February 23, 2009
Posted: 05:27 PM ET
Editor’s Note: Thirty kids, ages 12 to 16, from Bushwick, Brooklyn, were chosen to participate in “Journey for Change,” a youth empowerment program created by Malaak Compton-Rock. In early August they traveled to South Africa with Compton-Rock and CNN Anchor Soledad O’Brien. The group returned to the U.S. on August 13. Since their return, they’ve been fundraising and doing service project as “Global Ambassadors” for “Journey for Change.” For three days in late December they volunteered at several locations around Brooklyn: a daycare center, a soup kitchen, an abused children center, and a homeless shelter. They also picked up garbage in the streets of Bushwick. All of this followed a November trip to Washington, D.C. where, among other things, they met with Congresswoman Maxine Waters. In late spring they’re traveling to New Orleans to help rebuild homes. We’ve asked them to share their thoughts and experiences by blogging. In July, the group’s journey will be featured in Black in America 2, a CNN Presents documentary hosted by Soledad O’Brien.
Some of the young women from Journey for Change. Front Row (left to right): Yolaine Calixte, Sadara Lewis. Back Row: Mariah Ralph, Jenee Lawson, Sayris Pallares, Queen Clyde, Imaan Williams.
As a Journey for Change Global Ambassador, it has been an honor to serve others globally and locally. My mom and dad always remind me that we are living for the sake of others. I have learned the true meaning of the word compassion. There are many people who perform acts of kindness to feel better about themselves or just to say that they have done a good deed for the day. That's not compassion. We do acts of kindness because we see a need and want to see that the need is met. That is true compassion and I think that is what Journey for Change is all about. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve our brothers and sisters at home and abroad.
–Joshua Hall, 15
Hello! My name is Queen Clyde. I am a Global Ambassador from the group Journey for Change. We went to South Africa and helped orphans and grannies in need. We also went to Washington D.C. and met Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Senator Chuck Schumer's aid. I also want to talk about our new president, Barack Obama. It’s so great to have a Black president. But you can tell he won't use that to his advantage. I know this because not once during his campaign did he say you should vote for me because I’m Black. He is truly a man of knowledge and patience. I truly think he will make this world a better place.
–Queen Clyde, 13
Hi my name is Mariah C Ralph. I am 13 years old. I’ve been doing community service since I was 6 years old. I encourage people to do community service because it gives you this feeling… I can’t explain it. When you do community service for so long it becomes a natural habit. It’s going on 8 years that I’ve been doing community service in Manhattan. I love the thought of helping people who really need it. The most exciting community service or global service was when I went to South Africa. When we went shopping for that family who didn’t have anything I felt so good. I felt even better when I saw the grandmother’s face when we gave her the stuff. The best type of community service is when you go to orphanages and you know they haven’t been held in a while. To hold them and feel them grasp back is outstandingly breathtaking. They call you mommy because they don’t know any better and when you put them down because you have to leave it’s heart breaking. So I encourage community service because there are people out there who need more than just the latest phone. There are people who actually don’t need the newest pair of sneakers, but need a pair of sneakers. After I came back from South Africa I realized that I don’t need anything besides a roof over my head for shelter, people who love me, and food and water to survive.
–Mariah Ralph, 13
On this upcoming trip to New Orleans, I really expect for myself to look through other peoples’ perspective of life. When I wake up in the morning, I don't realize that I have a gracious life to attend to, compared to other people in this world. I could be now working at the age of 12, to care for my family, instead of worrying about my education. Sacrificing my meals almost everyday, to pay for my rent that is three months over due .Sitting down on the sidewalk because I have no bright future ahead of me. I want to catch myself from speeding my age to the point that my childhood has basically faded away as nothing. I'm starting to reflect and realize that twelve years has almost ended, and its time to begin a fresh year of teen hood. I remember at the age of seven thinking about what it would be like to be 18, basically holding the key to the rest of my life. When I go to New Orleans I would like to experience myself living as almost similar to a god, helping other people to become comforted and look forward to having a better life.
–Sydney Smart, 12
I feel so happy about Barack Obama. I wish I was 18 years old so that I could have voted in the election. He is going to change the country. I want him to get us out of this economic crisis because too many people are losing their jobs. I love Michelle Obama, too. She is a good First Lady. It's amazing to see the whole family. And it looks like they are all supporting each other. Journey for Change is a life-changing experience. There are only 30 kids in the world who have had this experience and I am one of them. I am so grateful.
–Yolaine Calixte, 17
The election of President Obama shows us that Black people can do anything and that everything is possible. It also shows that people are not looking at color. It is also good that he was elected because he is trying to end the war and help the economy. Being a part of Journey for Change is really good for me. I think it will open doors down the road. The program has taught me to change myself and give back to my community.
–Jeremy Baker, 15
On January 20, Barack Obama was sworn in and was officially President. Words cannot even explain how I felt. I was nervous and excited at the same time. It feels good to have a Black president, but not only because of his race. Barack Obama is such an intelligent man. He cares about us and this country. When he walked outside down the steps of the U.S Capitol my heart started to pound faster as I realized that it was real. The swearing in took place at 12:00 P.M. I was so anxious for them to announce that he was officially president. When they did I started to cry and scream with my friends. I knew that God was going to send an angel to help us and his name is Barack Obama, our 44th president of the United States. I love this man with all of my heart. His wife is a very educated and beautiful Black woman and his kids are so pretty and raised well. He has done a terrific job, but his real work starts now. I wish my President, Barack Obama all the best and good luck with everything.
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