Tag Archives: community

Island Girl Takes Big (Foreign) City

By Connie Choy

In spring of 2013 I decided to move away from home for the first time and live in one of the busiest cities in the world: Tokyo, Japan. Although it has been four years since my five-month trip I am constantly finding myself reminiscing about the unforgettable times I had with the lifelong friends I made.

Conversely, even with all of the happy memories I will never forget the challenges I had to overcome when I first got to the big city. Just to put things in perspective, I’m from Hawaii (Oahu island specifically), which has a population of about 1 million people. Tokyo is approximately home to about 14 million natives and transplants – that is 14 times the size! Moving away from home on your own, especially in a foreign country is a very difficult thing to do, but I believe it will be one of the most formative experiences of your life. Notably, my hardships were what pushed me into a mindset that yearned for adventure and growth.

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The Lehigh Prison Project

By Ross Rozanski  

It was a Thursday and, like many of my afternoons, I was volunteering and making an effort to help out my community. My student and I were at a small wooden table looking at sentences from a workbook, identifying grammar mistakes.

“This is a run on sentence,” he said.  “Correct!” I applauded.

“That word needs to be capitalized,” he went on. “And you could put a comma there.”

But this is where similarities between my normal tutoring sessions and this particular experience end. You see, I wasn’t in the classroom of a middle school or some hall in the local YMCA. There were no windows. My student was wearing a brown jumpsuit. There was a police officer standing by the door. I was in a prison.

Last fall, at the university I attended before transferring to USC, I joined the Lehigh Prison Project. Completely new, this program took ten students each week to Northampton County Prison in Easton, Pennsylvania to assist prisoners who were working towards obtaining their GED. But not just anybody could join. Before joining the ranks of prison tutors, I had to have my fingerprints taken, go through various security checks, and have my name looked up against national security databases. The head of the education program within the prison made it clear we would only be working with the prisoners in brown uniforms, and specifically only with prisoners that wanted to be in this particular educational program.

All prisoners at Northampton County Prison are assigned one of three colors for their jumpsuit, dependent on the severity of their crime. Brown was for the lowest offenders, and represented minor crimes associated with finances or contract infringement. The next level was orange, followed by red. In the five months I tutored in the prison, I only caught a few glimpses of red uniformed prisoners, but that was enough for me; the prisoners wearing red were murderers.

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Leaving a Global Footprint

By Jackie Kim

Coupling my global cultural background and my passion in finance, I got the opportunity to travel to Honduras this past spring break with an international group called Global Brigades. My fellow brigadiers and I were paired up with a rural community in Honduras to rebuild a community bank. Because it was a seven-day brigade, we had to work under a strict time limit to deliver a high impact solution. Ultimately, we opted for innovative solutions that taught basic concepts such as saving and borrowing and even introduced advanced topics such as keeping track of interest rates and accumulated dividends through general ledger accounting. We accomplished this by adapting a segmented approach, where we targeted both children and adults in the community so that there would be awareness among different age groups. We used interactive models and colorful graphics as our communication strategy, and established a community bank with a clear set of regulations.

However, the most memorable part of the trip was not the planning process nor the actual implementation of our solution. Instead, I was most affected by the values that the community bank stood for and how the community members reflected them in their daily actions. Unlike a commercial bank, a community bank is not for profit, and exists to better the community. The community bank can only run with the volunteerism of dedicated community members who are not afraid to trust the community and the bank as an institution, and consequently, are willing to ask for the same trust from other community members. In a rural village, it proved to be difficult to convince many community members to save their money, especially because they were living on a day-to-day basis to sustain their families.

Even with the difficulty of communication to the rest of the community, the faith that the community bank members showed in the system inspired me. As a foreigner, I had felt rude when introducing and implementing a strange system of banking into such a tight-knit community, but the fact that various members opened their homes and minds up for us helped me understand the human trust and connection in its raw form. It was eye opening to not only build up a bank in a rural village with no prior knowledge of basic finance, but also to experience feelings and interactions that are so uniquely human.

Jackie - honduras

Ultimately, this experience strengthened my desire to serve the global community. The beauty of the intercultural exchange that I observed was so positively overwhelming that I was determined to still be involved with Global Brigades even after the trip. I’m so honored to be leading Global Brigades at Marshall (the USC Chapter of Global Brigades—you don’t need to be in Marshall to be a part of it!) this upcoming school year! I found a way to leave my global footprint while also getting inspired to seek more personal interactions in an intercultural context, and I invite all of you to do the same!

Jackie is a Junior majoring in Business Administration, with potential minors in Computer Science or East Asian Studies. She has lived all over the world, from Korea to Singapore, to various parts of America. She is fascinated by cultural diversity, and her goal in life is to become a diplomat for the United Nations. She is a big fan of learning languages, and she is hoping to learn her sixth one soon. Jackie is involved in various international campus organizations such Model United Nations, as well as community service groups, and the residential government, and would love to introduce you to cool leaders on campus if you want to get more involved! She loves playing ice hockey, playing traditional Korean music and, and socializing with people in her free time! She can’t wait you meet you and get to know you! She also has a lot of school spirit because she absolutely LOVES USC