Our Country, Our Voices: Oglethorpe Honors Our Veterans

Photo: David Dixon

November 11th is Veterans Day.  It is an occasion to honor the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served our country, to recognize the families who have stood by them in service, and to reflect upon all of the freedoms that these men and women have fought to preserve.

This year, Oglethorpe University, together with various campus organizations and departments, will host a series of events throughout the week to honor our veterans called “Our Country, Our Voices: Oglethorpe Honors Our Veterans.” The events are in conjunction with the OU Museum of Art’s current exhibition “Burden of Proof: National Identity and the Legacy of War,” which runs through December 9, 2012.

Sophomore Antonio Mántica (left) and senior Jef Palframan, president of the OU Veterans' Club, form sheet metal into large "ribbons." Photo: Krista Palframan

On November 4th, the OU Veterans’ Club launched a yellow ribbon campaign to increase awareness of the day’s significance. Club members constructed and installed 10-foot high sheet metal yellow ribbons at the front entrance of campus. They also plan to hand out 1000 personal ribbons on campus and will host a remembrance event, “Lest We Forget,” on Friday, November 9, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. in Lupton Auditorium. (Find out more about their efforts on their Facebook page.)

Usually closed on Mondays, the OU Museum of Art will open its doors to host a Veterans’ Open House, with free admission to all veterans on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 12 noon-7:00 p.m.. Various veterans’ assistance groups will be onsite throughout the day. Plus, the OU Veterans’ Club will be accepting donations for their clothing and coat drive for homeless veterans, and a giveaway of gift items from area businesses will benefit veterans’ services.

Later that evening, veterans of WWII, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan will discuss their experiences and struggles in a panel discussion, “Transitioning to Civilian Life,” at 6:00 p.m.  Many skills learned in combat are not applicable to the workforce, and veterans are generally required to go through an arduous process of re-qualification in order to get work.  Plus, many veterans feel isolated or out of place, unaccustomed to their new lives at home. In addition, policymakers in Washington recently failed to approve a bill that would have eased veterans’ reintegration into the civilian workforce, and recent reports estimate that 88% of veterans will drop out of college.

“It would be wrong of me not to make people aware of this,” said Jef Palframan ’13, president of the OU Veterans’ Club and a veteran himself.  “Our military size is going to decrease… Now starts the work to take care of the guys coming home.”  Admission: $5; free for veterans, OUMA members or with a Petrel Pass. Co-sponsored by OUMA, the Office of Admission and the OU Veterans’ Club.

Other events to commemorate Veterans Day include:

Open Forum/Open Mic: “Empower to Inspire Progress,” Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 7:00 p.m., OU Museum of Art
What does being American mean to you? What are you doing to make your voice heard? Do you feel you have patriotic obligations? Which American alive or dead inspire you, and why? All are welcome to join this open forum and share your opinions, ideas or a story, song or poem. Admission: $5; free for OUMA members and with a Petrel Pass. Co-sponsored by OUMA and Epsilon Iota Psi.

Lecture: “On the Downstream Biological Effects of Agent Orange,” Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 7:00 p.m., OU Museum of Art
Dr. Karen Schmeichel, associate professor of biology at Oglethorpe, will present about the hotly debated and complex subject of the widespread use by American troops during the Vietnam conflict of the defoliant called “Agent Orange” and its far reaching effects. Admission: $5; free for OUMA members and with a Petrel Pass.

Movie Screening & Discussion: Agent Orange: 30 Years Later, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 7:00 p.m., OU Museum of Art
OUMA and ECOS (Environmentally Concerned Oglethorpe Students) will co-host a screening of the award-winning 2009 film by John Trinh with open discussion to follow.  Reel Earth – Environmental Film Festival of New Zealand said, “Despite the horror, the film is at times intensely moving and beautiful, showing also the better side of human nature—qualities like kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.” This event is free and open to all.

Oglethorpe Alumna Organizes Relief for Hurricane Sandy Victims

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which left millions of northeastern residents struggling, it’s hard to know what to do to help. With so much damage—and the resulting delays in travel and transportation, and subsequent delays in relief in the form of volunteers and supplies—the question that comes to mind is, where do we start?

Alumna Sharon (Rudy) Moskowitz ’82, who is the special events manager at Oglethorpe, has jumped right into the effort of organizing relief for those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Originally from the southern Jersey shore area (Atlantic City, Cape May, Margate), Sharon is determined to get materials and supplies where they are most needed. She’s started an initiative to get the Oglethorpe community involved in “making a difference” by organizing a drive for victims of Sandy.

“Oglethorpe was really involved with Katrina—and this is a completely different situation—but I want people to know this is happening,” said Sharon. “I want to get students involved in bringing the community together. I have this opportunity to embrace the students and get their response. We can’t sit back and not do anything.”

“It’s closer to home when you’ve grown up there,” she continued. “I want to hit the initial need, and then we’ll see what might be required beyond that. We’re seeking to help childcare centers and the Salvation Army in particular. The goal is to help the many families who have great need while restoring their homes and businesses ravaged by the storm. I have several friends who own businesses that are just not sure if they can re-open. Friends that have older parents that have huge clean-ups. So it is a bit of a nightmare.”

Students and staff members have already jumped on this chance to reach out to these hard hit communities. The Center for Civic Engagement and OU students will help with the packing and shipments of the items going to South Jersey.

You can help, too! The greatest needs are blankets of every size, toiletries, tarps, and rebuilding supplies. Donations may be dropped off at Sharon Moskowitz’s office on the second floor of Lupton Hall. The collection will be shipped Friday, November 9th at noon, with help from Brookhaven UPS shipping store, which is offering discounts and help to get the boxes on their way. You can also help by spreading the word about the drive by visiting and joining the effort’s Facebook page.

Questions? Contact Sharon at smoskowitz@oglethorpe.edu or call 404-364-8467.

Clinton Global Initiative: A Chance to Change the World

Do you want to change the world?  Here’s a place to start….

Last October, Awet Woldegebriel ’14 submitted an application to attend the fifth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), launched in 2007 by President Clinton to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world to turn ideas into action. CGI U builds on the successful model of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which brings together world leaders to take action on global challenges.

Awet’s passion and commitment, coupled with his story of an early life as a refugee, stood out. He was not only invited to attend, but asked to be a speaker.

Awet was welcomed to the stage by The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart, which he says was “a true honor.”  During his speech, he talked about his nonprofit Knowledge Aid, which gathers and ships books from the United States to libraries in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Kenya. “The initiative,” he explained, “is driven by an old but still widely referred to proverb that states: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The goal of Knowledge Aid is to make aid sustainable and to offer children the chance to enjoy their childhood through books. Awet, who still has memories of the devastation he faced in war-torn Ethiopia and his home country of Eritrea, was able to regain some of his lost childhood through reading books by Dr. Seuss.

“They made me laugh, they made me silly, they made me imagine what a full childhood would have been like,” he says. “And that is why my initiative is so important to me… whatever your initiative, make sure it does justice and represents the passion you have for it.”

Thanks to Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Awet was able to meet and gain support for Knowledge Aid from many influential people, including former journalist Amanda Lindhout, musician Hugo Levy, supermodels Christie Brinkley and Anna Maria Lewiarz, and Argentinian Education Minister Esteban Bullrich.  His facebook page for Knowledge Aid, which had 147 “likes” before the conference, now has over 2200.

Awet, who is now a CGI ambassador and recruiter, will be co-hosting an informational meeting with President Larry Schall on Monday, October 22, from 7:00-8:00 p.m. in Lupton Auditorium.

“We want to encourage more Oglethorpe students to take part in the conference and also grow their ideas,” said Awet. “You (will) have access to the people you don’t have access to, so your ideas can expand and grow through CGI. We will help you to accomplish those ideas and initiatives.”

If you’re interested  in nonprofit work, social enterprise, or in giving back—then this meeting is for you! Come learn more about CGI’s purpose, benefits, and how you might get the chance to attend the next CGI meeting…and learn how you can propel your ideas and make a difference.

Heifer International and Stormy Petrels Unite

Heifer InternationalLater this week, Oglethorpe University will be the first college campus to host the annual meeting of Heifer International, a nonprofit focused on “helping others help themselves.” The Heifer Sustainability Summit will be held on Friday and Saturday, October 12-13. It will showcase leaders in the field, and showcase Oglethorpe’s growing involvement in Heifer’s mission.

The idea behind Heifer International is simple: rather than raising money and donating it to the needy, Heifer uses raised funds to buy and donate livestock (cows,  chickens,  sheep, etc.) to  groups of people in need to help to increase their self-sustainability. Not only can they rely on the animals for renewable resources like wool, eggs or milk, but when the Heifer-gifted animal reproduces, the  resulting livestock provides even more possibility for income.  The self-sufficiency people gain from having their own source of income also helps to improve quality of  life. Suddenly, a family can go from surviving to thriving; a village can go from impoverished to self-reliant. The independence that comes with a Heifer gift is often even more valuable than the gift itself.  Heifer operates in more than 50 countries and has been a driving force against poverty worldwide since 1944.

The summit will focus on the needs of a world stricken by hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation, and Heifer’s current and future plans to help. Special guest speakers will include National Center for Civil and Human Rights CEO Doug Shipman, Heifer International President and CEO Pierre Ferrari, and Oglethorpe University’s own First Lady, Betty Londergan, the wife of Oglethorpe’s President Schall.

Betty and children in a Heifer-assisted country

Heifer International has gained quite a following at Oglethorpe, due in part to  Londergan’s involvement with the nonprofit. She is on a mission to showcase the benefits of Heifer’s work through Heifer 12×12, a blog project launched by Heifer International, which is taking Londergan to 12 countries in 12 months. Since January, she’s traveled to 11 Heifer-assisted countries, including Uganda, Haiti and Rwanda, and has shared her experiences through blogs and photography.

Heifer 12x12

Betty Londergan's blog highlights Heifer's accomplishments around the world

Thirty of Londergan’s photos will be on exhibit in Oglethorpe’s Lowry Hall in honor of National Photography month. The exhibit, titled “Unforgettable Faces,” will debut during the Summit’s opening dinner reception on Friday, October 12, at 7:00 p.m. in the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art and remain open through December 9, 2012. The photographs will be available for purchase to benefit Heifer International.

But, Londergan isn’t the only Stormy Petrel hoping to make a difference through Heifer. Sophomore Ruwa Romman and a small group of OU students were inspired by Londergan’s involvement with Heifer and decided to get active. They are starting the OU Heifer Club, the first on a college or university campus in the Southeast.

“Oglethorpe’s a good place to have a grassroots initiative [like Heifer],” said Romman. “They focus on self-sustainability, on passing on the gift… We hope to get a movement going. We can’t donate huge sums of money, but if we can donate $10 for chickens and help send someone’s kid to school, that’s still huge. It’s all about giving back.”

The OU Heifer Club will officially launch during the Heifer Sustainability Summit.

OU Sophomore Folds Origami “Cranes for Cancer”

According to ancient Japanese legend, folding 1000 paper cranes will bring good luck, and might even grant the folder a wish. Kevin Summerlin, the OU sophomore behind the new on-campus charity initiative Cranes for Cancer, definitely has a wish—that his paper-folding will “[raise] awareness about the importance of thoughtfulness and goodwill in helping people through hard times.”

Students can learn the Japanese art of origami while giving back by folding cranes to sell as symbols of hope and support for those suffering from cancer. Although origami is an ancient art, the idea that 1000 cranes bring luck is still popular around the world. From the paper crane-draped Ueno Toshogu Shrine in Japan, a monument to advocate peace between nations, to the true story of Sadako, a girl who folded cranes to be granted her wish for life after battling leukemia, the symbol of a paper crane is a harbinger of peace and luck in hard times.

Paper cranes hanging at the Toshogu Shrine in Tokyo

Kevin hopes to generate enough interest and awareness to form an origami club on campus, and eventually to raise money to aid cancer patients. His goal is not just to fundraise, but to be a call to action. Oglethorpe students trying to “make a life, make a living, make a difference” can support the Cranes for Cancer initiative by attending meetings every Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Phase II lobby. All interested students are encouraged to come—from the newest beginners to the paper-folding masters—everyone is welcome!

Those who can’t make the meetings can help out by donating something a little out of ordinary—paper. Come fold cranes—for good luck and for a good cause!