Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Strong, The Brave, The Green

This is Joyce. I ran into her just after 6am at Merry Ann's Diner on Neil St., sitting with her husband, drinking coffee and stocking up on energy for the sale. They were both, of course, decked out in bright green t-shirts, the signature, blinding color of the Dump & Run Community Garage Sale. (Joyce was even wearing the cutest little Y earrings...)

In this moment, before the sale even began, I noted the dedication and spirit of our brand of volunteers.

Tireless (so long as we provide some refreshments).

Strong (especially our third floor residents who always help carry sofas around).

Brave (once the Stock Pavilion dust gets flying, it can be a madhouse in there between the hours of 7 and 10am).

Loyal (our boutique volunteers have been drawing a hard line on the most elegant items for the past few years, without fail).

Dedicated (enough to wear the new pink "Ask Me" shirts that made the most knowledgeable of them distinctive).

Hospitable (opening doors to international students who are just getting started at the university and need to be solidly welcomed).

Green (doing their very best to keep things cheap, to the point of significant bargaining, so that we can keep whatever possible out of dumpsters and get it into the hands of people who will use it).\

and dare I say... Good-looking?

More information forthcoming, but the most important task we have now, at the end of two very long days, is to thank the volunteers who made it possible.

Here's a slideshow of photos from this year's sale. You can download photo at full resolution or order prints from the Flickr set here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

International Students, Uninterrupted

Jenni and Kasey here.

We're at the International Student Welcome Reception that the University YMCA hosts at the beginning of each semester, co-sponsored by International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). This year, we ran out of cookies and hummus so fast we had to go on a grocery store run before we were even an hour into the party...

Barely needing to answer any questions, we watch as new international students begin to have conversations. They seem eager to chat with each other, and we enjoy listening as they share their excitement over starting a new semester, exchanging stories and information.

At UIUC, other universities, and in nonprofit organizations around the country, the same conversations happen again and again, and the same questions are raised about inclusion and diversity. How do we encourage "diversity"? How do we start conversations between different cultural groups? How do we get people talking, sharing, exchanging, and experiencing together?

The answer seems to be: Have a party. Do it when people are open and ready to meet each other. Put out the food. And get out of the way.

This welcome reception has become something less directly about introducing students to what the Y is, although it accomplishes that through what the welcome receptions have in common with the Y and its mission - to serve as a gathering place where people of different views and backgrounds can feel comfortable conversing about important matters (or just the happenings of the day).

The punch bowls are filled again and again. At least 200 students have come through just in the first hour. The chatter rises and flows over the uplifting guitar and harmonies of the Hathaways. It's a relaxed, relieving gathering for international students to unwind and get to know each other - casually, without interruption.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Interfaith Vigil this evening

Interfaith Vigil of Remembrance and Solidarity
With Oak Creek and Joplin Tragedies
5:30pm, Thursday, August 9th
Start: University YMCA (1001 S. Wright St.)
Close:  Alma Mater Plaza (Green and Wright)

In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a gunman opened fire at a Sikh gurdwara, killing 6 people and injuring 3 others during Sunday services. On Monday, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri was burned for a second time in two months.  This vigil is an attempt to bring together members of the Champaign-Urbana community to remember the victims of this violence and stand together in solidarity against acts of domestic terrorism and intolerance.  The vigil will begin at University YMCA (1001 S. Wright St.)  at 5:30pm and continue to Alma Mater space at Green and Wright concluding with a speak out and moment of silence. This event is co-sponsored by the Sikh Student Association, DiversityEd, Interfaith in Action, Baha’I Center, Asian American Cultural Center, La Casa Cultural Latina, Women’s Resources Center, and the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations. For more information, contact Masood