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Holiday Fund Drive

We would like to thank everyone who participated in Waltham Committee’s 2013 Holiday Fund Drive by donating to Waltham’s Community Day Center and the Council on Aging! As in previous years, the Waltham Committee continued its efforts to support not-for-profit community aid services in Waltham.  In its 2013 fund drive, the Waltham Committee collected $163 in donations. Scholars contributions were directed to Community Day Center of Waltham which provides day shelter and access to services to homeless in the metro-west area, and to Waltham CoA’s Emergency Fund in support of the Meals on Wheels program, where Waltham citizens and retired citizens can volunteer to help prepare or deliver meals to the city’s home bound elders.

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Odgerel (Oge) Dashzeveg, Visiting Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC), Brandeis University and member of the Waltham Committee presented her talk, “A Beautiful woman by their culture”, at the Waltham Senior Center on Monday, November 4, 2013.Image

Oge, Visting Scholar, WSRC (standing 4th from L)

Oge talked about women’s beauty practices and rituals that define womanhood across different cultures. Many cultures around the world have beauty traditions that have been forcing women to make physical changes to their bodies and appearance in order to be considered “beautiful” in her culture. These cultural beauty practices reflect values and beliefs about women exist for the benefit of men’s delight. Many of the harmful practices are performed on girls on achieving puberty and they symbolize entrance into womenhood and readiness for marriage. Some practices begin as young as for 3-4 years old girls and lasts until a girl reaches puberty and beyond to adulthood.

In her talk, Oge illustrates how a woman’s body becomes a beauty instrument from head to toe, including traditions of wearing heavy head pieces, shaving the head, etc. and ending with foot binding. A woman who fails to follow these physically and emotionally painful beauty traditions can be seen as unmarriageable, unattractive and dishonored by own community. Women’s beauty practices are unspoken traditions that never been questioned in the context of human morality, women’s human rights and dignity.  Many of these traditions are diminishing, however, the existing beauty practices are shifting into global money making business that shows woman as cultural beauty exhibitions.

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Members of the Waltham Committee organized an event titled, “Weeding out Fencing” in partnership with the Waltham Land Trust (WLT). Our prior project with the has already been documented and we have continued to pursue furthering our connections with WLT.

Sonja Wadman, Program Director at WLT presented in great detail the work of the organization. The mission of WLT is to create a legacy of land conservation. One of the drives that has been organized by the WLT has been the weeding out of Bittersweet vines in the local community. As an invasive species, it grows and spreads quickly, produce large quantities of easily dispersed seeds, and reproduce vegetatively, all traits that make controlling them a difficult task. These are harmful to the local vegetation, suffocates them as it reproduces and thrives.

While the idea of scouting for the vines was tempting, it was too late in the season. Instead Sonja displayed wreaths already made from vines  We hope to be involved in making wreaths late summer-early Fall next year.

Sonja presented the vast array of work that she and WLT are involved in. She works with community members, organizations, government agencies (city officials), neighborhood groups to mobilize change. Currently and really on the day of the event, WLT was petitioning the city officials to save Arrigo Farm which is the oldest farm in Waltham. Since the 1630’s it has been run by three families. With the passing of the last son of Placido Arrigo, John Arrigo in 2011, the farm has not been functioning. Developers have offered the 9 heirs a large sum of money to construct 19 homes.

The WLT is gathering signature to petition the City Council to acquire the farm using Community Preservation Act funds, and  lease the land as farmland. In effect the WLT is preserving the open space and historic nature of the property and surrounding land.

Sonja called upon Waltham Committee members to join WLT in this petition so that together we could participate in preserving a local agricultural farm, honor the history of farm working families and generate produce for the present and future inhabitants of Waltham. Scholars at WSRC signed on the petition in support of WLT’s work and to “save Arrigo farm.” The petition read “as Scholars at WSRC, we support retaining this site which is of cultural significance to the Waltham community and its collective memory.  We join other members of the Waltham community to demonstrate the power of preservation to contribute to the public good.”

An update from Sonja: “The public hearing of the Community Preservation Committee was fantastic! A dozen folks spoke, including several neighbors who learned about the project only because we canvassed their neighborhood; they were horrified. Two of the heirs spoke. Many people started tearing up at the lectern. It was rather emotional…Finally, they voted, I think unanimously, to approve the project and recommend acquisition to the City Council”

More details to follow. Stay tuned!

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Liz Markson, Resident Scholar and Waltham Committee member

As you are aware, the Waltham Committee has partnered with More than Words and supports their work through donating books. At the store, located at 273 Moody Street in Waltham, the youth run an inviting 501(c)3 nonprofit used bookstore featuring a wide array of titles, comfortable seating, and free wi-fi. A coffee bar offers Starbucks coffee, espresso, tea, and other popular café drinks, as well as delicious baked treats. Do give them a visit. On our part the Waltham Committee members thank Scholars for donating books and supporting this local initiative aimed at rehabilitating youth and rebuilding their potential through retail and online book sales. By supporting this social enterprise, WSRC through the Waltham Committee participates in this unique social innovation in action.

The Waltham Committee took its partnership with More than Words to an even newer territory. We invited the youth to visit WSRC gallery which was hosting an exhibit of photos by Vivian Maier. Titled Vivian Maier: A Woman’s Lens, this exhibit was one of its kind since it was being shown for the first time in the Greater Boston area.  The photographs are in striking black and white taken by Vivian Maier on streets of Chicago and New York in the 1950’s and 60’s.

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This  was the first time that the youth from More than Words came to the WSRC gallery. They were accompanied by Kelly Exley-Smith who is the Associate Site Director of Youth Development and Jennifer Pudder from More than Words. Michelle L’Hereux who is the Curator & Director of the Arts at WSRC and Rajashree Ghosh, Resident Scholar and Waltham Committee member welcomed them. Michelle spoke about the artist/photographer whose work has been discovered and displayed posthumously. She explained the history and techniques behind the photos. Each photograph was clear and tells a story and the youth were engaged and had plenty of observations and comments to make. Most of all they enjoyed the space and even tried their hand at the piano  in the salon! We feel that this interaction set the tone for continued partnership with More than Words.

In the end  Kelly Exley-Smith wrote,

“Thank you so much for having us!  We had a great time and the youth couldn’t stop talking about it on the way back.  For many of them, it was their first time in a gallery. They really appreciated having the opportunity to try out something new.,,,Thank you again for inviting our youth to your gallery and for giving themthe opportunity to experience something new.  I’m really looking forward to continue partnering in this work together.”

Connecting with Brandeis

ImageCommittee member Rajashree Ghosh, speaking to students of Environment and Justice class on September 30, 2013 (Photo credit: Ornit Barkai)

The Waltham Committee at Brandeis connects with Brandeis students and faculty in many ways. One of the programs offered, is an engaging, immersive academic program in which small groups of students explore a thematic topic through inquiry-based courses linked to real-world experiential opportunities. It provides them with opportunities to deeply engage in law, social impacts and the immediate needs of environmental health challenges facing individuals and families today.  The students work with some of the most disadvantaged communities from inner-city Boston and Waltham to the rural coal mining mountains of Appalachia, as they learn and combat issues such as toxic exposure, access to safe housing, healthy food and open space.

With faculty member Laura Goldin’s leadership and experience these students receive the training for  hands on multi-disciplinary community engaged learning program. In that connection she invited Rajashree Ghosh, as before, to present her work on urban governance and women in India. This gave the students an understanding of gender issues, poverty, deprivation and the community based initiatives that work on the ground to make changes to the lives of impoverished populations in slums in Delhi. Her presentation was followed by comments and questions by students. The conversations ranged from doing fieldwork in another country, government practices, women’s role, community engagement and many other issues that struck the students as key in the understanding of the project.

In a note sent, the students said that they found the presentation “informative and encouraging.” For Rajashree and members of the Waltham Committee, this connection with the students and faculty member is an extension of the relationship with the community. As with the larger Brandeis community, WSRC through the Waltham Committee engages with the local community and determine ways in which to make a difference.

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Odgerel (Oge) Dashzeveg, Visiting Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center, Brandeis University and member of the Waltham Committee presented her talk, “Buddhism and its practice in Mongolia”, at the Waltham Senior Center on Monday, June 25, 2013. Oge’s talk was a part of Religion talk series organized by Waltham Committee with the collaboration of the Waltham Senior Center. Her talk focused on history of Buddhism, its influence on Southeast and East Asian countries, including Mongolia. Legend of Buddha holds that Indian noble-man Siddharta at age 29 left his home to understand mysteries of birth, life, death and rebirth.  After wandering for six long years, at age 35, he found through self-discovery  the stage beyond suffering- rebirth. No longer was he Siddhartha; he was Buddha. His followers, devout monks, were sent to spread Buddha’s teachings. Like other religions, Buddhism influenced traditional cultures of many Asian countries throughout South, East and Central Asia.

In the 16th the Yellow hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism was introduced to Mongolia and the ruling Khan of Mongols awarded the head of Tibetan Buddhism with the title Dalai Lama (Great Lama). By the 17th century Mongolia became a devoted religious nation, led by Buddhist leaders at the head of the state, and it lasted for over two hundred years.  Approximately 40% of the male population were converted into devoted sacred lamas (monks) and settled in the monasteries owning over 50% of the country’s wealth. Early 19th century socialist reform ruled by communist party prohibited any religious activities in Mongolia and this resulted the fall of Buddhist era. During socialist reform that lasted over thirty years, until 1960s, there were killed over 100 000 men as enemies of communist ideology, including 70 000 lamas and religious leaders. In addition, about 800 Buddhist temples and monasteries were destroyed. Since 1990’s, Mongolia became a democratic country tolerant to all religious activities in Mongolia. Buddhism revived once again and today about sixty percent of the population are Buddhists.

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Donation box in Carlisle, MA; photo by Ornit Barkai

While our relationship with More than Words has endured the test of time and despite changing members on both ends the book drives and recently catering has strengthened our partnership further.

Most Scholars have contributed to this relationship through their donations. During our walk organized last April, Ornit Barkai, Visiting Research Associate at WSRC joined the discussion at the store on what more Scholars can do to help More than Words. Bobby Nasson, Business Development Manager at the Waltham store asked for assistance and wanted to know contact persons in Carlisle where Ornit lives. His idea was to initiate book donations in that town. Ornit promptly followed up on this and after a few exchanges she excitedly reported back,

“I was delighted to spot More Than Words at our town’s Transfer Station the other week. This is seemingly the result of my previous attempts …. to introduce Bobby to the ‘right’ people in our town!”

The members of Waltham Committee thank Ornit for her efforts and her contribution to reach out to the organization that we have had a sustained partnership with and work with their plans to spread to other towns.