The Great India Adventure: Greetings from Across the World!

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United Way staff and the Project YELL Youth Venture team from Lynn have embarked on the adventure of a lifetime, going to India to participate in the international Design for Change conference, meeting other like-minded youth focused on social impact and seeing the sights of a foreign country. Our own Sunindiya Bhalla has been dispatching real-time updates. Enjoy!

After traveling for over 24 hours straight, two layovers, three flights, and four airports later we made it to Ahmedabad in one piece! The kids are champs, not a single complaint and just so excited by everything! The kids are embracing Indian food and were not at all scared by the death defying car and bus rides over the roller-coaster like rides full of potholes and horn-honking.

We definitely sweated off a few pounds in the sunny, humid 97 degrees yesterday. Our hotel is very modern. We are staying here with teams from 20 other countries!  Our Lynn team did an awesome job performing their song (really, not being biased here, they were by far one of the best) during country performances.  You can listen to the song here!

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Donors from John Hancock Get a First-Hand Look at the Power of their Gifts

On a gorgeous Fall day, a group of donors were given a great opportunity to see, up close and personal, how their support is changing lives.

As part of the John Hancock campaign, United Way and the volunteer engagement team took donors out to see their impact in the community first hand. They learned about the collaborations among United Way partner agencies and got an in depth look at community revitalization and development in the Hyde/Jackson neighborhood of Jamaica Plain (read more about the project here).

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Wild World of Learning in Waltham

The road to school readiness can be as easy as a walk in the park! Visit our new Learning Trail in Waltham, or turn a visit to your local playground in a Brain Building Zone for children by exploring the shapes, colors, and sounds of the natural world.

Tips for Brain Building at your local park:

  • Look for shapes in the clouds
  • See how your shadow changes when you move
  • Compare the different colors and shapes of leaves from the trees
  • Look for different shapes in the signs or playground equipment
  • Count the steps from car to playground

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Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, United Way and Sallie Mae Cut the Ribbon on New Waltham Learning Trail for Area Children

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Video: Day of Caring a Force for Good in the Greater Seacoast

“The only thing that can’t come down is the monkey!”

Pati Frew-Waters, Executive Director of Seacoast Family Promise in Stratham, dashes to the middle of the room and explains to the onlookers. The funny-looking stuffed monkey, she says, represents not only levity for kids who are in a heavy situation, but also structure. You can look at the monkey but you can’t take him down. Those are the rules. And like any home, you have to follow the rules.

It’s an anecdote that helps Frew-Waters educate new people about the work being done at Seacoast Family Promise, a shelter that leverages a network of faith communities to provide temporary housing for homeless families. The audience in this instance was a group of 11 volunteers from Lindt & Sprungli, gathered to help scrub, wash, paint, dust, weed and trim for the annual United Way Day of Caring.

 

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A Special Day of Service

On an important day for our nation that has since become an occasion for remembrance and service to our community, members of United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) spent their morning on September 11, 2014 reading with children in 5 Boston neighborhoods, joined by 10 female Boston Police officers as special guest readers.

The inaugural WLC Read to Succeed Day brought together more than 50 women (and a few good men),  including volunteer teams from Brown Brothers Harriman, Sun Life Financial, P&G Gillette, John Hancock and Alex & Ani, who all enjoyed sharing their time with local children in Allston, Dorchester, East Boston, Roxbury, and the South End.

See more photos in the Facebook album

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A Change of Plans

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What happens when the course you plotted for your life unexpectedly shifts? Sometimes, great things.

Travis Harris had it all planned. A political science major at George Washington University, he had an eye on politics, making a difference in a big way, on the grandest of stages. Then he worked in his first campaign and promptly realized it was not for him.

His abrupt career change led him to Spain, and a job as an English teacher. He taught elementary school for the first year and middle and high school the next. At nights he taught adults. He even squeezed some time in the morning to tutor preschoolers.  Travis was a teacher. And he loved it.

Now, he’s wrapping up a one-year experience as a member of AmeriCorps (which is celebrating its 20th year this year). He served in Lynn, part of United Way’s targeted initiative to help families and children achieve academic success. He is one of 12 team members, placed at different agencies serving Lynn, working in concert to make a difference in the city.

“As a teacher, you get to give presentations every day and lead a group,” Travis says. “And you have to be creative. You can plan and plan, but if something goes wrong you have to be able to be improvise.”

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Dance Fusion

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At the intersection of age and youth, tradition and rebellion, memory and hope, there is break-dancing.  

The kids are soft-spoken. Meek, even. They quietly and politely explain why dance is important to them. It’s about the rhythm. The freedom. The togetherness.  But, mainly, it’s about the expression. For Team Kaya, a group of young people from Cambodia, Vietnam and other Southeast Asia points, the dance stage offers them a hardwood canvas to transmit the passions and values that drive them–and can be so hard to articulate through speaking or writing.

“I’m quiet and shy and don’t really have a lot of friends,” says Kenny Huynh. “But dance brings about good vibes, good feelings. I feel like I can express myself.”

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How a $125K grant became a $10.2 million return on investment to local communities

Bank of America and United Way announce free tax prep partnership generated $10.2 million in refunds and EITC credits for local residents this year

United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley, in partnership with Bank of America, announced the results of its 2014 free tax prep assistance program, which returned a total of $10.2 million to 4,515 residents who are most in need – a significant increase over the $8.9 million returned last year. The annual program provides low-income residents and families with opportunities for free tax prep assistance and help maximizing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other credits and refunds. With a $125,000 investment from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation to United Way to coordinate the program, millions of dollars that may otherwise have gone unclaimed were returned to people’s pockets and their local communities.

In an effort to reach even more families this year, United Way expanded its partnership with the Massachusetts Association of Community Action Programs (MASSCAP), granting $15,000 to fund four of their VITA sites in Lowell, Haverhill, Chelsea and Malden. In addition to the VITA sites, United Way provided funding and volunteers for tax prep at partner agencies in Boston, Chelsea, Lawrence, Quincy, and Waltham.

“You don’t have to be a banker to know that turning $125,000 into more than $10 million for those that need it most is an incredible investment,” said Bob Gallery, Massachusetts president, Bank of America. “It’s also a testament to how effectively United Way puts these dollars to work.” Continue reading

Lynn teens win once in a lifetime trip to India through Youth Venture

Teen Scene United Way Youth Venture Team one of two national teams to travel to India this fall for “Be the Change” youth conference

Four high school students from Lynn who created the environmental group Young Environmentalist Leaders of Lynn (YELL) through their association with the Teen Scene program at Family & Children’s Service in Lynn (FCS) and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley’s Youth Venture program, have won the experience of a lifetime – the opportunity to travel to India this September to represent the USA at the “Be the Change” youth leadership conference in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.

indiatripgroupThe trip was awarded through a partnership between United Way, Ashoka’s Youth Venture, and Design for Change, in which the Youth Venture teams competed in a video challenge for the opportunity to travel to attend the Conference.  During the trip, students will connect with like-minded youth from other countries, learn new skills to further their own venture projects, and visit the Taj Mahal.  The announcement of YELL as the winning team was made at United Way’s Youth Venture Talent Showcase at the Microsoft NERD Center in in May. Continue reading

Breaking Barriers

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An MLH Scholar and United Way intern shares the blueprint to overcoming challenges.

Nephtalie Dorceus learned several important lessons at the Lynn YMCA, while working as camp counselor with children with disabilities. She realized that you can’t take yourself too seriously; that you need to be patient; and, sometimes, all a person needs is a little push.

“People unfamiliar with people with disabilities might automatically think that they can’t do this or can’t do that,” she says. “Really, it just takes an extra step. Anything is possible.”

She understands. As an immigrant from Haiti, who arrived with her family, she is all-too-familiar with challenges–and how focus and determination can lead to true opportunity. When she came to the United States, Nephtalie didn’t speak a word of English. She and her siblings learned the language together (her sister came up with a song to help remember their phone number). It took time. It wasn’t easy.\

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