Religious Tolerance in Today’s World

Today’s world. A world where the climate as we know it is changing so drastically, and in some places is forcing people to migrate from the land they know, the language they speak, and the culture they understand, to a … Continue reading

Sleeping Outside for Homeless Prevention

Fort Collins, Colorado is a community that has been named among the best places to live in the United States. Its awards have included #4 healthiest city in the U.S. and the second best place for job seekers in Colorado. Though our community prospers with the university atmosphere, the thriving microbrewery culture, and physically active residents, there has still been a 36.5% increase in homelessness since 2000.

Last night I slept outside in Fort Collins as part of an annual initiative to raise awareness for homelessness in Larimer County, and to empower youth to take action. I learned so much about the homelessness in my back yard, and about different organizations that are working to end homelessness and to support those living in poverty throughout the region.

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Our make-shift box homes for the night

As a chaperone for the event, I watched leaders in homeless prevention host a series of educational activities to help the high school students learn about homelessness in Larimer County. From talking about statistics in the community, to engaging with a calculator created by New York Times about cutting deficit and the challenging issues that face our politicians today, we spent hours learning about and empathizing with our neighbors in need.

Following these engaging activities we watched a documentary film called Storied Streets, which follows several people living without a home throughout the U.S. and discusses the circumstances that led them to living without a home. Each of the individuals in the film had experienced circumstances that could happen to any of us, like unexpected medial bills and paying for education. According to the film, the main causes of homelessness include; 1. Lack of affordable housing, 2. Lack of a livable wage, 3. Medical issues/conditions, 4. Domestic violence, 5. Mental illness. (For more statistics and facts like this click here).

The film discusses stereotypes about the homeless in the U.S., and the dehumanization that has led to violent abuse. One example of the abuse was a series of Youtube videos called “Bum Fights,” where the film makers would pay homeless individuals to commit dangerous acts including lighting themselves on fire, and fighting. This was considered entertaining because many in our society don’t see the homeless as humans–they are considered the “other.” Homeless are commonly stereotyped as having something (a disease or illness, for example) that those who have a home don’t, or missing something that those who have homes have, which in tern makes them unworthy to fit into our society. “Bum Fights” showed the film makers urinating on, throwing glass bottles at, and abusing the homeless in other senseless acts.

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Gathering outside between 12:00am-1:00am

Following the screening of Storied Streets, our group headed outside to the box tents we had put together earlier that afternoon. We stayed by the fires for a few hours until about 2:00a.m. then headed to bed. Sleeping outside helped bring to light quite a few things that might seem small, but are details about living without a home I might not have realized otherwise. When we went to sleep, I had to take off my boots, two of my jackets, my scarf, and hat, just to get in my box. I left my jackets and belongings outside of my box because there wasn’t room inside. When I woke up this morning after 4 hours of sleep, my jackets and boots had filled with dew and were frozen stiff. Unlike those who experience homelessness on a daily basis, I had a building to walk into, but many who live without a home day in and day out have to wait for the sun to come up to defrost their clothing. Covering my face from the cold, tossing and turning from having my legs folded into my chest in my small box, and the dew soaking into my box, I started to feel what hundreds of people experience every night.

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Frost collecting on my box and my belongings at 6:00 a.m.

I noticed I was hungry when I woke up, not having had eaten since 7:00p.m. the night before. If I were homeless, I know that I wouldn’t control when, where, or what I eat. The lack of sleep and slight hunger made me think to myself… If I were homeless, could I interview for a job today? Could I find childcare for my kids today? Could I do this again tonight?

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Closer view of the frost on my jackets

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Frost gathering on my belongings

My night sleeping outside was an engaging and eye opening experience. Talking with the high school students who, full of energy and enthusiasm, discussed engaging with the national, state, and local government to create change in our community and nation. We discussed ways that we can help individuals who are experiencing homelessness today. We discussed humanizing homelessness and bringing this issue to light.

Storied Streets mentioned that there are four times as many animal shelters in the U.S. as there are homeless shelters, and this November 2014 one of the high profile issues in Larimer county was funding for a new animal shelter (those of you who know me, also know I am not speaking against animal shelters). I do think it is interesting to note that we have so much compassion for animals, but not the same level of compassion to our neighbors who have been sleeping on the street because they are unable to find affordable housing.

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Gathering around fires for warmth.

A man who has featured in Storied Streets spoke about his experience facing homelessness. He had lived on the street for 18 months, and during that time there was a three-month span where no one had called him by his name… He hadn’t heard his name in three months…

I think his story represents the work we have yet to do to treat our neighbors with respect, honor, and dignity, and to help those who are facing a time of difficulty.

To donate to an organization that is working to end homelessness in Larimer county and who helped put on this event, visit Homeless Prevention Initiative online (Click here to donate) or Homeless Gear online (Click here to donate).

Community Cafe Feature: SAME Cafe

I recently started volunteering for a non-profit cafe in Fort Collins called FoCo Cafe, which stands for Feeding Our Community Ourselves. FoCo Cafe follows the community cafe model which integrates pay as you are able model and often times locally … Continue reading

A Passion for Energy Inititiatives

Every aspect of my life involves multitasking. I have been constantly juggling multiple activities for my entire life–so why should my senior year at Colorado State University be any different? My current “tasks” include interning for a local electric vehicle advocacy organization, researching my Capstone thesis “The Impacts of Renewable Energy at Fossil Ridge High School,” trying to keep my 2.5 year old puppy satisfied with sufficient W.A.L.K.s, and the newest addition to the chaos– applying for the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship!

I’ve been multitasking for many years, so why should my blogging be any different? I wrote this blog for my internship with Drive Electric Northern Colorado and it was posted in October 2013. By re-blogging my own blog, I hope to do two things. 1.) Show my lovely followers what I have been doing in the last few months. 2.) Tell you about the passion for energy initiatives, and particularly renewable energy that I have developed over the past year.

Northern Colorado Bonds as an EV Community

October 2, 2013     |    Originally Published, Drive Electric Northern Colorado

One of the best parts about being involved in the EV community is the ability to collaborate and take action in a visible and tangible way, against problems that we are all concerned about- like improving our national security by decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, and protecting the environment by reducing tailpipe emissions.

On September 30, 2013 DENC and the communities of Fort Collins and Loveland celebrated National Plug In Day at the Museum of Discovery in Fort Collins. I stood on top of the Discovery Museum with the event photographer and looked down at a parking lot filled with the EV models I have been talking about for the last five months working as an intern with Drive Electric Northern Colorado.  From the top of the building I could see the Northern Colorado EV owners smiling and proud to be wearing their black DENC T-Shirts.

National Plug In Day in Fort Collins was an event to gather the EV community to demonstrate the progress we have made to get EVs on the road. With 33 electric vehicles gathered to take photos, the event was a powerful collaboration between local EV owners, EV advocates, and DENC partners who have transferred their fleets to electric- including the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland, Morning Fresh Dairy, and the Fort Collins Downtown Business Association.

As an intern with DENC, I have helped to plan various DENC events, along with my other activities of talking with local businesses about transitioning to electric, and blogging about new EV owners in Northern Colorado. When I started as an intern with Drive Electric Northern Colorado I knew very little about electric cars, but I was eager to learn. I found that after just a few weeks of working with DENC I had learned so much about EVs that that they quickly became an integral part of both my personal and professional life. My friends and family now get annoyed fairly quickly on car rides with be, because I point out every EV model on the road as we drive.

Part of my “job” as an intern is to occasionally drive a Nissan Leaf. I love the ability to bypass the gas station and spend the extra time advocating for EVs. I also love the opportunity to talk to people about EVs at random places and times, like in the parking lot of the grocery store. It’s pretty evident that while working with EVs started as my job, over the past five months they have slowly turned into my passion.

National Plug In Day and other DENC events act as a way to not only bring our Northern Colorado EV family closer together, but also to draw in more individuals to join the EV community. The DENC events allow me to meet each EV owner and to hear their stories about going electric. We then bond over our love of the torque on the Leaf or the Volt, or the latest news about Tesla or the soon-to-be released electric BMWs.  Electric Vehicles have intensified the sense of community in Northern Colorado, and have given yet another way for Coloradoans to take action in our world today.

Written by Annie Freyschlag

Intern with Drive Electric Northern Colorado

Crayon Products For Sale to Fund Education!

New Crayon art for purchase to help fund education in the community of El Mango in the Northern Mountains of the Dominican Republic.100% of proceeds help fund education.

Place an order on the website to receive your custom piece of art! Please don’t hesitate to email with and questions about the products or with any special requests. I make all the products myself, so I would be happy to add anything in for my followers!

Thanks for reading today! Here is the link to the ColoCo site:

http://coloringcountries.org/products-to-fund-education.html

Custom Crayon Canvas available for purchase

Hanging Wall Art! Order in a variety of shapes and colors!

Recycled Crayons… I Need Ideas!!!!

I’m not sure that I have let you guys in on the program I have been developing. When I spent my summer to the northern mountains of the Dominican Republic this past year, I found a huge need for educational assistance within many of the communities. During the three weeks I spent in the DR, I taught an educational summer camp for the children, and has the chance to see the conditions of the school the children attend. After speaking with the principal of the school, I was informed that the teachers attempt to education mass numbers of students each day, with minimal resources. Thinking of all the resources we waste here in the US, I knew I could help with this issue. So I began to develop a program that would provide teachers with resources to educate, and students with shoes and vitamins so they can better learn.

Here is our web-page at the moment (please be patient, it is still in progress). Coloringcountries.org

Today, I need your creativity and ideas! In order to send the recourses that we gather, and have donated, we need roughly $90 per box to be sent. My idea is to use the old, broken crayons that we have collected through various drives, and make products that we can sell at very low prices.

Here are some ideas I have already covered:

1. Crayon candles (don’t burn very well)

2. Crayon jars (melt in the sun, but work very well otherwise!)

I need more ideas!! Anyone? Comment below and help us out!

As always, thanks for reading!

Christmas Giving

If you only have a few minutes, read the first part of this post.. you will be happy you did.

(A story I found on a random internet browse.)

“Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”.

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.”

Re-defines “giving,” doesn’t it? What if we all could be this selfless?

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