Archive for January, 2007

January 31st, 2007 by Campus Philly

Ten Thousand Villages

The second you step into Ten Thousand Villages the spicy scent of the unordinary engulfs you. It is the smell of hundreds of ancient cultures: the Indian sandalwood soap, Ugandan raffia, and Peruvian wool. The modest storefront, just blocks from Thomas Jefferson University, disguises the cultural bounty inside. Ten Thousand Villages specializes in treasures from all over the world. From West African Bird Masks to delicately detailed Indian puppets, you can collect curiosities from all over the world without leaving Philly.

Even if you don’t buy anything, it is very easy to become absorbed in browsing. Just past the carved soapstone chess sets lies the jewelry section where hand-strung glass beads glimmer against one another. Unique craftsmanship is evident with every carefully applied strand and the glassy piles beg to be held, cool as rain, in your palm.

At first glance you may wonder if the same products are available at Pier 1, but the individual attention given to each piece becomes evident the longer you linger. The more important difference between Ten Thousand Villages and stores like Pier 1 is the source of their products. Did you know that buying a birthday card in Philly can change the life of someone around the world? It can if you’re shopping at Ten Thousand Villages.

Products at Ten Thousand Villages are fairly traded from artisans in countries all over the world. What started as a little old lady selling Palestinian needlepoint from the trunk of her car and sending the money back to the needlewomen has turned into an organization that spans the globe and has 160 stores in North America.

Ten Thousand Villages concentrates on cultivating relationships with unemployed or underemployed artisans in developing nations.

According to its website, “Ten Thousand Villages operates as a business with a compassionate mission by maintaining integrity in our actions and relationships. We market quality products from diverse cultures around the world made by people that we know and care enough about to do business with in a manner that together we consider fair.”

By paying fifty percent up front for an order and the rest upon reception of the product, organizers help artisans provide for themselves through trading at a fair price, rather than having the money trickle down from the top as is done in many large corporations.

Run by the Mennonite Central Committee, an organization that concentrates on providing aid to impoverished countries, Ten Thousand Villages is one of the oldest fair trade organizations in existence. Along with hand-crafted goods, the store sells fairly traded coffee and chocolate—hot button products in the world of fair trade controversy.

Ten Thousand Villages is Philadelphia’s fairly traded treasure house. Its wares are the hard work of collaborators all around the world. So, the next time you need a bar of soap or birthday present and you’re feeling socially conscious, remember the little shop on Walnut Street and step into another world.

Ten Thousand Villages

1122 Walnut St.

Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 574-2008

You can contact Prasana William at community@campusphilly.org

January 24th, 2007 by Campus Philly

Center City Restaurant Week

It’s that time again, when Center City’s swankiest restaurants throw open their doors and let you, the broke college student, enjoy their exclusive edibles. From Jan. 28 to Feb. 2, over 100 restaurants offer three-course meals for only $30. The list of participating restaurants goes on and on, so to help you out I’ve picked my top five. See the whole list at www.centercityphila.org/resaurantweekand remember to make reservations.

Smith & Wollensky, Rittenhouse Hotel

When you’re feeling super carnivorous, Smith & Wollensky has the fix. Though they boast a unique and nationally renowned process of steak preparation, they also have a diverse seafood menu. The only danger with S&W is that you may never be able to enjoy your dad’s backyard barbeque again.

The Grill, The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia

When is the next time you’ll get to eat at the Ritz for thirty bucks? You have no excuse. It’s your chance to check out which big wigs are visiting Philadelphia and maybe be mistaken for one yourself. So put on your grandma’s pearls and dine under sparkling chandeliers like your blood is blue.

Zanzibar Blue, The Bellevue Building

This legendary jazz hot spot’s menu is as varied as the performers it hosts every night. With choices ranging from Asian to American classic, you can dine in true cool-cat style in this subterranean restaurant tucked beneath the Bellevue Building. While you’re there, take advantage of Zanzibar’s $10 at 10 program. Ten p.m. on Friday nights, students get in for only $10, but make reservations

January 24th, 2007 by Campus Philly

1 of 55,000

The extra-extra-large t-shirt they gave me for my extra-small frame made me think that I should have stayed in bed that morning instead of hauling out to West Philly for the Martin Luther King Day of Service. Still sleep-dazed, I shrugged the t-shirt over my sweatshirt, ignoring the bold green letters stamped across the front. This was not how I wanted to spend my last day of vacation, but, trained from a young age to be civic minded, I was there because I felt I had to be.

I was cranky, and with crankiness comes skepticism, so by the time LaVonne, our project leader, had finished her history lesson, I was ready to sneak off and find my way back to the trolley rather than stick around working on some busy-work project created to make our group of college students feel good about themselves.

We had until 2:30 p.m. to turn a defunct beauty shop into a space worthy of the 52nd Street Business Association offices. My reflection in the floor-to-ceiling mirrored wall just shook its head. Philadelphia is such a big city and our work here looked like just a drop in the bucket.

We swept floors still matted with hair from their beauty shop days. We ripped hooks and industrial staples from walls. We painted every inch of the silver spray painted walls. Moving to the distant beat of a neighbor’s radio and the booming staccato of LaVonne’s life story, I didn’t notice that 2:30 had rolled around. What had been a dirty dark space just two hours ago sparkled like new. We actually did it, but it was hard to remember the difference we had made inside as we stepped out on the street. The boarded-up windows and rusting bars looked the same as when we had arrived.

As we waited to board the trolley home, one disembarking woman paused on the steps, her eyes lighting at the sight of us. “Thank you,” she exclaimed, weaving through us, “Thank you so much for what you’re doing!” Even as we piled into the trolley, she stood on the sidewalk thanking us over and over.

I felt embarrassed. That woman had no idea that we had done hardly anything. Cold, I spread the rumpled t-shirt across my knees. The bold green print that sprawled before me took me by surprise.

“Everybody can be great,” it said, “because everybody can serve.” They were the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose day it was and I had completely forgotten. It had taken all day, but now our purpose made sense.

Even though our project was small and seemed inconsequential, every drop in the bucket makes a difference. It was the fact that I did serve that mattered, not the how or why. I was a part of something much bigger than my small contribution. 55,000 people were expected to take part in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and every individual made a difference.

You can contact Prasana William at community@campusphilly.org

January 24th, 2007 by Campus Philly

1 of 55,000—A voice from MLK Day

The extra-extra-large t-shirt they gave me for my extra-small frame made me think that I should have stayed in bed that morning instead of hauling out to West Philly for the Martin Luther King Day of Service. Still sleep-dazed, I shrugged the t-shirt over my sweatshirt, ignoring the bold green letters stamped across the front. This was not how I wanted to spend my last day of vacation, but, trained from a young age to be civic minded, I was there because I felt I had to be.

I was cranky, and with crankiness comes skepticism, so by the time LaVonne, our project leader, had finished her history lesson, I was ready to sneak off and find my way back to the trolley rather than stick around working on some busy-work project created to make our group of college students feel good about themselves.

We had until 2:30 p.m. to turn a defunct beauty shop into a space worthy of the 52nd Street Business Association offices. My reflection in the floor-to-ceiling mirrored wall just shook its head. Philadelphia is such a big city and our work here looked like just a drop in the bucket.

We swept floors still matted with hair from their beauty shop days. We ripped hooks and industrial staples from walls. We painted every inch of the silver spray painted walls. Moving to the distant beat of a neighbor’s radio and the booming staccato of LaVonne’s life story, I didn’t notice that 2:30 had rolled around. What had been a dirty dark space just two hours ago sparkled like new. We actually did it, but it was hard to remember the difference we had made inside as we stepped out on the street. The boarded-up windows and rusting bars looked the same as when we had arrived.

As we waited to board the trolley home, one disembarking woman paused on the steps, her eyes lighting at the sight of us. “Thank you,” she exclaimed, weaving through us, “Thank you so much for what you’re doing!” Even as we piled into the trolley, she stood on the sidewalk thanking us over and over.

I felt embarrassed. That woman had no idea that we had done hardly anything. Cold, I spread the rumpled t-shirt across my knees. The bold green print that sprawled before me took me by surprise.

“Everybody can be great,” it said, “because everybody can serve.” They were the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose day it was and I had completely forgotten. It had taken all day, but now our purpose made sense.

Even though our project was small and seemed inconsequential, every drop in the bucket makes a difference. It was the fact that I did serve that mattered, not the how or why. I was a part of something much bigger than my small contribution. 55,000 people were expected to take part in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and every individual made a difference.

You can contact Prasana William at community@campusphilly.org

January 10th, 2007 by Campus Philly

Casino Showdown: Philadelphia

Continuing my coverage of Pennsylvania casino news, this week I will examine the casinos coming to our very own city, Philadelphia. After months of deliberation, the big decision was finally made on Dec. 20. The two accepted bids for Philadelphia gambling licenses are from Foxwoods Casino, which will break ground on Columbus Blvd. in South Philadelphia; and SugarHouse Casino, which will build on the Delaware River waterfront in Northern Liberties.

Foxwood Development Company is owned and run by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Presently, the company runs several other casinos, including the largest casino in the world, located in Connecticut. The company’s plan for Philadelphia includes an initial construction of approximately 3,000 slot machines, and bar and restaurant venues. Eventually, it plans to add more slot machines, a major hotel and a shopping area.

Sugarhouse Casino, which will be owned and operated by HSP Gaming LP, has a similar plan for its model. A state-of-the-art casino floor will be erected with 3,000 slot machines, several bars and restaurants, an events center, and a parking garage. In the future, HSP Gaming plans to add a 500-room hotel tower, health spa, an additional bar and restaurant, and additional parking.

Citizen protests have continued, regardless of the decisions. The most notable and vocal protests are by religious communities, some of which view gambling as a sin. Because the casinos will be built near residential areas, some religious leaders fear that they will cause problems for those in their congregations struggling with poverty and addiction.

The casinos also have other problems in addition to the protesters. One of the major obstacles in planning the Philadelphia casinos project is, as it was for Pittsburgh, traffic. If you’ve ever driven a car or took a bus through the streets of Philadelphia, you know that you’re likely to run into a frustrating amount of traffic, no matter your route or destination. Coming into the city is problematic as well: I-95 gets backed up easily, and I-76 turns into a virtual parking lot around the city, no matter what time of the day you’re traveling.

Foxwoods’ location is along the newly developed riverfront, near many high-traffic drawing stores such as Ikea, Target, Home Depot, and SuperFresh. There is already quite a bit of daily traffic congestion in the area, and with the added draw of the casinos, traffic problems could worsen.

However, the city is aware of these problems, and is looking for solutions. Mayor Street, while not yet ready to offer any definite solutions, says that dealing with the traffic problems is “something we can do”. In addition, a new exit for I-95 has been approved for a location near SugarHouse’s casino.

The outlook is not completely negative for the casinos. Despite their problems, they hope to bring a lot of good to the city of Philadelphia.

One huge benefit is the creation of jobs. The casinos will create hundreds, if not thousands of new jobs, which are desperately needed. Michael Thomas, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the owner of Foxwoods, said his tribe intends to hire Philadelphians for ninety-five percent of the Foxwoods Casino workforce.

SugarHouse will also likely hire many Philadelphians to work in its casino, and there will be temporary jobs available during the building phases of these projects.

Additionally, the two casinos have promised to donate up to $33 million annually in charitable grants to help Philadelphia neighborhoods thrive. Many are speculating that crime rates will increase because of the casinos; the casinos silently recognize this, and are planning to help combat future problems by giving back to the city. The casinos themselves will benefit from a stable, welcoming environment surrounding them to help bring people into the area.

The casinos’ charitable donations show that they understand that they will have to work with the city and other businesses in order for their projects to be successful. This also gives the religious protesters something to consider

January 4th, 2007 by Campus Philly

Martin Luther King Day of Service

As Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, approaches on Jan.15, some Philadelphia area students may ask themselves, “How do I best honor his legacy?” The organizers of the 12th Annual Martin Luther King Day of Service hope to provide an answer. Stemming from an act of Congress signed into law by former President Clinton, the Greater Philadelphia’s Martin Luther King Day of Service is the nation’s first and largest King Day of Service.

This year, an expected record 55,000 volunteers will take part in 600 service projects. Both are lofty numbers compared with the 1,000 volunteers and 30 projects of the first Day of Service in 1996.

The Global Citizens Network and the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania organize a Day of Service headquarters to provide technical support, assistance, and tracking of all projects in the region. When they are not matching willing volunteers with available opportunities, they ensure that every participant receives a free King Day T-shirt.

This year’s projects include everything from collecting books and preparing meals for Philadelphia’s needy, to training reading coaches and rehabilitating the city’s schools, churches, and recreation centers.

At Martin Luther King High School in Germantown, volunteers will participate in this year’s signature project: the assembly of 2,000 emergency kits filled with useful items such as batteries, radios, blankets, and bottled water.

Later in the day, the kits will be distributed to underserved populations throughout the city and region.

As the twelfth year of the Day of Service draws near, the organizers have found that in the past, many who sign up for one day of volunteering often become involved in ongoing community service. So, while the King Day of Service provides an opportunity to get involved on a day off from school, the effort also promotes the tenets of active citizenship year-round.

In fact, that may be the best way to honor Dr. King’s legacy.

To get more information about the Day of Service or to join a project, please visit www.mlkdayofservice.org.

You can contact Bob Jobin at bob@campusphilly.org