Charity Series: The Point Foundation

The Point Foundation is without a doubt a one of the most promising non-profit organizations that provide funding and support to at-risk queer adolescents. Its focus is on providing mentorship and leadership for LGBTQ students and raising funding for their higher education. The Point Foundation consists of dedicated people from diverse professional and academic fields who understand their role in helping at-risk people succeed in their communities. I like the focus on community and education, two things we often discuss in The Coalition. The Point Foundation gets the ASW Coalition Stamp of Approval!Shape 2.png

—Emma Bunnel, ASW Coalition Member

Charity Series: Latino Justice

This is an NGO that attempts to even the odds for Latinos in the United States. It is very reliable in terms their ratings and it really serves a purpose for the society because it advocates for a minority that does not pick up as much attention. Its main objective is to fight for and protect the civil rights of Latinos and to give them legal education. If you want to join the Latino cause, you should definitely learn more about them at latinojustice.org. Latino Justice gets the ASW Coalition Stamp of Approval! Shape 2.png

—Mateusz Lubelski, ASW Coalition Member

Charity Series: United World Schools

The United World Schools (UWS) is an organization that gives an educational opportunity to children in remote and post-conflict countries like Myanmar and Cambodia. They work to build schools and help train teachers. This charity provides free education by working with the community leaders and building partnerships with schools all over the world. They focus on giving the children free education in their indigenous language. UWS gets the ASW Coalition Stamp of Approval! Shape 2.png

—Laura Nicely, ASW Coalition Member

Charity Series: SARI

Stand Against Racism and Inequality (SARI) is a non-profit agency established in 1988 and operational since 1991 that helps victims of hate crimes “including racist, faith-based, disablist, homophobic, transphobic, age-based or gender-based.” You can report a crime online, email, mail, or call them. They work in England, mainly Bristol. They provide assemblies, teacher and staff training, lectures, and events at schools, and equality and diversity training at workplaces. At schools they teach both students and staff about homophobia and what it means to be gay or bi, and they teach the staff what to do when hate incidents happen. Some school events they organized focused on the Holocaust Memorial Day, Black History Month, Refugee Week, Chinese New Year, and immigration. Their goal is to spread awareness, educate, and provide help to victims of different types of hate crimes. SARI gets the ASW Coalition Stamp of Approval! Shape 2.png

—Ola Nguyen, ASW Coalition Member

 

For our first project, the ASW Coalition wants to highlight some of the charities and NGOs that work to help some of our chosen issues—diversity in education, minority rights, and more. Soon, we’d like your help in providing some material support for one of these organisations. But for now, let’s meet our first NGO!

Charity Series: Mię­dzy Innymi

In October, I snagged a few moments with Elżbieta Kielak, a workshop leader and trainer for the local NGO Mię­dzy Innymi, to talk about her work and her outlook on diversity in Poland. Our conversation came after a presentation on “Civic Society”, in which she outlined to a roomful of juniors and seniors the myriad ways to get involved in non-governmental service work in Poland and abroad. In our interview, she described how Poland’s diversity is changing, how her NGO helps educate teachers about diversity, and what students can do to address social problems. She also voiced her approval of the Black Protest, a Polish movement denouncing legislative threats to women’s reproductive rights, that had on the Monday before our interview staged a large-scale initiative to show support by wearing black.

A transcript of our chat, which has been edited for clarity, is below.


Lucas James: What social issues does Między Innymi focus on?

Elżbieta Kielak: Mostly, now? Counteracting hate speech, discrimination… how diversity is treated in Poland, and what do we do with diversity.

What do you find are the biggest problems related to diversity or hate speech in Poland? 

The problem in Poland is that Poland is still thought to be a monocultural country. And it’s not. Everyone thinks because the Polish people are white, they are the same. But they are not! Because in the statistics, ninety-eight percent of the people are Catholics. But when I come to a normal public school here in Konstantin, not all of them are Catholics. In fact, half the group is not Catholic. So this monoculture you see here in Poland, it’s not true, but people still think that this is true.

And now, with this political situation we have in Poland, when the government is against all “different things”, which are not white, Catholic, or of Polish history… This is becoming an issue in education. Here in the public schools, we have Vietnamese students, and some don’t take part in religion lessons, [even though people think that] that the minority has to act like the majority, that they have to do what the majority is saying. But the minority has its identity, many identities. We also want to make this somehow visible—so there are many issues.

So what it is that Między Innymi does that tries to address some of these problems?

First of all, we try to get funds for teacher’s education. Because there are many, many teachers in Poland who are interested. [These are teachers who are] probably not members of the majority group, or they know that they have different minority students, that they have homosexual students in class, and they think “why do people say that’s not true?”. So there are many, many teachers who want to do it.

Now, we have internet courses talking about refugees, and we have 170 teachers [taking these courses]. Last semester—the course has four modules in four months—we had 104 teachers. So it’s like, now we have almost 300 teachers. They are interested in talking about refugees, for example.

Or in this action counteracting homophobia, there are also teachers who are interested in it. Even though the government is saying [here, Ms. Kielak’s face contorted into an exaggerated stern glare] NO”.

So the political level is coming very much to schools now. [For example,] the Black Protest. When I was here at school Monday, I was seeing teachers in black. Maybe they couldn’t go, but I said “OK—fingers crossed, go there and fight!”. So this is happening here.

One last question—what do you think is the most powerful thing that we as individuals, as the students here, can do to counteract some of these problems?

First of all, talk about them. And say they exist. I mean, homophobia exists. And probably here as well.

Oh yeah.

And discrimination exists. And probably here as well, even though when I come here, there are different faces on the [self-portrait] plates in the primary school, and they are different people coming from different places. So the first step for me is to say: “OK, yes, this exists”. I mean, I also have my stereotypes, probably, about people coming from different countries and what they bring with them. But the first step is to say, I agree, I have these. And now I can do something—I can read, I can go to trainings, I can talk with others, I can watch movies, whatever. But first we have to say, this is happening and talk about it. Just talk about what we can do, and try different things—brainstorm!

Thanks very much for your time.

Thanks.


According to the organisation’s website, Między Innymi utilises the expertise of “experienced intercultural trainers, coaches and psychologists” like Ms. Kielak to help develop diversity awareness in education. Providing “training modules” like “Stereotypes and their Effect on Intercultural Contacts”, it seems to take the growing multiculturalism in Poland as a focus for its educational efforts. It’s striking how similar its stated goals correspond with ours here at The Coalition. Its home page calls for “real, intercultural DIALOGUE”, very much like we do. And Ms. Kielak’s willingness to take an impromptu interview with a student seems to showcase the authenticity of this value in her work. Między Innymi gets the official ASW Coalition Stamp of Approval!  Shape 2.png

—Lucas James, ASW Coalition Editor

Welcome to The ASW Coalition

Thanks for taking a look at The ASW Coalition’s official blog, where we’re dedicated to promoting a more thoughtful, informed, and globally-minded dialogue around the social and political issues that matter to everyone. We strive to encourage reflection, facilitate understanding, and most importantly: spark conversation.

That conversation starts with this blog, but it won’t be limited to it. We’d like to explore different media, formats, and ways of communicating in order to best reach out to as many corners of the ASW community as possible. More than that, we want the conversation to extend beyond our reaches; it’s our hope that you’ll respond to (or analyse, or criticise) what you read here not only online but in the hallways at school, in the classrooms, or around your dining room table. The Coalition’s ethos is that only when we dare to speak about something can we hope to change it. We’d very much like for you to dare to join us in that effort.

Thanks again for checking out this newborn blog. Come back soon to hear from our contributors!

—Lucas James, ASW Coalition Editor