CISV is a non-profit, volunteer based organization that promotes cultural and global understanding through youths by sending them abroad to different camps. Through this organization I have had the opportunity to broaden my views of the world by traveling to Thailand, living with a family for three weeks, and Egypt, living at a campsite with thirty-five other campers from nine other countries. These two camps taught me not only new cultures, but also made me realize that even though we come from different backgrounds we are the future and it is our responsibility to help make the world a better place to live in. Besides being involved in this organization internationally, I am actively involved locally. While being part of the Junior Branch, the youth run sub-group to each chapter, as Vice-President, I was responsible for planning, advertising, and running monthly educational activities, fundraisers, and community services.
Many of the activities we organized were on global issues, such as the Iraq war, hunger, poverty, and stereotyping. The one event that I am most proud of is the one that I single handedly planned and operated: Asthma Attack. I noticed that the activities we usually planned revolved around issues we hear on the news or are made aware at school, but the current environment issues were never discussed. So for the month of April’s event, I read, researched, and educated myself on the chronic respiratory disease- asthma. I discovered that 6% of children in this nation have asthma, which is a 75% jump from a couple decades ago. This same trend is seen elsewhere in the world, such as in Europe and Asia. One major reason there is an increase in asthma cases, especially in children, is because of the air pollution.
For my activity, I divided the group of children, ages eleven to fourteen, into two groups. I gave each group a set of materials (paper, markers, cups, balloons, etc.) and told them to build their own country. After half an hour, their masterpiece was complete. These kids had build houses out of twigs, buildings out of cups, and trees out of balloons. After complementing them on their hard work, I set up a scenario for them, stating that after living in their country for millions of years, using electricity day and night and driving their high fuel using cars everywhere, their country has become completely polluted. At that moment, I dumped a cup full of muddy water all over the country, to help the kids visualize the effects of air pollution. Of course the kids were shocked, and a little bit sad, that their hard work was destroyed, but they understood the point I was trying to get across, and realized that the same thing that happened to their country is really happening to the country they live in today. We had a short discussion about air pollution, and ways to decrease it, and the effects it causes on society. One child mentioned that air pollution leads to people having a harder time breathing. This statement led perfectly into my next activity on asthma.
For this activity I gave each child a straw and had them run around the park for a couple minutes. Right when they stopped running, they would try to breathe normally through the straw, simulating an asthma attack. Afterwards I led a discussion on what asthma is, the causes, and ways to prevent it. I was surprised to discover that not all the kids knew exactly what asthma is. After the activities, many of the kids came up and told me that they loved the activities and that they would do their part to decrease air pollution.
Everyone wants to make a mark on the world, and while cleaning up after that event, I felt like I made an impact, and not just on one child, but a whole group of them. Teaching them about world hunger and stereotyping was fun, but educating them about asthma, air pollution, and ways that they as children can help, made me feel more worthwhile and proud. As for the future of our planet, only the children will know, but thanks to my activities, at least some of these children will focus on helping to change the current environment status.