September 26, 2010

Beads for Beds

So the dream is suddenly becoming alive and all it took is effort, will and passion. I'm tired and busy like I've never been in my life but I see everything unfolding in such a magnificent way that I can't really stop now, it'd be stupid...

Beads for Beds... the idea was born in the plane on my way back from Kenya. I knew I wanted to give back to the Dago community in a bigger way than my month as a volunteer with ASB. They had given me so much in so little time, it was a humble feeling of gratitude my motivator to do something for them. My friend Miranda and I shared our feelings about the need we felt of doing something. Pole pole (like they'd say in Kenya) ideas started flowing, it was a long flight and being just the two of us, it didn't take much to make the agreement of starting making bracelets. Originally, we wanted to make the kind of bracelets we saw all over in Mombasa, the thick beaded ones, usually with writing on it. A friend we made in Lamu, taught Miranda how to make them and we thought it was a smart idea. I realized I had a full box of beads at home, that have been carrying around for 13 years, finally I had found an use.

Later on, we both realized that neither of us was good at making these bracelets and it would probably take us an hour to make one piece. It wasn't cost effective. So, we decided to go ahead and start making whatever came in mind. With some inventory, it was a matter of getting a spot at Ryerson to start selling Beads for Beds. Then everything just started happening, the doors were quite open, and obvious indication that we could make it happen if we truly believed in it.

It's been almost four months since the idea of fundraising for Dago was planted in my head. In this time I have met MANY people that are facilitating the growth of this dream. I wish I had less things to do to dedicate more energy to this project but I know that soon enough, when school is done, I will be able to put much more energy into making this happen. I just need to be patient...

I'm super excited for the party on Thursday, and a bit nervous too. Will it be a success? By success I mean people actually showing up. I would Love to fundraise enough money to get Beads for Beds registered. That's my next goal. Together with a bigger event at Lula... yes... I'm gonna make this happen, no matter what. Well, that's it for now. It's midnight and I'm still hungover from last night. I need to sleep. At least I got this done. Yay! No more procrastination... and that's a promise!

September 10, 2010

A letter to Ryerson University

Dear Ryerson;

After five years attending your institution, today you finally pissed me off. To begin with, you are charging me late fees even though I depend on OSAP to pay for my classes and AGAIN this year they messed up my application. The fact that I do not receive my loan in time shouldn't grant you permission to charge me an extra amount of money for "lateness". I feel as if you have been reaching into my pocket every time you had a chance, even though I am already broke. Secondly your bookstore charged me $70 for a compilation of 180 photocopies (with cardboard front and back covers) which in my opinion is "a little bit" pricey. And can you explain to me why did you feel the need to have a Police officer guarding the entrance? Don't you think is a bit too much? A security guard would have been just fine, and maybe less intimidating... And how about your Work-Study acceptance policy?
Our office has reviewed your application; unfortunately, we are unable to process your application, as you did not meet the academic eligibility requirements for Work Study consideration.

From the information available, you are not a full-time student and have not registered for 60% of your course load for the entire Academic year of 2010-2011. Students must be a full-time student (with a minimum 60% course load) for the entire school year. Your winter units = 2 and you do not meet the program fee threshold of $4912.

Fine. Now I'm being forced to take three extra courses so that I can get the job. I have a job offer as a Research Assistant, the professor is just waiting for my Work-Study application approval. I have a total OSAP debt of over $40,000, not only I want this job because is related to my career, I also NEED it. However, my tuition is not as high as $4912 this year because I only need three credits to graduate. Why do I feel that I'm constantly being punished for not having enough money? If I get a scholarship, you lower my loan. If I don't spend a certain amount of money, I can't get a job that could highly benefit me. You seem to be pushing me to be a mediocre student with no passion or desire to push my own limitations. Why? Because you keep forcing me to do jobs that give me nothing but some bills to make the rent payment. What about my dreams then? My need to do something for the community, to aim high, to push myself? Why are you not stimulating this? All I get is the cold shoulder and extra paper work. Even my 4.0 GPA doesn't seem to be enough to get some funding... for A or for B I never seem to be eligible for most scholarships.

Not all of it is bad though, there are people who work at your institution that have been a great motivator for me to keep insisting, keep fighting, keep resisting against the pile of shit you keep throwing at me. But why are you making it so hard? Education is a right, not a business. And you should be able to recognize the hard working individuals who attend your institution, that are actually passionate about something and not just plain brain dead, following the rest. Maybe you feel threaten by this kind of "rebel-like" behavior. Maybe you don't want thinkers and doers to come out of your institution, but workers, people who will fit perfectly well in the hamster wheel that the few in charge have been building since the peak of capitalism.

I am going to challenge this. I will shout loud and clear that this is not what education is meant to be. This is not how an educational institution is supposed to behave. Education should break molds, create freedom of mind, push in many directions, expand, embrace, stimulate a broader understanding of the perplexity of humanity. Education should build, not destroy. Should feed, not starve. I can assure you that many feel the way I do.
“Education is about the production of more democracy, production of peace, production of happiness whereas schooling is often the production of global economic competitiveness.” (Source: "More families are deciding that school’s out – forever" Globe and Mail, Sept. 10 2010)
I have realized today that my only stress in life is money. When I think about my debt and the future I'd like for myself and my children, when I have them, I find no room for dreams. I keep transitioning from a state of "Fuck it, it's just money anyways" to "how the hell am I going to pay my debt??" I have dreams... many... I want to give to my community, I want to make the charitable organization I just started grow, I want to go to Teacher's College, I want to travel lots, keep learning, keep teaching, keep growing... but how do I do all of these with the ghost of a poor financial "reality" pondering around my neck?

It's not all about money making, you know Ryerson? You should take a closer look to those who are struggling to be better individuals, to create a better community and are hoping to contribute to a better world... these are the ones you should be rewarding... rolling out red carpets for... I hope one day this changes; maybe one day you'll get it...

I thank you though for some wonderful teachers you have... those are the ones who are making it well worth it for me.

I wish you the best.


Agata Ivanna Pogorelsky