Published by Kerry on 10 Feb 2010 at 05:30 am
New Global Citizens is working to educate a generation of young people about global challenges, directly connect them with grassroots locally-led projects around the world, and mobilize them to become an instrumental force. NGC is using WiserEarth groups so their student teams can talk directly with their NGOs. Director of Partnerships of NGC, Jennifer Vollmann, took some time out to share her work with us.
Connecting with the movement
Jennifer is no stranger to the social justice movement. She has volunteered her college summers in many countries, including Thailand, India, and Tanzania. After graduation, she fell in love with Kenya and stayed a year running a parliamentary campaign for writer and social activist Philo Ikonya. She came to question some fundamental assumptions about ‘helping’ internationally: “Local people on the ground have expertise and knowledge, and it’s more a matter of getting them the resources they need than sending in international experts,” she says. She now works for an organization which values just that.
How they work
Arizona-based New Global Citizens (NGC) works with U.S. high school (and occasionally college) students to form teams at their schools. Students first submit an application stating the issues they are most interested in. They then receive resources for team-forming, and later, support and materials from NGC on how they can best support and advocate on behalf of one of NGC’s selected international projects.
Projects and Partners
Jennifer is in charge of choosing NGO grantees and managing how funds are used, no small task. NGC’s partners include Global Partners which are US-based and are connected to grassroots organizations around the world. Some of these partners include: The Global Fund for Children, Ashoka, PlanetRead, The Afghan Institute of Learning, and Sustainable Resources. Each has does amazing work. For example, PlanetRead helps people in India learn to read by subtitling popular Bollywood songs. The project has been a hit!
NGC supports approximately 45 NGO projects a year, based partially on what students are most interested in that year. In addition, they target 10 world challenges: extreme poverty and hunger, universal education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, armed conflict, and natural disasters. These projects have to be locally-led, community-driven, and sustainable. All funds that students raise go directly to the project they are working with, with no overhead charge.
“We’ve surveyed our student participants after the program,” reports Jennifer, “and over 98% of them want to pursue new educational or career plans in global issues.”
She recalls Regina, an alumni of NGC, who pursued studies in nonprofit management at Arizona State University under a scholarship made possible by NGC. After the program, she wanted to combine medicine with nonprofit work, and spent this past summer as an Oxfam fellow.
Teams can have an amazing impact on their projects. An NGC team in Fremont, CA has held a very popular “dance expose” two years in a row to raise funds for their project, the Mobile Toy Library, a traveling bus in India with educational materials for impoverished children. The Dance Expose gave the team a chance to educate an audience of hundreds and the local media about The Mobile Toy Library, the need for education in India, highlight local Indian dancers, and raise over $7,000! This one event provided the Mobile Library with their operating budget for an entire year.
“After the crisis in Haiti, we have gotten e-mails every day from students asking how they can help,” Jennifer notes. “And it’s been great to partner with Global Fund for Children, which has two grantees in Haiti right now, who have established shelters and are providing medical aid. So students are able to have a really direct impact.”
“WiserEarth has been a great partnership,” Jennifer says. “We are working towards teams communicating with other teams, and communicating with their projects, and Partners, and the group on WiserEarth allows us to connect them.”
On the New Global Citizens Global Network group, teams can connect to each other and to their projects via chat and forums. The group also features a topic of the month, such as ‘What is extreme poverty?’ to foster discussion. “It provides cultural lessons as well when locals from different countries are able to talk,” Jennifer notes. “We want to eventually create subgroups for each project!”
New Global Citizens will also have a new website coming out soon with new integration, a different look, and ways to get invited to their Global Network! Stay tuned to this inspiring organization!
Photo Source: NGC
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