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Real-world Issues

Below is a summary of the top ten issues contributed by Elevate 2013 attendees, summarized in their own words.

1. Provide violin lessons for Burmese refugees
    Submitted by John Eveleigh
    Chapel Hill, NC

About 800 people from Burma have resettled in Orange County to escape the military junta’s persecution. These families have children who are talented in many ways but do not have the resources to express themselves with music. I have started an organization called "Little Wolfgangs." This organization provides violins to young children and a once a week group lesson. I would like to see it extended to give them the opportunity to be part of weekly lessons and participate in orchestra through Duke String School.

I care so much about this issue because I have seen what a difference it has made in the lives of these young children and how I can teach them larger life lessons through violin. Please see the following article to learn more about my issue: http://www.newsobserver.com/thumbs-up/

 2. Partner with disabled children to build relationships and raise awareness
    Submitted by Caroline Page
    Evans, GA

Most people don't know how many people are mentally handicapped or how to deal with them. Often, they are forgotten about or are treated as "strange" or "unusual," when in reality, they are very important and special members of our society. As a whole, we should make a greater effort to incorporate disabled members into society and to interact with them on a regular basis rather than  gnore them because they are "different." I could create an organization that pairs special needs kids with a volunteer, a trained "buddy" who would work with them once a week. This volunteer could do anything from taking their buddy out to lunch to working with them on homework as long as the former would be spending time with them. The main goal is raising awareness and bringing handicapped children into the community.

This issue is especially dear to my heart because my brother has autism as well as many other disabilities. As this is the case, I have spent a lot of time at activities that involve other special needs kids, and I have come to love them. Also, people do not know how to handle them, which is a huge problem, as they are so crucial to our society and our community as a whole.

 3. Fight poverty through education and social inclusion
    Submitted by Beatriz Soldi
    São Paulo, Brazil

I have observed that my school is surrounded by an area of extreme poverty, with a community that suffers with poor education, violence, the lack of basic sanitation and an inadequate health system. My school, PACA, is an international school, considered to be a school for the richer Brazilian population. On the other hand, it is located in one of the most underprivileged neighborhoods of São Paulo, being the second most violent neighborhood in a city of nearly 12 million people.

The possible solution I see for these issues is to use PACA as an instrument of social inclusion. We could offer tutoring classes, English Second Language courses, Bible studies and sports clinics for the people of the community. We could start from the local maintenance, cleaning and security worker and their families, which all live in the neighboring slum. I believe this way we could, in a couple of years, change the reality of this neighborhood.

I care about this issue because my local church is located in this community and I, therefore, interact with this sad reality. I see myself as privileged to have a family who can offer to me the opportunity of studying in an excellent school and above all being able to have strong Christian foundation when people around me don’t have any of these opportunities.

4. Teach communication skills to adults with disabilities using theater
    Submitted by Caitlin Bice
    Tyler, TX

My hometown has a fairly large amount of people with special needs and disabilities. Several local organizations have partnered to care for these people, but the amount of disabled people drastically outnumbers the amount of participants allowed. I help with a special needs theater class every year, and due to large numbers of children and young adults requesting to be in our class, we were going to be able to start a second class this year. Unfortunately, the funding never came through, and almost twenty students were denied the opportunity to participate. They missed out on the opportunity to improve their speech habits and become more comfortable with themselves and others. I want to remedy this by increasing the amount of classes available not only to benefit those affected by disorders, but also to bless all of the assistants and teachers who work with them.

Because I have been working with this theater class for almost nine years, I have been able to see pre-teens who are almost non-communicative mature and learn how to properly enunciate and communicate their feelings verbally rather than through non-coherent grunts and frustration. I have seen progress happen in front of my eyes by having just one class a week, and I want to do more.

5. Build relationships with nursing home and hospital patients
    Submitted by Caleb Lively
    Appling, GA

My issue is the fact that many elderly in nursing homes or sick/injured in hospitals spend very many hours alone, with no one to visit them. My program would choose a certain amount of nursing homes or a hospital to partner with in order to get names and times of availability of those we could visit.

I care about this issue because I have had family in the hospital, and have visited nursing homes and I have seen people who are bed-ridden. Without visitors, it seems that these people could lose their drive and motivation, making it harder to keep going in life.

 6. Create a comprehensive transition program for Burmese refugees
     Submitted by Marshall Columbia
     Denver, CO

Where I live, there are about 2000 Burmese refugees that were forced to leave their homes because of racial cleansing enacted by their government. There are several programs that assist, but there are no programs or services focused on helping kids and teenagers acclimate to their new schools and new country. This is why it would be a great idea to create support systems between local Burmese refugees through interactive, team building activities. One idea is to help create soccer teams through Skyline Youth Soccer. Soccer is the most popular sport in Burma, and it can be a universal tool for them to learn leadership skills and team skills while developing relationships with others.

Another way that these refugees can make the transition while working through their past traumas is by creating an outdoor adventures club with academic tutoring as well. It is also very hard for these refugees to jump right into a new school, so getting some extra help through tutoring can make their transition that much easier.

These refugees are teenagers just like me, and they should be treated and welcomed just as any other person should. Just because they were born in a different country doesn't mean they shouldn't have the same opportunities as me. They are part of America’s future now, and they should be treated with care and respect.

7. Increase awareness of poverty to create change
    Submitted by Paul Cho
    Seoul, South Korea

The primary issue that I'd like to address is the urban slums in my city. In Seoul, there are students who can't get education because they are extremely poor. Although they go to public schools provided by the Korean government, they still can't afford to pay for lunch at school. And this is happening next to a rich private school that pays thousands of dollars for tuition. Ironically, that's my school. During this summer, I want to serve those children who can't get the education needed. 

One of the common and effective solution to this problem is public acknowledgment. Many people who live in the same community do not recognize this problem. I think it's very important for us to publicize this issue to more people to understand the importance and the magnitude of the problem. We could create a government petition, or at least a city petition regarding the poverty education system of the community. The fact that the government recognizes this problem, yet ignores and neglects to do anything is the first problem to solve. Then secondly, I am thinking of proposing a better economic and educational amendment for the children in my community. Although it may be a small start, I believe it can make a difference.

8. Remodel a house for an urban ministry organization
    Submitted by Brooke Jenkins
    Houston, TX

I want to help Houson's Third Ward community by partnering with Agape Development. The issue is that one of their houses needs major renovations to make the house useful for their ministry of developing young women. By enlisting Third Ward business owners to help with supplies and donations and encouraging Third Ward residents to help with the remodeling, we could renovate the home. Additionally, we could look for outside donors for financial support (like my church, school, etc.) and assistance with the renovation.

I feel a connection with Agape Ministries because I have helped with some of the children before in Agape's other programs.

9. Combat homelessness 
    Submitted by Laurelle Mitcham
    Santa Barbara, CA

An issue that I would like to address is the amount of homelessness in Santa Barbara. If you visit, the amount of homeless on the streets is astounding, and it is so sad. There are some people who have done drugs, or are alcoholics and that's the reason they're there, but there are others who are there because of the economy. I want to help get them off the streets and help them get back on their feet so they can be emotionally and financially stable again. I would probably put up posters around town to let people know that there is a place like the rescue mission for them to become financially stable again. I would get involved more with the rescue mission so that I could help the homeless in Santa Barbara.

I care about this issue because my family has been there. My family has been in a state of poverty, but come out of it. I want to help others reach the potential they have.

10. Create a drug-prevention program
      Submitted by Sophie Rogerson
      Duxbury, MA

Duxbury, MA, has a drug problem.The high school in my town is filled with teens who think nothing of getting high. Some use drugs recreationally and some have become addicted. Either way, my peer group is missing out on enjoying life without the use of mind altering substances and I would like to address this issue.

I believe teens choose drugs because they do not have enough to do in their life that brings them meaning. They feel a sense of hopelessness as well as a confusion as to what life is all about. People also use drugs because they want to be popular and feel they will fit in if they join the crowd. Also, it is a way to feel comfort because it alters your reality and removes the pain for a short while. Some people are in a lot of pain. Lastly, people use drugs because they feel hopeless. It is a way to escape.

Some possible solutions might be to participate in groups already established like SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), to be a friend to those I know who are struggling with drugs, or to create T-shirts to wear at school promoting life without drugs.