NEED | Humanitarian Living and News
Posted by Monique Dubos
David Burstein – “18 in ‘08”
David wasn’t old enough to vote when he realized that his generation was underrepresented at the polls. He was 16 during the 2004 elections, and the story that was repeating over and over on TV was that today’s youth don’t get involved in politics. He decided to do something to spur his peers — “a generation that has so much at stake, ranging from education to college tuition, from health care to global climate change,” he says — to get involved in the 2008 presidential election. David launched a non-partisan campaign aimed at launching activism and encouraging voter registration. “Whatever way they get involved, we don’t take sides. That they get involved is what’s important to us,” he says. A documentary targeting 17 to 24-year-olds was sold across the country. The Los Angeles and New York City school districts bought the film to show in civics classes. Sales of the film funded public service announcements featuring celebrities and policy forums that were held around the US. The campaign encouraged 25,000 new voters, said Burstein. Since the election, “18 in ‘08” continues to spur political participation through policy forums that spark discussion and ideas about how to solve the problems that face his generation. David says, “Young people are increasingly drifting away from party, moving toward ideas, beliefs. As a political observer, I think that’s a good thing.”
Eric Glustrom – "Educate"
Eric was told he was too young to go Africa alone. His parents had misgivings about sending their 17-year-old son to Uganda to execute his plan of making a video about life in the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement. But Eric would not be deterred and his parents finally consented. The first person he met when he stepped off the bus became his best friend and the catalyst for an initiative to educate people to become leaders for social change in their country. Benson Olivier had lost his family and was living in the refugee camp where he dealt with the challenges all refugees face: malnutrition, poverty, malaria, the threat of violence and hopelessness. Benson said he needed an education so he could help solve these pressing problems, and Eric made a commitment to help by paying for Benson’s education. Since 2002, Educate has evolved into a network of US high school and college groups that mentor Ugandan students ages 16 to19 through the two-year leadership curriculum. The first students to graduate have taken their leadership skills and “started an orphanage, sent 70 kids to school, and raised over $10,000 from farming” to fund it all themselves, Eric says. He estimates that they have “directly impacted 9,000 people, about half the people” in the settlement. But, he says, the biggest thing Educate! has done for the people of Kyangwali was to believe in their ability to create change.
Darius Weems – “Darius Goes West”
In the summer of 2005, Darius and his buddies took a road trip. Twelve guys, most still in high school, jumped in the van and headed west from their home in Georgia to California, in the hopes of getting MTV to pimp Darius’ ride. It was a typical adolescent lark, except that Darius lives with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and his ride is a wheelchair. DMD is a genetic disease that causes the deterioration of the voluntary muscles, eventually leading to heart failure, usually before the age of 30. Darius hoped that an appearance on a national TV show would bring much-needed attention to the fatal disease. He didn’t get on MTV that time, but it has since offered to produce a news special about Darius and DMD. Darius’s friend Logan Smalley, the videographer for the cross-country trip, spent a year editing what became “Darius Goes West”, a documentary that has won 28 film festivals awards worldwide. When they began to get requests for copies of the movie from around the country, they decided to sell the DVD, donating proceeds for DMD research, which so far amounts to $1.6 million. “It’s not always about what you do for yourself,” Darius said. “Putting a smile on the faces of parents with kids with this disease, giving them a little hope, makes me want to keep on fighting. It won’t save me, but these kids are the ones who will discover a cure in the future.”