This spring has brought about a great deal of change for the UKSD family. When we normally would have been embarking on our yearly trip to Dominica, we had to postpone our travel plans not only for the safety of our participants but also for our friends on the island. Along with this is, there has been a shift in the way that we are able to interact with the kids we work with, as we are all social distancing to do our part to keep our community safe. Something we have always tried to teach here at UKSD is the importance of being a leader. The greatest leaders in the world have often come from their ability to find light in the darkest situations. Our youth leaders have fostered this belief for a long time and are now setting it into motion.
When the day- to- day interactions of people were altered, our kids began asking, “what can we do to help”? They began to look at their towns and analyze various demographics of people who were in need. They then brought these ideas to the UKSD youth leader team and formed small working groups that would be tasked with creating action plans in order to help those in need.
At the onset, our youth leaders began the S.M.I.L.E project in conjunction with the Barnstable Council On Aging. Our leaders created and collected dozens of hand-drawn photographs and notes of encouragement to give to those in our elderly communities who may be feeling an extra sense of isolation at this time. These drawings were given out during weekly food pick ups and served as reminders for our elderly neighbors that they are not alone during this time. In addition to this, the kids even rallied together and made a 100th birthday video for one of our Barnstable community members who would have to celebrate her one hundredth birthday not as she had planned. It is our hope that our partnership with Barnstable Council On Aging will continue, and we will be able to do more face-to-face and hands-on work once it is safe to do so. There is such great value in weaving together all of our generations.
KICK IT FORWARD
“ I decided to start Kick It Forward because I wanted to spread positivity throughout my community and throughout the world. It feels so good to do something good for someone and to have someone do something good for you. I wanted to makes someone’s day during this tough time. I also wanted to give people a chance to know how good it feels to do a good deed.
Overall, I hope everyone is just a little happier”!
Our names are Phoebe and Alexis, and we have started an initiative called Reading4Teachers. During this pandemic, our teachers have been working long hours to try and help students finish out the 2020 school year. For those teachers who have children or grandchildren with them, we want to help. This is the least we could after all the help they have given to us”!
-Lexi & Phoebe Papavasiliou
Another project which was started by our youth leader, Ally Sentnor, was the ( Kick It Forward Challenge) . Ally wanted to think about a way to reach out to friends and family across the soccer community and encourage them to participate in demonstrating random acts of kindness for our frontline workers and anyone needing a little sign of support. Ally created a movement on Instagram, and it not only took off across the United States but also went international. People were challenged by their peers to do things such as provide food for hospital workers, thank you’s to our postal service workers, and so much more. This project has been so important at this time, and it is something we hope continues even long after this pandemic ends. Kindness should not be something we simply do in times of difficulty but something we commit to do as often as possible.
Another group of people our high school youth leaders wanted to put some focus on were their teachers. All of our participants felt very strongly about trying to find a way to say thank you to their teachers who they recognize are working tirelessly to try to keep everyone’s education going strong and to keep their students connected to their school community. Lexi and Phoebe Papavasiliou came up with a project called ( Reading4Teachers). This idea was based around offering a support system for those teachers who are currently trying to balance their school and personal life. High school age participants offered to hold zoom calls with teacher’s children or grandchildren in order to entertain them so that teachers could focus on their work. The zoom session consisted of the high school youth leaders reading children’s books, doing arts and crafts, and even sharing a few dance moves. Our high school students recognize not only the need to say thank you to those who are there for them, but they also have a desire to connect with younger community members. They see our younger community members as potential future leaders, and they know the importance of being positive role models and encouraging others to give back and reach out.
As projects began evolving and rolling in, one particular demographic of people who our youth leaders noticed are in need now more than ever is the homelessness population. Lily Hoffman, one of our youngest youth leaders, was a leader of the project called ( Bags4Benefit). Lily then partnered up with Molly Lamothe and Ava Melia in an effort to connect with various communities throughout Massachusetts. The girls reached out and asked people to donate gently used backpacks filled with supplies such as toiletries, snacks, masks, clothes, and even notes of encouragement. The girls were able to collect 100+ bags and donate them to organizations working with the homeless community on Cape Cod and in the South Shore.
“My name is Molly Lamothe, and I am a youth leader for UKSD. I was a part of our project called Bags4Benefit. While it started as a way to donate supplies to homeless shelters, it became a common connection between the friends and families of our community. Not only were we able to fill up multiple shelters with supplies, but we also came together and combined efforts during these hard times to help those in need. This project allowed others and me to see how a little time and effort can make a big change in the world. I am extremely proud to be able to work with UKSD and continue to launch projects like Bags4Benefit in the future”.
- Molly Lamothe
Each week, different groups of youth leaders are collaborating in a project-based learning model which allows them to analyze and assess the needs of their communities and to work in conjunction with local organizations in order to best support those in need. Our kids are learning about the many facets that go into making something happen. They are developing projects from beginning to end with the assistance of our adult UKSD members, and they are taking a great deal of ownership and pride in seeing the immediate positive impact they can have on those around them. We are so excited to see what else the kids are able to come up with, and it has been a true joy to assist them during this process. Their thoughtfulness and desire to make a difference has been nothing short of beautiful. We often hear people say that kids are the future. If our futures are in the hands of these kids, I can assure you that we will all find ourselves surrounded by empathy, compassion, and people who don’t just talk about getting things done but who do whatever it takes to make it happen.
The UKSD Blog