Testimonial from Joyce, a pilot Project Leader

Joyce Chen, rising senior at NYU

This is a guest post from Joyce, one of our pilot Project Leaders.  You can check out her project page here: http://pilot.pandoprojects.org/joyce. Her project was also covered by the Epoch Times!  

Joyce used Pando’s platform to help kids in Chinatown learn about international and American culture.  This is a perfect example of why I am fighting to get Pando going.  Joyce had an incredible idea for helping kids, based on her own experience as an immigrant in the United States.  I feel so honored that we could help her bring that idea to life.  

Hundreds of stories about immigrant children have been told.  Some are provocative, many are heartwrenching, and most are inspirational.  My story, however, is perhaps a little disappointing in that I was blessed with parents who were there with me every step of the way and who worked hard to give me as many opportunities as possible, from private piano and violin lessons to having travelled to four continents before I was out of elementary school.

Of course, there were breaks in the cocoon, like being shunned at the playground and being discriminated against by supermarket workers – by members of other minority groups, no less.  But because I had such a strong stanchion in my family, I grew up well-adjusted and with a deep appreciation for international cultures from having experienced both sides of the coin, east and west.  As a rising senior at NYU, I strongly feel that from the diversity of a people percolates the American idea, that differences can be celebrated because the very belief in it can form a nation.

Kids in Chinatown enjoy international food while learning about international culture, as part of Project Open Sight

My first time stepping into Public School 2 in New York’s Chinatown was a shocking reminder of what could have been, had my parents been unable to support me in all the ways that they had.  I saw a cafeteria full of Chinese immigrant children who spoke Chinese to one another while sharing with each other their afternoon snack of Chinese food.  Here was a part of America that I had never known.  These children were scared to speak English, and most had never even heard of the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty.  A little boy named Kevin even told me that the only difference he could see between China and the United States is that, here, we have electricity…yet how come, here, his parents are not with him?

And so Open Sight started as an attempt for me and my friends to effect change.  Our mission statement is to widen the perspectives of linguistically and culturally isolated children by exposing them to different foods, music, and the arts.  Even with such a pressing need, we struggled constantly with questions like whether we are truly giving an experiential portrait of America, whether we can instill the idea of a unity of differences, whether we can do right by these children.  And all of this while trying hard to gain funding, garner volunteers, and stimulate public interest.

NYU students volunteered for this project, helping kids in Chinatown to understand that we are part of a larger international community

At that point, Open Sight would most likely have failed if we did not have Pando’s help and support.  Before Open Sight even started, we learned the right way to approach volunteers and sponsors so as to effectively communicate our vision, and had very helpful coaching in public speaking and sharing so that we could put what we learned into practice.  To ensure that my team and I would feel as secure as possible once Open Sight was off the ground, a mentor was assigned to us so that that same incipient help and support would be just a phone call away.

But the greatest thing about piloting with Pando is that Open Sight was able to reach so many people and resources with our centralized website because of the amount of passion the team at Pando has.  It is truly wonderful to know that there is a group of amazing people who love our idea and love to connect us with all the people and resources that we can grow from and therefore effect more change with.

I am proud to say that Open Sight, with Pando, has inspired quite a few of the children at PS2 towards an inquisitiveness of the world in which we live, a world beyond the few streets in Chinatown familiar to them.  They have tasted, heard, and seen things oceans, mountain ranges, and even centuries away all while chattering excitedly in English, words falling over each other in their haste to express, voices straining to be heard.  They tasted African puff-puffs, they heard Austrian court music, and they saw the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan.

One of the kids who participated in Project Open Sight in Spring 2011.

And with our end-of-semester field trip, many of them saw the Houston River for the first time.

Field trip outside of Chinatown!

Thank you to everyone who has made Open Sight possible, especially Pando!

About Milena Arciszewski

I'm the Founder of PandoProjects, which empowers people to step up as leaders and develop innovative, local solutions to the problems in their communities. You can reach me at milena@pandoprojects.org or follow me on twitter: @pandoprojects.
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