Week 40: Altruistic Stories from the BSU Peace Center

March 05, 2021

For the 40th consecutive week, the Center for Peace & Conflict Studies has compiled a list of acts of kindness and peace. The initiative began as a response to COVID-19 and the racism pandemic but has broadened to include any act of compassion or service to others. Please share these stories. If you have stories of positive acts people/organizations are taking and you would like to share them, please email them to Brandon Miller at peacecenter@bsu.edu. All the stories starting from week 1 are available online. Additionally, you can follow the Peace Center on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) at bsu4peace.

High School Freshman Helps Hundreds of Chicagoland Residents Secure Vaccination Appointments

Worldwide, vaccine demand massively outstrips supply, and, at least in the US, there is a lack of clarity about where, when, and to whom vaccines are available. On top of those hurdles, registering for vaccination can be an opaque process. Enter Benjamin Kagan, 14, high school freshman, who has been helping hundreds of Chicagoland residents secure vaccination appointments through the confusing online registration process. Every night before 12:00am, Benjamin enters a stranger’s information in to a registration portal; when the clock strikes 12 and a new queue opens, Benjamin registers the strangers he is trying to help that evening. “Really, this is an effort that shouldn’t have had to be taken care of by a 15-year-old,” Benjamin said. “It should have been taken care of by the federal government or a state government or a county government.” Benjamin learned to navigate convoluted vaccination systems in January by helping his grandparents, residents of Florida, secure appointments. He later learned of a social media group that people use to find vaccination appointments, where he began sharing his knowledge. Soon he was inundated with requests from people who lacked the technological savvy or speed to obtain their own appointments. So he created a Google Form, recruited about 50 volunteers to help him secure appointments for other people. One of the lucky people that Benjamin was able to help, Lisa Lorentzen, had lost her husband during the pandemic and had not been able to visit her family in Minnesota. In an interview, Lorentzen said, “He’s one amazing young man. I’m probably going to see him on a poster running for president some day because he cares so much about people.”

Source: The Washington Post - https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/02/24/chicago-benjamin-kagan-coronavirus-vaccine/?utm_campaign=wp_the_optimist&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_optimist

Texas Couple Invites Stranded Delivery Driver to Take Shelter in Their Home

Chelsea Timmons of Austin was wrapping up her grocery deliveries for the day in the midst of the winter storm that recently slammed Texas. As she was finishing her final delivery, she lost control of her vehicle and skidded into her customer’s yard. After sliding down the family’s steep driveway, it stopped just before hitting the house. Nina Richardson and Doug Condon, the couple who owned the house, were concerned for Chelsea when she explained what happened. Although the three tried to free Chelsea’s car, they were unsuccessful, and the local roadside assistance services were all busy responding to emergencies. When the couldn’t help in any other way, the couple invited Chelsea to wait out the worst of the storm in their home. The two have kids Chelsea’s age and said that parental instincts kicked in. For days, she stayed with the couple while the road conditions stayed unsafe. “For us, it’s just been kind of a funny situation, and so we’re kind of surprised that people find this so remarkable because it seems just kind of what you do,” Nina said. For Chelsea, though, the act was a tremendous relief. “I’m so grateful for these two and grateful that they were not only able, but very willing to let a stranger into their home, and keep me safe, warm, and fed, and make me feel comfortable…and make me feel part of the family,” Chelsea said.

Source: ABC News - https://abc11.com/delivery-driver-stays-with-couple-during-texas-storms-weather-heb-family-food/10353603/

12 Teenagers Invent a Solar-Powered Tent to Help Homeless

DIY Girls, an organization with a mission to increase the representation of women in STEM careers, recruited a team of 12-high school students from an all-girl science club in California to produce and present a project toward a $10,000 grant offered by MIT. The team eventually settled on a project to help the homeless population in their area. One of the team, Daniela Orozco, said “When I first started high school, there would probably be like one homeless person living under the freeway by our school, whereas in our senior year, there were multiple tents… homelessness was definitely something that was close to our own hearts.” From there, they decided to build a high tech tent to provide greater safety and functionality to homeless people living in tents. Their prototype was highly portable, able to be stowed inside a rolling backpack. It also contained solar panels capable of power several features inside the tent. “…on the box itself there are solar panels, and that solar panel is connected to an Arduino board, [which was] coded such that when a button was pressed, you can turn on the LED lights and the UVC lights to disinfet the inside of the tent,” Daniela explained. The tent is also capable of charging mobile devices via a USB port. Their hard work and ingenuity to paid off – not only did the project ended up winning the $10,000 grant, the sponsoring organization, DIY Girls, hopes to develop partnerships that will allow mass production of the solar-power element. This would enable the same features to be installed in nearly any tent.

Source: Inspire More - https://www.inspiremore.com/san-fernando-teens-solar-powered-tent/

Note. The Ball State University Center for Peace & Conflict Studies will host the Benjamin V. Cohen Peace Conference: Building a Beloved Community. This virtual conference will be held on April 9 and 10!

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