Last summer I visited the Autodesk office in Embarcadero because an SF Funcheap post said that if I did, I could get a free book. I’m a sucker for free swag so I was sold on going to their exhibit space and getting said book. What I couldn’t have know is that this random event would lead me to working with a non-profit I deeply admire.
Flipping through the pages I came across Project H. The highlighted project was the Learning Landscapes. Interactive playgrounds through which youth could learn math concepts and spatial reasoning. I was enamored by the recycling of old tires, the spirit of service and the sustainability of building a structure free of political ties. This was an organization I wanted to be a part of.
I visited their website: Project H . Clicked on the contact form section and sent that very first signal into the unknown:
“To whom this may concern,
I am a student at UC Berkeley always interested in being exposed to new knowledge and new experiences. I stumbled upon Project H in the publication “Imagine Design Create” that I acquired at Autodesk’s design gallery. I am curious to know if your organization has a need for volunteers or interns. If so, I would be interested in participating in your organization and/or referring my fellow classmates to donate their time and effort.
Love the great work you do!”
Soon after, Founder Emily Pilloton herself messaged me! I was in awe that I had reached such a high connection by shooting a blind e-mail into the abyss of internet bytes. Since then, I have found that Emily is down to Earth, she touches everything that happens at Project H and imbues it with her passion and commitment for a better world.
Last summer she honored me with the chance to take pictures and experience Project H’s pilot summer camp [Studio G]. Several of the girls I met last summer were returnees this summer. Not only did they experience the maker/architect skill-building that they had tasted the year before, but they exercised service for other women by building furniture and a playhouse for a local women’s shelter. Many girls expressed that they were proud of and happy that “this is going to help improve someone else’s life” or that “this isn’t just something we get to take home, but that will go to help others.” I can’t express how this spirit of altruism inspires me and feeds the hope I have for this world.
As a photographer and assistant camp counselor, I am not instructing girls on how to use the chop saw, or how to hammer nails, I don’t know how to make all the friendship bracelets in the world, or how to even french braid their hair….but I do have one thing to share: my perspective.
A little encouragement and a sprinkle of advice here and there can go a long way. Nothing means more to a girl than being able to believe in yourself. I got the chance to share a bit of my deep rooted commitment to personal development and social welfare yesterday on the last day of week 2 of Camp H, 2014. We played a game that is not meant to be funny, violent, or winnable…it’s simply meant to be uplifting for all participants.
I was introduced to this exercise on the last section of my Wealth and Poverty discussion last semester (Spring 2014) by my Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), Femke. She had us stand in a circle and face outwards with our eyes closed. She would then select a few of us to stand in the middle and tap fellow students if the phrases she recited were applicable to them.
-“Tap a classmate on the shoulder if they inspire you” -tap tap-
-“Touch a classmate on the shoulder if you think they have a lot of potential”
-“Pick someone who you think is going to improve the world”
-“Tap someone if they made you laugh”
This exercise brought me joy beyond measure. Classmates were interested in my views, they enjoyed my company and, best of all, they believed in my potential (which as a student at Cal, is sometimes hard to do for yourself). I thanked my GSI for the wonderful experience she had facilitated and promised myself that I would show others this wondrous exercise.
Yesterday, I got that chance.
As a result many girls mused that their peers are afraid to speak up, to tell them that they admire and respect them. They were happy with the “number” of people that appreciate them, even if they “didn’t know who it was.”
I, surprised by the focus on “numbers,” told them this:
“Not everyone you meet will know your name, but they will always remember how you made them feel. Go out into the world and leave a positive mark. Even if people don’t come up to you and say it to your face, as long as you show your best self someone will take notice and appreciate the effect your presence has had on them. When I played this game with my classmates, I realized that it is worth being the best version of myself and that even if there aren’t numbers to show for it, someone, somewhere appreciates the effort you put into being good.”
Lifting someone up through a game or by simply telling them the impact they have had in your life can only reinforce the goodness you see in them. Reinforce what you want to see in the world.
**None of the quotes are verbatim, but the crux of the intent and meaning is there**