The Tower (Arcadia University) – December 2012
By Samantha Nickalls
“My hand won’t fit into the Pringles container.” “I’m trying to text while at a red light, but I keep making all the greens.” These “first world problems” might make for relatable and funny memes, but in reality, there are a countless number of people all over the world who only wish they had those problems–even in our hometown. Refugees flee to Philadelphia constantly to find refuge from persecution, murder, and overall endangerment in their home countries. Sadly, many have no idea that these people exist and are struggling to cope with the atrocities they’ve witnessed while figuring out how to become accustomed to life in the United States–all with barely any money to their names. Many are right here in Philadelphia.
This fall, an Honors Leaders in Action class (HN390) has brought light to this issue for their academic service learning project. The class, comprised of seven juniors (Nicole Corcoran, Sammy Nickalls, Kayla Peterson, Jayson Flores, Katelyn Wellnitz, Joe Spearot, and Haylie Lobeck), has started a movement called “Real World Problems,” comprised of three components: awareness, an event, and a coat drive. This movement is targeted towards refugees in Philadelphia who are in dire need of assistance.
“It’s been very interesting to learn about a new community in Philadelphia that we were previously unaware of,” said Wellnitz. “This project has shown me how ‘real world problems’ happen all around us, every day. Just by being aware, we can make a difference. Taking it a step further and engaging with the community has been incredibly rewarding.”
The class has been gathering awareness about the issue by posting various flyers throughout campus, connecting on social media, and posting “first world” and “real world” problems in the Commons. The class has also put on a coat drive, meant to collect cold-weather apparel for refugees who might not be accustomed to such bitter winters. Over 80 coats have been collected so far, and the class will be accepting donations during the event and has placed collection boxes at various locations throughout the campus.
“I am just thrilled that all of our plans—the event, the drive, the awareness campaign—have been and will be successes,” said Corcoran. “It all came together beautifully, though we had our doubts in the messy planning process, and I believe this project is the epitome of academic service learning.”
The class has been working with National Service Center (NSC) as well as several other contacts to plan a multimedia presentation and discussion that will be taking place at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 6th in the Commons Meeting Room. The event will be comprised of a movie featuring by NSC representative Jarrett Beaudion, followed by a few words from several panel members: Thai refugee Thoai Nyugen, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) representative Sarah Amazeen, Executive Director of the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia (CAGP) Rorng Sorn, and refugee activist Bill Westerman.
“It is inspiring to see the culmination of such a wonderful project because not only does it help a community that is often overlooked, but it was also an idea that was planned completely by us, the students,” said Flores. “It started as nothing more than an idea and now is comprised of an exciting event and coat drive. It shows me that we, the students, really do have power to make positive change.”
Check out the “Real World Problems” page on Facebook and attend the event on December 6th for more information. Refreshments will be provided. “We have all worked hard to make this happen,” said Lobeck, “and I believe it will be a night to remember.”