andrew Bennett, E15, more than understand the importance of multiple methods in teaching. From hands-on activities to written or spoken instructions, these fellows have done it all to teach K-12 students engineering and problem solving skills. This summer, they outdid themselves and created what may be the most creative and entertaining engineering video of all time to explain the different types of engineering–with Legos!

STOMP began here at Tufts in 2001 as a CEEO initiative, and has since grown within the university while also helping launch the program throughout the nation at seventeen other schools. For more on Tufts STOMP, check out their website.

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Dreams of the Middle East

In her first semester at Tufts, Alexa Stevens, A13, enrolled in Arabic 1 completely unaware that a subject as unfamiliar as Arabic would change the course of her life. Throughout her time at Tufts, her intellectual curiosity towards the Middle East grew into a love and respect for the area that led her to major in Middle Eastern studies, visit Iran the summer after her sophomore year, and study abroad in Jordan the fall of her Junior year. She keeps a blog chronicling her intellectual journey exploring the Middle East that begins days before she departs for Iran and continues through her college experience in which she explains what, or rather who, inspired her to follow her dreams overseas:

I could tell you that a semester in Jordan sparked my interest in the Cause, or maybe the weeks of travel to Israel and Palestine that I did after that semester, or that perhaps it was my intense study of the Middle East that brought me to delve further into the tightly-wound knot that is the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. But I would be lying, because really the thing that pulled me into a situation which has become highly academic, polemical and esoteric was its most essential element: a person. Namely, my second-year Arabic teacher Suhad. She told us about her family’s home in Gaza, about her experiences during the Second Intifada at Birzeit University, about the fifty-two days she spent between the Israeli and Jordanian borders as a stateless person, about coming to the US and re-doing her entire college education, and about the uphill battle she’s been fighting since birth. Her eyes pulled me in, right back to the center of this thing–the people whose lives will never be entirely their own, but rather a part of the intractable conflict in the Holy Land.

Check out the rest of her post and where her studies at Tufts have taken her here.

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A Former ‘Mate Pays It Forward

When Evan Barnathan, A08, M14, became a Boston Schweitzer Fellow, the choice of what to do for his year of service was obvious. As a former member of the Tufts Amalgamates and current music director of his beloved group, he spent the year launching Josiah Quincy Upper School‘s first choral effort: Attuned, an a cappella group that offered students the opportunity to both explore their musical creativity and develop positive self-identity and behaviors. Barnathan worked with students who were “‘unable to sing ‘Happy Birthday’” and through weekly rehearsals, private lessons, and field trips (to see the Bubs!), transformed them “into a formidable a cappella ensemble performing everything from pop to soul with pieces ranging from ‘Unwritten’ by Natasha Bedingfield to ‘Lean on Me’ by Bill Withers.”

Boston Schweitzer Fellows focuses on addressing unmet health needs and is one of thirteen program sites across the US. Their site boasts, “Since the program’s inception, Schweitzer Fellows in Boston—competitively chosen from health-focused graduate student applicants in a variety of fields—have worked tirelessly to address health disparities and the social determinants of health throughout the greater Boston and Worcester areas.” Despite the program’s large scale success, Evan’s personal goals for his project focus on individual students: “I hope that this encourages the students to further engage in music education—and hopefully higher education, including college and beyond.”

For more on The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, be sure to check out their blog.

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Tufts in Rwanda: 2012 Edition

Two years ago, we showed you how students on Tufts Hillel’s service trip to Rwanda learned and grew abroad. This year, Tufts Hillel continues their legacy of helping the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village with a new batch of students eager to repair the world. On their own branch of the Tufts Hillel blog, we find the stories of  Hannah, Sam, Paige, Nate, Natasha, Arlen, Jessica, Ariana, Katie, Shane, Laura, and Tayo as they embark on their interfaith service trip:

“We all chose to come to Rwanda for different reasons and had different expectations, but we were all excited to be going. Some wanted to see a new country, while some wanted to see a new continent. Others wanted to experience a new culture. I think all of us wanted to learn about what had happened in 1994, and many also wanted the trip to help guide them to their future career choices.
                  I will never forget the moment we stepped off the plane. I’m (Tayo) from Ghana, and when I go home I’m used to being hit with the hot air and the smell that can only mean that I’m finally in the place I love the most. But here I was, in Rwanda, a place I’d never been to, feeling sensations that were almost the same! I (Laura) was entirely unsure of what to expect as I had never been to Africa before. However, we both felt that after feeling the hot air and seeing the bright lights of Kigali—the endless hours of travel had all been worth it. We went through immigration and, after dealing with some luggage issues, hopped on the bus to Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. The bus ride was surreal. Although it was night time and everybody was exhausted, we were all so excited to be in the country that we had read and watched so much about.”

The trip is part of Hillel’s Alternative Summer Break program. For more journeys to Rwanda, check out the Tufts in Rwanda student groups from 2011 and 2010.

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Summer at the Movies – Ballplayer: Pelotero

Every summer, after tiring of the beach and the heat, we flock to movie theaters to delight in the relief of air conditioning and a good flick. This Friday, our summer at the movies can take a break from superheroes, talking teddy bears, and pop stars to bear witness to a truly fascinating story brought to you in part by two Tufts alumni.

In their controversial film Ballplayer: Pelotero, Trevor Martin, A08, and Casey Beck, A07, bring us the story of Miguel Angel and Jean Carlo, two excellent Dominican baseball players. The boys are on the brink of turning 16 (the age in which they can be signed to a Major League Baseball farm), which could lead them to the majors.

Martin and Beck along with their crew, spent two years in the Dominican Republic filming and preparing their movie. The film “sheds light on some of the most pressing issues regarding the export of Dominican baseball players to the US: age and identity fraud, exploitation, and the opaque role Major League Baseball plays in determining the fates of young players and their families. However, at heart, the film is a story about two gifted young men with a shared dream, doing their best to navigate a mercenary world with the hopes, fears and burdens of their entire families riding on their success or failure.”


The documentary has received much criticism from the MLB for its controversial topic–the organization itself did not did not cooperate in the making of the film. Martin explains to the Boston Globe, “We took pains not to have the film come across as a heavy-handed indictment [...] It’s a complex issue. We leave value judgments up to the viewer.”

To make those judgments yourself, check out Ballplayer: Pelotero this Friday, July 13, at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. If you’re not in the area, check out the movie’s website for a complete list of showing locations.

 

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