Activating Young Agents of Change
Q&A with Ron Adams of Operation Day’s Work
Ron Adams, teacher advisor and founder of
ODW is a student-led group in seven schools across the country. And in 2010–11, the students selected GoodWeave as their charity of choice. GoodWeave spoke with ODW’s teacher advisor and founder Ron Adams about the power of creativity, compassion and even cynicism in young activists.
GoodWeave: Tell us about the beginnings of ODW-USA.
Adams: ODW was co-founded in 1999 by Broad Meadows Middle School after the death of Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani rug slave-turned-activist who had visited our campus earlier. Born out of that grief, ODW is dedicated to helping educate and protect poor children in one developing country each school year.
The mission statement begins:
“We, the youth of the United States of America, strongly believe that every child deserves to choose his or her own path to success. We believe that knowledge and understanding are maps that lead down these paths.”
Students start with a blank chalkboard so to speak. They research reputable NGOs, debate the applications, and vote on one organization’s project proposal as their charitable focus.
ODW participants with Indi-B 's joyful "Garden" rug,
GoodWeave: What compelled the students to choose GoodWeave?
Adams: The students were impressed with GoodWeave’s relentless dedication to educating and protecting poor girls and boys in Nepal, especially focusing on those at risk of becoming child laborers. The students’ research revealed that girls in Nepal have some of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Their research also showed that GoodWeave’s multi-pronged approach—from a consumer awareness component to locally-based solutions which focus on education, rehabilitation and protection—deserved an A+.
GoodWeave: What were some of ODW’s most successful efforts?
Adams: We hosted One Day’s Work in the community. Students used pledge sheets to raise money from neighbors, friends, family and local businesses. They identified what needed fixing in their area and then got paid one day’s wages, which were donated to the project. For example, teams have gone into daycare centers to read to kids. They came back and said, “We could see it in their eyes—they loved being read to.”
We also did a fundraiser called One Day Without, which asked students to sacrifice personal technology for 24 hours. Eighth-grader Krista who came up with the idea said, “Our peers in developing countries like Nepal have so much less than we do. Survival is their daily luxury.”
GoodWeave: How has this experience affected the children? What do they go on to do?
Adams: I submit to you that when hundreds of hyper-critical, somewhat cynical U.S. youth get inspired by an organization—that is very, very powerful. How often can any organization say they impressed cynical U.S. youth? I give GoodWeave an A+ for the personal and professional way they helped ODW-USA students learn how to change the world.
When the kids have learned about shockingly low literacy rates, especially for girls in Nepal, they reflect, “I never thought about how lucky I am to live in a country that allows me to go to school. Wouldn’t it be great if every kid just had a chance.” They’re appreciating their own seat in the classroom even more, and motivated academically to use that chair and that chance. In fact, we have “Iqbal’s chair,” the one that he sat in during the visit, and it moves around everyday so you never know if you’re sitting in it.
Three former members of ODW when they got to their respective high schools started a similar club. As ninth graders, they met with the Principal and Dean of Students to find out about adding it as an activity. Their spirit of activism continues.
GoodWeave: What is the power of education?
Adams: Often the students of ODW will wonder what kids in Nepal are dreaming about. Do they imagine that they’ll be a doctor? Or a pilot? They come to realize—yes, all kids have dreams. The difference is that if you don’t even have a chance at education, how can you have your dreams come true? But they can come true, when these students here use their education to bring the gift of education to others.
Maybe it’s not going to change to the world, but if you have helped one person, you’ve changed their world.
GoodWeave: What advice would you offer schools looking to launch similar efforts or team up with ODW-USA?
Adams: You can visit www.odwusa.org to find out how to join us. We’re very grassroots, but just had out first group outside of New England join recently. Or you can email me at email@example.com. We’d love for our seven member schools to become 17!
Read more about ODW’s partnership with GoodWeave here.
You can help us end child labor and transform the lives of the thousands of children trapped in carpet work by making a tax-deductible (USA only) donation today. Every dollar makes a difference.
At the age of five, Manju was already working on the rug looms. While she has since been found and freed from illegal carpet work, some 250,000 children throughout South Asia still toil in obscurity. Through GoodWeave nearly 3,600 kids like Manju have been rescued, rehabilitated and educated, and thousands more deterred from entering the work force.More Stories »
GoodWeave is a full-member of the ISEAL Alliance, the global association for sustainability standards whose Codes of Good Practice are seen as global references for developing and implementing credible standards.