Gun Violence Survivors Foundation and Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI)
I've turned to using my filmmaking skills, particularly my skills as an editor, to assist two organizations dedicated to reducing violence and helping those who are survivors and/or victims of gun violence: Gun Violence Survivors Foundation and Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI). Over the last couple months, I've edited a few videos for these organizations, and hope to continue to volunteer my skills as much as I can in the future.
Here's a video I edited for the Gun Violence Survivors Foundation:
Marchand Combined School - Castries, St. Lucia
In May, my new wife and I took our honeymoon in St. Lucia. While there, we volunteered through the Sandals Foundation to read for a few hours with some students from Marchand Combined School in Castries. The students were wonderful and made a big impact on us. We didn't want our "goodbyes" that day to be the end. After discussing with the school principal and the Sandals Foundation, we decided to hold a fundraiser to support the school's breakfast program. For just $6 a student, the school would be able to provide fresh local fruit, protein, cereal, and a variety of foods to all the students that wanted breakfast.
Melissa and I committed $100 and launched our fundraising via Facebook, asking for cash/check/Paypal/Venmo donations from family and friends. We gave ourselves two weeks to reach our goal of $500, but in less than 24 hours, we had raised $511! We're excited that with our support, the students at Marchand Combined School will be able to enjoy nourishing, tasty breakfasts that will allow them to focus on their school work. We hope to continue to support the school and students in the future.
If you want to support the breakfast program at the Marchand Combined School, email me at: Jason@JasonStefaniak.com
Letter Writing Campaign (I need your help)
After reading about the surge of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing into the United States this summer (and particularly after hearing about a group of conservative protestors yelling at a bus full of children things like, "Go home!" and "Nobody wants you!"), I decided to start a letter writing campaign to show the children some basic human love and support. This, however, is not a story with a happy ending - it's one that demonstrates how easy it is for people to do what is easiest and to not go out of their way.
After a few weeks of poking around, I had two viable options: I spoke with a mayor of a small town in California that was interested in supporting my letter campaign and I contacted a non-profit near my family's home in Virginia that was housing a number of children.
I spoke with the mayor by email, then by phone, and he asked me to put together a written proposal of what I wanted to do. I did, sent it to him within a few days, and then never heard back. After emailing, calling, filling out a multi-page volunteer application, emailing again, and calling to follow up at least three times - absolutely nothing has happened at the non-profit. After weeks of following up, them claiming they were interested, when left with the ball, they dropped it.
But letting this idea go, and the effort already put into it, seemed like a waste. I usually only write about things on this page that I've done, not things I've attempted to do but failed. But I figured two things: 1) Writing about my empathy and compassion for these children, my desire to do something, and the efforts I took to try to make it happen, might do for someone who reads this what a story of success might do for someone else (Hint: inspiration; galvanization) and 2) Maybe one of you reading this can still help me make it happen.
So that's where things stand. If you know a way to help me get a letter writing campaign set up - something simple, either standard postcards we get printed that people fill out or handwritten letters people send individually - please let me know: Jason@JasonStefaniak.com
Ever since the shooting at Virginia Tech - where my fiancee Melissa was a student - I've cared deeply about the issue of gun violence. I made a documentary (footage from it appeared in the 20/20 episode titled "If I Only Had a Gun" in April 2009), I've shot and edited video and taken photographs for the organization Protest Easy Guns (one photo was published in Dance Magazine), I made the fictional film The Choi Family, and I've advocated for legislative change by contacting my elected representatives (including a month long daily letter writing campaign to the White House conducted after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School) and partaking in a number of activities organized by groups such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action (now collectively known as Everytown for Gun Safety). I will continue to create work in support of and personally advocate for the adoption of intelligent, common sense gun restrictions that make certain types of guns, magazines, and ammunition illegal for ordinary, untrained citizens to own and that require background checks for all gun purchases, including private transactions conducted at gun shows. People kill people with guns - and by creating certain restrictions, we can reduce access to weapons that enable people to kill lots of people quickly, easily, and efficiently. That's common sense.
In the fall of 2013, I began mentoring a New York City public high school student over the course of his four year high school career, assisting him with academic and personal challenges and preparing him to apply for and attend college.
The program needs male mentors to be matched with male students. If you live in New York City and are willing to commit to one monthly in-person meeting and one weekly email, please check out the program and consider volunteering.
The Future Project
Imagine a world in which everyone is inspired?
The Future Project is a national call to action that challenges young people to turn their passions into projects that change the world. The Future Project recruits college students and young professionals and unites them with high school students for a yearlong, guided mentorship experience. Future Coaches (volunteers) and Future Fellows (high school students) meet weekly to develop a Future Project designed by the Future Fellow and launched at the end of the school year. The Future Project launched in October 2011 with more than 500 Future Coaches and Future Fellows in four public high schools in New York City, Washington, D.C., and New Haven, CT.
Jason Stefaniak served as a Future Coach and Corps Leader
Learn more, apply to be a Future Coach or donate at: TheFutureProject.org