OTW's Annual Community Service & Education Trip
At the end of May, OTW is embarking on our annual community service and education trip. Together, we have 8 new and old OTWers and are looking forward to the many adventures and opportunities for learning and growth that await us.
This year, we are traveling to Athens, Greece, and will be volunteering in the Skaramagas refugee camp. Skaramagas hosts over 3,000 refugees, including over 750 children, from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Cameroon. We will be working closely with the Ministry of Education and a refugee from Cameroon named Ernest who has been designated our point person for assigning our volunteer tasks.
Our goal this year is to not only help the larger refugee population in the camp but also directly impact Ernest's life. There are several individuals working at the camp who are dedicated to helping Ernest because they have become so fond of him. They hope to provide the following:
* A space to live away from camp
* Legal support
* Therapy for his mental health
* Continued language classes
* Activities to build his confidence, such as gym
* Preparation for the interview process, CV writing, effective job search and interview skills
Following our volunteer work in Skaramagas, the group will travel onward to Venice and Rome, Italy where they will learn about the rich art and history this incredible culture has to offer. National and world travel for OTW is another element of therapy as it provides exposure and education that further inspires our OTW youth to strive and want more in life.
In the meantime, we have partnered with Kent Middle School whose students and faculty are currently collecting educational and art supplies for us to give to the school for children in the camp. We have also collected clothing, brand new toys (largely donated by Corte Madera Barnes & Noble), soccer balls, and shoes. We still need to collect either brand new children's school backpacks or gently used backpacks.
If you know of anyone who may be interested in helping us on this venture or donating money to help Ernest, please have them contact us at (415) 419-9695 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
OTW participants, alumni, and leaders had multiple opportunities to bond and learn from others during the following events:
We continued to move forward with our fundraising efforts and held our annual garage sale. This fundraiser helps us offset our travel costs as well as support the communities we plan to assist on our community service trip.
A group of OTWers attended the movies together and at the end of the month, 31 people (22 youth) hopped on a bus and traveled to San Jose to watch an NHL game - Calgary Flames vs. San Jose Sharks. The Sharks won and this outing literally "Opened the World" for many to the world of hockey.
February was a busy month. OTW volunteered twice to help Sanzuma, a non-profit organization dedicated to growing organic food for impoverished youth in Marin County. OTW participants spent their time weeding, cleaning up the garden, building a fence and putting posts in the ground preparation for an orchard.
OTW also hosted its second annual Career Day and we were fortunate to have 26 professionals from our community volunteer to take time out of their Saturday to educate our youth about their vocational paths.
Finally, we found transitional housing for our OTW TAY (transitional aged youth) in Fairfax!!!! This is a HUGE feat especially due to the high cost living in Marin County. During one weekend, 16 local youth-young adults gutted and painted a cottage so OTWers have a place to live while they launch into their adult lives. Youth will have a 6-month to one year opportunity (depending on their financial need) at this location. This is a great opportunity for our youth as it provides them with the much needed next step and shows them the amazing things a group of people can do when they put their minds to it...
Marin County Probation facilitated the Colors Personality Assessment for OTW participants which taught them a lot about themselves and how they interact with others in the world.
Also, a large group of OTWers enjoyed attending a Cirque du Soleil show. This was a huge highlight as many have never experienced the magic of Cirque du Soleil.
OTW participants had a busy month with a trip to Google, a Cirque du Soleil show in the city, the annual holiday party where we put packages together for the homeless, gift wrapping to raise funds for our annual trip, a holiday party and game night.
Participants worked extremely hard to host OTW's 7th Annual Dinner Silent Auction with special guest speaker, former COO of Google Cloud and Intel Group President, Diane Bryant, who shared her personal story of resilience.
To start off the new year, OTW participants and alumni spent a weekend in the Redwoods learning about themselves and each other.
OTW went to Key West, Florida, to help Habitat for Humanity rebuild homes that were ruined by Hurricane Irma.
May was Mental Health Month and Marin County hosted multiple events to increase awareness about behavioral health issues. OTW partnered with Marin County Department of Health and Human Services’ Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Division to challenge local political and civic leaders to walk a day in the shoes of someone who accesses Marin County's behavioral health service system. OTW then hosted a moderated panel discussion during which leaders spoke about their Challenge Day experiences. Challenge Day participants included:
• Ralph Pata, Police Lieutenant – San Rafael Police Department
• Mike Daly, Probation Chief – Marin County Probation Department
• Mary Jane Burke, Superintendent – Marin Office of Education (7-12; 5-7)
• Katie Rice, Supervisor – Marin County Board of Supervisors
• Grant Colfax, Director – Health and Human Services Department
• Jei Africa, Director – Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Division
• Kate Colin, Councilwoman – City of San Rafael
• Anne Pletcher, Candidate – District Attorney
• Shelly Scott, Board Member – Novato Unified School District
• Lori Frugoli, Candidate – District Attorney
OTW was honored to be invited to WE Day in Los Angeles. WE Day is a global event held in 17 cities designed to celebrate young people who volunteer locally, nationally and globally, or who raise money for important causes. Celebrities like Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Will Ferrell, Martin Sheen, YouTubers, and musicians all gathered to say a big thank you to the selected youth groups for making a difference in the world.
Each year, OTW volunteers with the Marin County CROP Walk. OTW ran the registration booth, blew up balloons, created and mounted signs as well as directed traffic so the walkers were safe. The walk raises awareness about how 2 in 5 people here in Marin County are food insecure as well as over 845 million people throughout the world. Over $13,000 was raised at the event plus an additional $6,000 in online donations. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds stay here in Marin and the remainder of the money raised goes to combat global hunger.
OTW hosted a FREE Career Exploration Day for Marin County youth with special guest speaker, Congressman Jared Huffman, and professionals from Health & Social Services, Law Enforcement, Small Business, Technology, Trades, and Arts & Entertainment fields who shared how they chose their careers and why.
OTW prepared, served and shared a meal with local homeless through the REST program. The REST program is an alternating shelter service for the homeless provided by local Marin County churches from late fall through to spring. We were humbled and fortunate to be able to spend our time helping with such an important need in our community.
OTW participants and community volunteers joined together and spent three days prepping, painting and then touching up Senior Access' Adult Day Center in San Rafael.