One in 45 children in the United States will experience homelessness for some period of time each year. These children represent the hidden face of homelessness. Help may be available for these children and their families, but that help is often not accessed due to many reasons, leaving children to suffer when help could be right around the corner. Plus, with the issue of child and family homelessness being less visible despite the problem being quite significant, too little is being done to make systemic changes so that fewer children and families become or remain homeless.
Project Ivy is designed to make a significant impact on child and family homelessness in the United States.
In 2010, Reach And Teach, a peace and social justice learning company, published Ivy Homeless in San Francisco, an award-winning children's novel about an 11 year-old girl and her father, forced onto the streets after they were evicted from their loft apartment. Ivy is a fictional character but she represents nearly 1.5 million children who will experience homelessness each year in America. Children who read Ivy Homeless in San Francisco are moved to learn more about homelessness and take action to make a difference. Project Ivy will help children do just that.
How will children learn about Ivy (and homeless children like her)?Ivy Homeless in San Francisco is available through Reach And Teach as well as through book distributors, independent bookstores, and libraries across the country. Classroom packs of the book can be ordered which will include a comprehensive chapter-by-chapter language arts curriculum, mapped into the Common Core standards, so that a teacher can fit Ivy into any 5th/6th grade language arts program with all the tools for doing so ready to go.
What if we could talk to Ivy? One of the best ways for children to learn more about an issue like homelessness is to ask questions about which they are curious. Project Ivy will be powered by an interactive web site where children can communicate with Ivy through the voice of the book's author, Summer Brenner, and through the knowledge of national and local organizations working with homeless people. Children will be encouraged to learn more about homelessness locally and nationally and to take action to make a difference.
How can we measure the impact? Learning and action will be tracked and rewarded through an online point system. The more children learn and the more they do the more points they'll be able to earn. Those points can be redeemed for materials and direct financial aid that will be donated to organizations and programs that support homeless children and families locally and nationally. Examples of activities for which children will be able to earn points include:
Asking Ivy questions and reading her answers
Identifying local places where homeless people can get hot meals and food supplies
Locating shelters that support women, families and children in their communities
Writing to elected representatives about the issue of homelessness
Visiting a homeless shelter (with parents or other adults)
Volunteering for a local organization
Writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper or web site
Tutoring a homeless child
Organizing a food, clothing or book drive
Creating art or poetry about homelessness for the Project Ivy web site
The Web Site and Apps (Crowd-Sourcing / Kid-Powered Support):
As children interact with the web site, its contents will grow exponentially, eventually providing an interactive map of communities across the country. For each community touched by one of these children, finding available assistance for homeless children and families will be easier. The web site's map, created by the children who get involved with Project Ivy (and vetted by Project Ivy volunteers and staff) will show where hot meals, shelters, counseling, medical attention, job training, and other services are available. Those maps will also be made available to users of smart phones and tablets through interactive apps, so that eventually, when someone encounters a homeless person, knowledge of the nearest assistance is only a few finger touches away.
For example, imagine if a child could simply find the nearest hot meal for people in need in his or her neighborhood, enter it into the Project Ivy web site, and after another Project Ivy volunteer verifies the information it could show up on a map like this. (This map represents hot meals and shelters in the Silicon Valley area.)
See how easy it can be for anyone to get involved! Click here to visit a sample Project Ivy page where you can let the world know about a hot meal, bag lunch, or food pantry program in YOUR community.
The Leadership Team:
Project Ivy will be led by the award-winning educational / multimedia team of Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi, co-founders of Reach And Teach. Both have been deeply involved in the world of distance learning since the 1990's, developing interactive educational web sites and CD-ROMs for companies including Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, IBM, Northern Telecom, and Motorola. In 2004 they launched Reach And Teach, dedicated to transforming the world through teachable moments with a focus on peacemaking, gender equality and sustainable living. Wiesner and Kikuchi have long been recognized as leading-edge innovators in education, in corporate, government, and non-profit circles. Beyond their business experience, they have worked directly with homeless people for over a decade through the "Breaking Bread" meal program in Palo Alto, California.
Award-winning Bay Area author Summer Brenner came up with the idea for Ivy after working at a shelter that housed women and children. Her incredible ability to connect with children, and spark a passion for reading, learning and getting involved in civic action, was recognized by organizations that wanted to make a difference in children's lives in Richmond California. Brenner was awarded grants to write a book about the most poverty-stricken area of Richmond known as the Iron Triangle. The results of children reading Richmond Tales were so powerful that the city of Richmond now celebrates Richmond Tales day every year, distributing thousands of books to children. Brenner has now received grants to write a book about children in Oakland California.
Patty Page is an award-winning multimedia artist who has worked at the forefront of television and film production for two decades. A poet, artist, and film-maker, Page will provide artistic direction for the project. Her first contribution to the project is a 2-minute video about Project Ivy which is now available on YouTube and will be used for initial fundraising to "kickstart" the project.
Within one year of the launch of the Project Ivy web site, Reach And Teach expects to have 10,000 children across the country access the site, learn about homelessness, and take at least one action to impact their community. Within three years we expect to reach 250,000 children, and believe that if each of those children takes action to make a difference in their own community, over half of the children who experience homelessness during that year will feel the supportive touch of their neighbors and will see some improvement in their own situation.
A stretch goal would be that within 5 years, because of the visibility of child and family homelessness, and advocacy for policy changes and legislation, the number of homeless children will be reduced by half.
How You Can Help:
We are now ready to start seeking help to make this project happen. Here are ways you can get involved:
Buy a Copy of the Book - Whether you get a copy of the book for yourself, someone you love, or gift it to a school library, getting the book into the hands of children AND adults will help shine a light on a struggle that 1.5 million children face every year. Plus, $5 from the sale of each copy of the book sold through Reach And Teach will go towards kickstarting Project Ivy. Ask a local teacher if he or she would like a classroom pack and the curriculum and gift it to the class!
Outreach and Communications - Help us introduce Project Ivy to communities across the country, connecting with agencies, organizations, and individuals already supporting homeless children and families plus teachers/administrators responsible for implementing the McKinney/Vento law (providing services to homeless children)
Programming - Help us create the platform through which children will communicate with Ivy, learn about homelessness, and take steps to work in their community and across the country
Partnership- Become one our our nonprofit partners
Donations - We will soon begin to collect donations to build Project Ivy
Spread the Word - Help us get the word out about this important project
Simply fill out the form below and join us! We'll be in touch with specific information about how you can get started. Remember that our big goal is to cut child and family homelessness in half. As Linda Alepin, founder of the Global Women's Leadership Network encouraged us recently, this is a movement millions of people can get behind, because millions of children need our help. Join us now!