Archive by Author

This is Why My Hart Beats

17 Jul

Below is my letter to the panelists reviewing my Presentation of Learning. It’s been a great year!

Dear Panel Members:

Thank you for taking the time to be here today. In the tale of my 22 months here in Hartford, this presentation marks the final chapter. You have all been central to my story and are central to the community that I have identified so strongly with.

During my initial Public Allies interview, I was asked, “How do you define community?” I hashed together a few thoughts and examples which I won’t bore you with. The truth is, I didn’t know. The only reason coherent sentences came out of my mouth was because in my first 7 months in Hartford I had began to grasp the concept of community. I want to remind you today that the term ‘community’ is abstract and difficult to grasp for most people in your community. All of us here have some understanding that ‘community’ means something different to each person, but do we understand that not everyone has had the experience necessary to define community for themselves? Just as an Oceanographer understands deep sea carbon sequestration and an Educator understands Piaget’s conservation of mass experiment and a Mathematician understands how to calculate the volume of a solid with rotational symmetry using disk integration and a Psychologist understands that there actually is no such thing as multi-tasking and a Philosopher can tell you that this list is actually an attempt at a logical statement…  a Public Ally understands community. And a good Political Scientist understands how important that is. There is an important distinction, however, between all of these seemingly analogous statements. Understanding community through my time with Public Allies gave me a passion for learning and work that was absent in all the other fields. That is a lesson so valuable that it may take me a lifetime to figure out what it’s worth, but I’ll wager it’s worth something close to a lifetime.

So now I close the book on my time here in Hartford, taking with me lessons and relationships that will last forever. I have confidence in my abilities, I think I’ve learned a tinge of modesty, I’ve developed new skills, and I’m beginning to understand who I am. I’ll never forget the community where all of this came to happen because, by my definition, my community here in Connecticut was the first community I was ever a part of.

Thank you for letting me ramble on, for letting me start sentences with conjunctions and end them with prepositions, and for being some of the most important people in my life.


Philip Drew – Hartford, CT


Global Youth Service Day – Reflection & Planning

30 Apr

Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) was last weekend, April 20-22! Although I’ve worked on other projects this year, GYSD is the central part of my Public Ally term of service. I am, after all, Our Piece of the Pie’s “2012 Global Youth Service Day Coordinator” … or I was. With the big day (April 21st) behind me, I’m experiencing an odd combination of feeling relief and feeling like I lost something very important. On my first day at Our Piece of the Pie, I was handed a massive binder left by last year’s GYSD Coordinator.

Since that day in September, everything I’ve worked on has been directly or indirectly geared towards a successful Global Youth Service Day. For the last month, I don’t think there is a single waking hour that I haven’t worked on, thought about, or talked about Global Youth Service Day… and I’ve certainly dreamed about it enough too. A few people have joked that I have a talent for turning any conversation topic into a discussion on Global Youth Service Day. I swear I’m not that self-involved… it’s just been the only thing bouncing around in my head! Regardless, a big THANK YOU is in order for all the people who have put up with me for the past month! The planning details are the boring bits of this whole story, but they give a glimpse at what I’ve spent the past months on. Here are some of the tasks involved in the GYSD planning process:

  • Find a venue for the main GYSD event, make arrangements with their staff, draft an MoU for the partnership, and understand the benefits and limitations of the facility
  • meet with community partners in planning meetings and one-on-one
  • creat and distribute flyers, permission forms, and other promotional materials
  • recruit youth volunteers at various schools and after-school programs
  • develop or support the development of over 30 service projects
  • work with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Fire Department to complete necessary permits and understand all safety concerns
  • write a Proclamation and work with the Mayor’s Office to have the Mayor and staff attend events and service projects
  • write a press release
  • seek in-kind donations (made easy by a HUGE food donation from the ShopRite of Manchester, CT)
  • buy multiple van-loads of supplies from Home Depot, BJ’s (warehouse store), and elsewhere
  • and lots more!

It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s over now and the day was a great success! I’ve received a lot of positive feedback and congratulations from others, but I always knew the toughest critic would be myself. I’m still totaling volunteer numbers, receiving photographs, reviewing surveys, and reading project reports; so I hope to only hear more good things! I’ll post a few more blogs on Global Youth Service Day events, projects, and outcomes over the next week!

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

Mid-Year Retreat

27 Feb

Public Allies Connecticut spent February 16th and 17th at the Wisdom House in Litchfield, Connecticut for our Mid-Year Retreat! The theme of our retreat was Relaxation, Reconnection, and Reflection.

Public Allies Connecticut is divided into three teams centered in the cities of Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford. First-year Allies work most closely with other first-year Allies in their city’s team. All first-year Allies attend Continuous Learning Fridays 3 or 4 times a month, but second-year Allies participate in separate Continuous Learning days once a month. So, while we are one big happy Ally family, there are members of our program that we see much less frequently than others. The retreat brought us all together again and allowed time for reconnection between our first-year Allies, second-year Allies, Program Managers, and Program Director!

Part way through the first day, some low clouds rolled in and gave us some light snow. Our Scavenger Hunt team posed for this photo around a Peace Pole at the Wisdom House… so peaceful and relaxed (and a tad cold)!

Our Hartford Team decided to do a skit that reenacted some of the funnier moments of our term thus far. Reflecting on those moments produced the laughs seen below.

Thanks to the Public Allies Connecticut Staff for a great retreat!

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

Mid-Year presentations of learning

9 Feb

On Friday, January 27th, the Public Allies of Connecticut came together for our Mid-Year Presentations of Learning. Each of us was given five minutes to present to the rest of our Public Allies class and we each received some feedback from our Program Manager and peers. You may find it hard to believe that a full day of presentations were exciting and kept us all on the edge of our seats, but it’s true and here is why:

1)      When it comes to any sort of activity associated with a level of creativity (such as preparing a Presentation of Learning), I’ve noticed that the Public Allies Connecticut staff has masterminded a managerial method made for motivating and maximizing meaningful manifestations of minions’ (us Allies’) i-magination. I think they call it MMMMMMMMiM or 8MiM for short. As an example, on the second day of retreat way back in September, we were given a large sheet of poster paper and some markers, and asked to, “make a map of our life.” When I asked for more details I was given a well-meaning smirk and shrug. Now, as someone with a highly procedural and detail-oriented mind (see ISTJ profile), I initially found this level of vagueness a bit annoying. However, I’ve come to realize its positive impact on my personal growth and the creative process. I have since forgiven the Public Allies Connecticut staff. The guidelines for our Presentations of Learning were similarly vague, although a few potential topic questions were supplied.

2)      The structured lack of structure described above also relies on our individual commitment to a level of effort that produces quality work; which I think we all showed last Friday.

Allies were encouraged to focus on what we’ve learned so far (i.e. not just a month-by-month recap of what we’ve done). Personal and professional growth was highlighted and we still got to see some of the awesome work our 2012 class has already accomplished!

For your viewing pleasure, I present Derek Santiago’s Mid-Year Presentation of Learning (by the way, “PACT” is how we refer to Public Allies Connecticut):

Fun times were had by all.

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

Martin Luther King Day of Service

2 Feb

At Our Piece of the Pie (OPP), the main job of the Public Ally in my position each year is to coordinate Global Youth Service Day in Hartford, Connecticut. In early December, OPP received a grant from Youth Service America to be a Lead Organizer for Martin Luther King Day of Service. As a result, I was given the exciting opportunity to plan, organize, support, and track MLK Day of Service activities all over Connecticut. This added responsibility transformed December and January into demanding and hectic months, but the effort was well worth it!

Our Piece of the Pie partnered with Hands on Hartford and the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence to put together service projects and a Peace Vigil in Hartford over MLK Day Weekend. OPP’s AmeriCorps VISTAs and I reached out to non-profit organizations and schools planning MLK Day of Service activities all over the state (mostly focused in the Hartford-New Haven-Waterbury area) and put together a volunteer tracking system.  Through the Youth Service America grant, Our Piece of the Pie was able to support eleven MLK Day of Service projects organized by other Connecticut non-profits with $100 – $200 mini-grants.

For the MLK Day Weekend, Our Piece of the Pie reported over 1600 volunteers at 57 different service projects in over 20 different zip codes! The Beloved Community Peace Vigil planned by Our Piece of the Pie, Hands On Hartford, and CT Center for Nonviolence was covered in the Hartford Courant (pictures!).

We’re all connected in our work towards a Beloved Community! Here is a picture from Northwestern AHEC’s MLK Day (organized by Public Ally Jennifer Sweat!):Image

Since working with my AmeriCorps team last year to plan an MLK Day of Service and participating in multiple trainings and workshops on Kingian Nonviolence, I’ve become very interested in and influenced by Dr. King’s teachings. You may remember that some Connecticut Public Allies and I visited the MLK Memorial back in November. For my mid-year Presentation of Learning with Public Allies (which will be elaborated on in my next blog post), I used quotes from my favorite movies, songs, MLK speeches, and a quote from MLK’s D.C. memorial neighbor: FDR.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of Dr. King’s passages that I used in my mid-year Presentation of Learning:

“You may even give your goods to feed the poor; you may bestow great gifts to charity; and you may tower high in philanthropy; but if you have not love, your charity means nothing.”

Any thoughts on this quote?

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

The Longest Night (Part 2)

23 Dec

…Continued from Part 1

December 21, 2011: Hartford Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day Service

Two weeks after the Peter’s Retreat Memorial Service, I attended a memorial service for people without a home who died in the past year. Each December, Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is held on the first day of winter which heralds the year’s longest night. The service was very eclectic and inclusive as was emphasized in the opening words by Rabbi Donna Berman. She told a story about joining with representatives of many other faiths to provide a memorial service for an anonymous homeless man who had passed away. Since nobody knew what faith the homeless man belonged to, they put together a service that would hopefully do justice to his beliefs.

The Hartford Homeless Persons’ Memorial Service also featured testimonials by currently homeless individuals, poetry readings and eulogies given by writers for the Beat of the Street, a reading of names, and somber performances of Amazing Grace and Silent Night.

Another memorial service for another group of people who society keeps under a veil of anonymity. Another year’s list of people who died without a home. Another emotional performance of Amazing Grace.

I did leave the memorial service with some hope. There were many concerned people in attendance who all work hard each day on the issues of poverty, hunger, and homelessness in our community. We all want to see an end to homelessness and we all know what a terribly difficult goal that is to achieve. As a previously homeless man said (about the list of people who passed away), “We’re not going to end homelessness anytime soon, but we can hope to make this list shorter each year.”

At the blowing of the wind and the chill of winter, we remember them.

CNN won’t cover these lives during their recap of 2011 on New Year’s Eve and that terrible virus or perceived disgrace can isolate people from their loved ones to the point that their families might not take time to think of them on Christmas. During this time of year, which for many is a time of remembering those no longer here, don’t forget to remember those who we’re trained not to see.

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

The Longest Night (Part 1)

22 Dec

The holiday season offers us all a variety of emotions. You can feel a part of the excitement and holiday spirit. You might look forward to some time off or hope for some time on. You may dread the family drama or look forward to seeing everyone together… or both. This may be your first holiday away from family or just one of many. You could be celebrating a holiday bonus or stressing over your holiday budget. At times, your thoughts may turn to those far away or no longer here.

On Christmas, I remember the loved ones who are no longer with me. On New Year’s Eve, the news media remembers the famous lives lost and recaps the horrors of the past year. This two-part blog post is about two other days this December on which I’ve taken time to remember.

December 8, 2011: Peter’s Retreat Annual Memorial Service

Peter’s Retreat is a supportive housing program for people living with HIV/AIDS who would otherwise be homeless. During my last AmeriCorps term with Hands On Hartford, I was fortunate enough to spend time and develop friendships with the residents of this home. Each December, around World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), Peter’s Retreat holds a memorial service to remember the friends who passed away and to honor the lives of friends lost in previous years.

Just four days before this year’s memorial service, a longtime resident of Peter’s Retreat and much-loved member of the community passed away. She remembered the names of our entire AmeriCorps team from the first time we were introduced. She smiled at and greeted everyone who entered Peter’s Retreat and she never missed an opportunity to get her nails and hair done. Together, we remembered her on December 8th at a wonderful service organized by another Public Ally, Emily Kaas.

In fact, the service was so wonderful that I wished many times to take pictures of the beautiful scenes or to film the heart-wrenching rendition of Amazing Grace performed by one of the residents. The problem wasn’t that I had forgotten my camera… it was fully charged and in my pocket. The reason I didn’t take pictures or video is that Peter’s Retreat is devoted to protecting the anonymity of its residents. After the room cleared, I took a picture of the candles that were each lit by a different member of the Peter’s Retreat community.

As each candle was lit, a name was recited and a life was remembered. To me, the candles began to symbolize lives that, in some way, society kept anonymous.

Continued in Part 2…

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT