Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Sprouts of Hope's Quilt and Bill McKibben

Unveiling Our Quilt on WBUR's show "On Point"

By Maya

On the evening of June 14 the Sprouts of Hope had a remarkable experience. We were asked to join WBUR’s On Point radio host Tom Ashbrook and climate change activist Bill McKibben at a live show they were doing at the Paramount Center in Boston. First Tom and Bill did their hour-long interview for On Point for broadcast the next morning. 

Tom Ashbrook interviews Bill McKibben on WBUR's  "On Point"

As soon as they finished, and in front of the audience of several hundred people who had donated to WBUR to attend this live show, the Sprouts of Hope were invited to come out on stage so that we could present our sustainability quilt to Bill McKibben. He is one of three people who have inspired us because of their environmental work and whose portraits we feature on our quilt.

To the sounds of loud music with African drums, we came on stage carrying our unopened quilt. After Tom introduced us, I said a few words about our quilt project and then we opened it so that Bill — and the audience —could see it. As we did, the audience applauded loudly. I pointed to the bottom of the quilt so Bill could see his portrait; it appears under the words “We are the Sprouts of Hope. These are our inspirations.” His portrait is next to Jane Goodall, known for her groundbreaking study of chimpanzees (and to us as the founder of Roots & Shoots), who is next to Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who won the award for the Green Belt Movement she founded in Africa.

This is when we could tell Bill McKibben liked our quilt.

Our Kids For Stopping Global Warming, April 14, 2007
Tom asked us questions about why we made the quilt and our goals for how it will be used. He wanted to know why we decided to put Bill our quilt? We first came to know about Bill’s efforts to engage people in doing something to halt global warming when we were in elementary school and he did his Step It Up campaign on April 14, 2007. The Sprouts organized a kids’ march to fight global warming on this National Day of Climate Action. A lot of kids and families joined us to march from MIT to the Boston Common rally where we heard speakers and we were interviewed about our march. 

The Step It Up campaign truly got us into the mindset that kids do make a difference when they get involved in these issues.

During the On Point interview that night we learned about McKibben’s on-going work with his organization He chose that number because 350 parts per million is the level of CO2 in the atmosphere that we have to get down to in order to preserve the planet. However, there are currently about 392 parts per million of CO2. Tom also talked with him about efforts to stop the Keystone pipeline. 

The Sprouts of Hope's Business Card
The audience seemed to love our quilt —judging by the loud sustained applause they gave us when we opened it to show Bill. He also seemed quite pleased with it and liked having his portrait on it.  Backstage, we with him talked and gave him a Sprouts of Hope card so we can stay in contact. We’d like to work with him on his campaign.

My mom sent him photographs of our time together, and here is what he wrote back:

These are so lovely. Would you please tell the girls that I saw Jane G. in Istanbul on Tuesday and told her all about our evening, and she sent her love. (She even let me give my talk there with her stuffed monkey on the podium!)

p.s. Just tweeted out a link to the Sprouts’ blog —people deserve to know about the great work you are doing.

The whole experience was exceedingly fun. Hopefully this quilt will serve as a vision of what sustainability looks like in a city like Cambridge, and encourage kids and adults to act in ways that make our hometown — and other communities — more sustainable places to live. 

Tom Ashbrook (left), The Sprouts of Hope and our quilt and Bill McKibben at the live WBUR "On Point" event on June 14, 2012.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Learning From Gloria Steinem's Experiences

Tea with Gloria Steinem

On Friday afternoon, April 20th, The Sprouts of Hope, had tea with Gloria Steinem at the New York City apartment where we were staying. This gathering happened because Jane O'Reilly, a longtime friend of Gloria's from their days working together as journalists on Ms. Magazine, wrote to her friend and asked her. Gloria said "Yes." Jane asked her because it had become apparent that the Sprouts had not learned about America's second wave of feminism, despite having been taught in middle school about the women who led the first wave of feminism during the suffrage movement. Yet, it is because of the efforts of Gloria and her feminist colleagues that girls growing up now experience an equality of opportunity that was unimaginable to her generation when they were this age in the 1950s.

By Maya

Having the opportunity to meet Gloria Steinem and Jane O’Reilly was truly a wonderful experience.

Longtime friends: Gloria Steinem (left) and Jane O'Reilly

Listening to them made me realize how far women have come in the last half century and how far there is still to go. I was inspired by their writings and their life journeys, and by their ability to maintain humble and humorous personalities. Gloria told us a story about helping women who'd been forced into sex trafficking by building an electric fence, and that story taught me a lot about why listening is the essential first step in helping anybody. I never would have thought keeping elephants out of maize fields could be a solution to the sex trafficking of women.

In listening to these two women tell us about their lives, I learned much about how to be a leader and work toward making effective change. Jane’s cover story on the first issue of Ms. Magazine — about the housewife's predetermined role in society — intrigued me. I read her article, "
The Housewife's Moment of Truth," before I met her. 
Jane O'Reilly's Ms. Magazine article about housewives. It was this new magazine's first cover story when it was published in December 1971.

Jane wrote about how little things that used to happen to housewives every day were one day transformed into moments when the women experienced a “click” that made them realize that their lives as women didn’t need to be the way they were.

Gloria suggested we read one of her essays, "If Men Could Menstruate," before we met her, and I was glad she did. It is not something I would have found on my own, and yet I enjoyed the perspective that her words gave us.

It has taken me some time for my brain to “click” and realize that just a few weeks ago I sat in a four-story walk-up in New York City eating crackers and Italian pastries with these two remarkable women.

By Lilly

Meeting with Ms. Steinem completely changed how I thought of women’s rights today. I had previously assumed that we were past all the big leaps that had to be taken. All around me, I see women in successful and powerful positions in society with rights completely equal to those of men. However, she made me see that we still have a ways to go. In other countries and even our own, sex trafficking is a huge problem.  And women who work in all kinds of jobs still get paid lower wages than men. And even in our own community, it can be harder for girls just to participate in sports. 

All of this is not to say that Ms. Steinem was in any way discouraging. She did raise my awareness about new issues, but not without providing ideas and solutions. She was incredibly warm and easy to hold a conversation with, not at all intimidating or superior. It was really a wonderful and valuable experience to have as a girl in this time.

From left to right, Lilly, Gloria, Kaya, Risa, Maya

By Risa

When Ms. Steinem stepped out of the taxi, I was surprised by her youthfulness, and by how relaxed and collected she seemed. I feel very honored that she took the time to sit and talk with us, especially because she had just come back from a trip overseas. I was inspired by how she approaches situations — with a clear and open mind. She is a strong and opinionated woman; I am sure that when she sets her mind to doing something, she does not stop until it’s been achieved. 

Yet, the message that will stay with me forever that took away from our conversation is the importance of listening, especially to people who you think might want your help. She is a great storyteller. In response to a question that Jane O'Reilly's granddaughter Elena asked her — about how Westerners often seem to arrive in foreign countries with an idea already in their heads of how they are going to help people they've never met — Gloria told us a great story about how the complex problem of women being trafficked for sex had been solved by something as simple as a fence. It wasn't a solution anyone would have thought of unless they talked and listened carefully about the situation that women in this village were experiencing. Turns out that the women couldn't plant and harvest their maize crop — and with it feed their families — unless they find a way to stop elephants from coming into their fields.

An electric fence is able to prevent elephants from going into areas where they will damage crops.

The lesson I took away from this story is that only by listening to and talking with someone and taking  time to understand a situation completely is it possible to know how to help in ways that will be effective.

By Kaya

Gloria Steinem told us about some of the ways she is working to stop the trafficking of women and girls for sex. She described a trip to India she had just returned from when she talked with trafficked women

Ruchira Gupta is president of Apen Aap and devotes her energies to ending the trafficking of women in India.

Gloria explained to us that Americans do not realize how women are forced into selling their bodies for sex; the women are not doing this out of their own free will. Today millions of humans throughout the world are being trafficked, including in the United States. Gloria let us know the astonishing fact that the average age at which children are first trafficked in the United States is 12 to 13, and they are eve younger when it happens to them in India.

We sipped tea and munching on cheese & crackers and pastries we'd chosen at Ferrara's in Little Italy when we went there on Thursday night.

The pastries we had to choose from at Ferrara's in New York City's Little Italy.

And we discussed with Gloria and her friend Jane O’Reilly our thoughts about feminism and the lives of girls and women today. It was an inspirational to spend this time with Gloria Steinem whose life is such a terrific example for us to emulate. Not only was Gloria full of stories and fascinating information, but she is also delightfully funny—scattering jokes and good humor throughout our conversation! 

I enjoyed every second we spent with her, and I learned a lot about feminism in the past and today. All of what we talked about made me think about how I interact with sexism I see happening in my life and feminism in our society.

Unfortunately, teenagers and children growing up now do not know much about Gloria Steinem, and this is a shame. Everyone should know about her so they can be inspired by how she has spent her lifetime dedicated to securing equal rights for women; what she did many years ago is why I and so many other girls have the opportunities we do today. She devoted her life to being an advocate for change, and she has succeeded in many magnificent ways. I am so grateful I had this amazing opportunity to spend time talking with this inspirational woman. Thank you, Gloria!

From left to right, Elena, Melissa, Lilly, Gloria, Kaya, Risa and Maya.


Sprouts of Hope:Sustainability Quilt Project

Our Quilt Is Finished

By Kaya

After Maya carefully fit and wrote the letters of our sustainability message around the border of our quilt — A City Thrives When Its People Replenish What They Use — and Risa put glasses on Bill McKibben,  our sustainability quilt was finished.

After many Sunday afternoons spent quilting with Clara Wainwright, by the end of this day we could stand back and look at what we'd created — a quilt decorated with ‘green’ buildings, bike paths, rooftop gardens, a peace dove, a chimpanzee, and a compost dump.  On its big border we have portraits of us and three people whose life work inspires us — Jane Goodall, Bill McKibben, and Wangari Maathai.

Our quilt embodies our vision of what a more sustainable way of living might look like — in Cambridge, and other places — one day soon. At the top is the title we gave our quilt: “Imagine a Sustainable Life.” 

We set out to make this quilt with the hope that its visual message will inspire others to imagine what our world could be like if we thought and acted in ways that are more environmentally friendly.

Parts of our quilt hold special meaning for us: the chimpanzee swinging from the tree speaks to our five years of involvement (as the Sprouts of Hope) with Roots and Shoots, an organization founded by Dr. Jane Goodall; the greenhouses on buildings'  rooftops give us hope that one day organic gardens, watered by rainwater, will give us more access to locally grown vegetables and fruits.

Our plan is to lend our quilt to different organizations and projects related to sustainability issues. (We are going to create a website so people who want to borrow it can make such a request.) We want our quilt to inspire others and teach others of what it means to be green — and do so in an urban environment.

We hope when people look at the quilt, they will see what we hope to see in the future—a sustainable city.

Our beautiful quilt would never have been created without the amazing Clara Wainwright. Thank you Clara, for everything you’ve done for us!

Building Our Quilt's Border

By Risa

When we started working on our quilt again, the center of it and the portraits were almost finished, so we spent the time focusing on the quilt’s bigger border. We decided to have a fairly simple design, which incorporates the ideas of the quilt.

 Edible plants embody our idea of a sustainable world because plants are good for the environment and they help feed people in healthy ways. So tomato and sunflower plants now surround our sustainable city. 

Portraits we'd made of Dr. Jane Goodall, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and environmental activist Bill McKibben appear across the bottom border of our quilt. They can be identified by their faces, we hope, but if not, then by their names that we will put under them. We still need to put glasses on Bill McKibben.

We want our quilt to get people thinking, but not because they are trying to figure out who is on it! What we hope they will think about is about what it means to imagine a sustainable life.

Maya made an adorable chimpanzee who swings from a tree in the center of the quilt.

The chimpanzee is a symbol of Roots & Shoots because of the devotion that its founder, Dr. Jane Goodall, has to helping chimpanzees with whom she studied and lived for so many years. The chimpanzee is on Roots & Shoots emblem. We also want to make the city an animal friendly place. 


The quilt’s title—Imagining a Sustainable Life — is written across the top of our quilt. Its letters are cut out of a cool, red flowery fabric. The title grabs the eye's attention, but doesn't distract from other intricacies of the quilt. This time we added a few small details, such as clothes hanging on the clothesline, so most of the time we were either cutting fabric or gluing what we'd cut to the quilt. 

In what seems like a very short time, we’ve created this quilt — with the step-by-step gentle guidance of Clara Wainwright. A few weeks ago we were playing with the fabric, trying to come up with a vision for the quilt. Now we’ve added a border to our central design on the quilt and that is giving it new dimensions we had not even imagined a few weeks ago.

Next time we go to Clara’s studio, we will put the finishing touches on our quilt. Then we need to figure out how to share it with people in Cambridge, which was our goal from the start.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sprouts of Hope: Sustainability Quilt Project

Adding Detail to Our Quilt

By Maya

At our 6th quilt meeting with Clara, we began to add detail to the city. Windows, clotheslines, gardens, and wind turbines went up on the rooftops. Kaya created a peace dove representing the many peace dove parades we have been a part of through Roots and Shoots. The dove flies with a banner behind her with the words of our Sprouts of Hope motto written on it,

“Have a dream. Make a difference.”

Risa created a bike path that zigs and zags through the air — a way for us to make visual our hope that people will figure out all sorts of new ways to move around the city.

I designed a compost heap full of worms and decomposing food. The mound symbolizes our efforts to get composting into the Cambridge public school cafeterias, so that they can be sustainable in disposing of the tons of food waste. And we put solar blinds on a few of the buildings to show how glad we are that our new public library in Cambridge was built in ways that are so energy efficient.

Clara assembled the portraits we had made and showed up how they will look along the rim of the quilt. She added a thin blue boarder where we are planning to write some form of a story. We made portraits of inspiring environmentalists. Risa did one of Bill McKibben, Clara did one of Wangari Maathai, and I did one of Jane Goodall. All the portraits came out great, and will hopefully be easily recognizable.

Our next step is coming up with a title — possibly in the form of a question — that embodies the message of the quilt. The quilt is coming along nicely, but there is still a lot of work to do to develop our futuristic sustainable city.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sprouts of Hope: Sustainability Quilt Project

Starting To Make Our "Real" Quilt

By Lilly

As the Sprouts move further into our project with Clara, we have started putting together the pieces that will be in the final quilt. On our fifth visit with to the studio, we began putting together the final draft of the city we had been brainstorming ideas about the week before. The result was a much more organized and thought-through version of the city.

We kept many elements, such as the rooftop gardens, and a swinging chimpanzee (in honor of Dr. Jane Goodall, who founded Roots & Shoots) and an aquarium, all of which now look a bit different than when we sketched them in earlier versions.

This time we thought long and hard about where on the quilt everything would look best and how all of the different pieces can work together. We are using lots of very interesting fabric for the different buildings.

We have yet to incorporate into our final quilt some details, such as our clotheslines and bike path. We also plan on putting in some new elements that were not part of our brainstorms, such as a Peace Dove parade, a Roots & Shoots activity we enjoy doing, and composting, a program we helped to start in our public schools.

During the past few weeks we have been revising and improving our quilt city to try and make it the best it can be and to really get our ideas for a better and more sustainable future across to those who will one day look at it.

As we continue making our quilt, we will be thinking more and more about the possibilities for the sustainable future of our world. We hope our quilt will inspire others in the same way. Here's a look at how we constructed our buildings.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sprouts of Hope: Sustainability Quilt Project

Sustainability As We See It

By Kaya

On our fourth visit to Clara’s studio, the Sprouts of Hope began to make our ideas come alive in a rough outline of the sustainability quilt.

Looking at the “sketch quilts” from our last visit, we adapted ideas we liked from our old sketches and transferred them onto our new larger sketch — moving us a step closer to making the real quilt.

We created buildings with trees and mushrooms, flowers on rooftops and fish swimming, and even seaweed in the windows.

While we used our earlier ideas, we also came up with new ones along the way—with various visions of how we wish our city could be in the future with sustainability as its core value. Risa designed a bike path that goes across buildings and a steady flow of purple bicycles are riding on it. Toward the top of it you can see our Sprouts of Hope motto "Have a Dream, Make a Difference."

Lilly created laundry lines that hang between buildings with all kinds of clothes being air-dried on them rather than using a lot of energy with a dryer. In the upper part of the quilt we put a large sun, a way to illuminate the idea of solar power.

Around the edge of this central piece of our quilt is where we will put our self-portraits along with portraits of people who devote their lives to environmental sustainability. Of course, Dr. Jane Goodall will be one of the people we feature on our quilt. And in her honor, we also include a chimpanzee as a way to express our appreciation for her on-going efforts to save chimpanzees. And there will be wind turbines.

We have accomplished plenty! At last, our ideas are coming together in ways that give us a good sense of what our quilt will look like when we finish. Soon, we will start work on the final version of our sustainability quilt and through it share with others our idea of a more utopian “greener” society!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sprouts of Hope Quilt Project

Conceiving Our Urban Sustainable Space

By Eliza

During our third visit with Clara, the Sprouts really got the ball rolling, and we thought about what messages we want our quilt to spread. We talked about what sustainability means to us, and Clara presented some ideas to us.

Here's her sketch:

The idea of innovation and green cities interested us, and we decided to try to draft some possible ideas for a quilt displaying the idea of a green city.

Kaya and Risa made a patch with bicycles and buildings with rooftop gardens, as well as different forms of alternative energy such as solar power and wind power.

Maya and I made a design with skyscrapers, as well. Our quilt had a tree with a chimpanzee swinging from it, and the roots planted firmly into the ground – similar to the familiar Roots & Shoots symbol.

Melissa’s design was focused on the idea of the seventh generation.

We discussed the possibility of making windows of the skyscrapersin our quilt depict other aspects of sustainability, such as compact florescent light bulbs (CFLS).

We also talked about the idea of having some kind of earth in our quilt – maybe with bikes going around it. We are excited to narrow down our ideas next week and come up with a plan for exactly what our quilt will look like!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sprouts of Hope Quilt Project

Creating Self-Portraits

By Risa

On March 18th, the Sprouts of Hope visited Clara's studio to make self-portraits for our quilt. We first picked our skin colors. All the fabric choices were exaggerated so some of our faces were tan and some were pink.

We cut out our faces by folding the fabric in half and cutting half-circles, looking in the mirror to determine our face shapes. The most fun part was probably the hair. We picked fabric with curls, lines and other shapes depending on our hair texture and then we cut and styled it.

After hair, we added facial features. Our noses were cut out of the same fabric as the rest of our faces, but we were more creative with eyes and lips.

The more features that each of us added to our portraits the more these pieces of cloth started to look like us. It is easy to tell who is who even though the faces are not as detailed as a drawing or photo would be.

We added accessories such as earrings and necklaces to distinguish ourselves even more. After cutting and laying out the portraits, we glued them down and gave them to Clara, who is going to sew them.

Creating our self-portraits was a lot of fun and we laughed a lot, while giving each other advice!