Last summer, in the middle of a global pandemic, a group of Jewish and Muslim teens joined a virtual “Cafe Hour” to share their individual stories of growing up in America.
They loved it so much that they met the following month. And the next month after that.
At one point, they decided to select a civic issue to focus on as a group–they would research the issue and use design thinking to identify ways that they could be part of the solution.
Through consensus, they selected the Mauritius oil spill as a mutual civic concern, particularly mindful of the far-reaching consequences of oil spills. They also explored ways that their religious texts and values ground their mission of environment protection and inform their commitment to ecological causes. And they began to ask anonymous questions to one another about their religious practices.
The answers, the similarities, the learnings were eye-opening.
Today, the Interfaith Club has evolved into the Evergreen Alliance with a formal mission and social media presence.
They meet monthly, invite experts to teach, practice empathetic listening, engage in thoughtful storytelling and problem-solve across their differences.
The group entered 2021 with clear values, vision and goals. Here is what they created:
- VALUES: Some of our group’s core values include listening to others, for we learn a lot from simply listening to what others have to say. We also believe in educating and informing others, since people are more likely to change their habits/ actions if they understand the consequences of them. Another core value is caring for the environment, especially because the religions we believe in (whether that be Judaism or Islam) urge us to care for our surroundings and not to neglect them. We believe this aspect of religion strongly reflects on moral values we hold as a group since we, as humans, should care for the environment we live in. Another core value of our group is teamwork, since change can only come about from the collaboration of everyone; this can’t be a one man effort.
- VISION: We want to not only reduce the amount of pollution in NYC and around the world, but we also want to raise awareness. We believe that although doing things like cleaning up beaches may have a temporary positive effect, unless the people who are dropping litter understand the effect of their action, it will have no real permanent effect. Education is more proactive than prevention.
- GOALS: We plan to raise awareness through 3 different ways; posters, social media page (Instagram page and blog),and a possible ZOOM workshop. We also would like to look into having more trash cans around the city, possibly on each block because we feel that may encourage people to properly dispose of their trash rather than throw it on the ground. Our goal is to try and convince people (whoever the social media page or blog reaches) to get rid of harmful habits and begin forming new ones. (For ex. Many of us tend to leave the water running while brushing our teeth; however, if everyone were to just turn off the faucet for those 60 seconds, that would save hundreds of gallons of water.) Informing people on these facts will probably urge them to make changes.