Project Shine

Philadelphia is a diverse city, with immigrants coming to settle here from Chile to China to every place in between. However, sometimes these immigrants need a little extra help acclimating themselves to their new home. That’s where Project SHINEcomes in.

Project SHINE (Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders) is a volunteer program that pairs elderly immigrants up with college students, who tutor them in English, educate them about health care issues, help them integrate into the workforce, and generally give them the skills to adjust to life in the United States. Project SHINE began in Philadelphia through Temple University’s Intergenerational Centerin 1985, though it has now expanded to cities and colleges all over the country.

Immigrants living in Philadelphia come from a diverse range of countries and cultures, which is reflected in the large variety of community partner sites volunteers can choose to work at, each geared towards a specific immigrant community. These range from the Jaisohn Center, which primarily serves Korean immigrants, to the Golden Slipper Senior Center, which has mostly Russian immigrants.

While Project SHINE obviously provides invaluable services to immigrants, volunteers also find the experience extremely rewarding. Dhruti Patel, a Temple University student and Project SHINE volunteer at the Norris Squaresite, says that SHINE provides an excellent opportunity to serve the community and become immersed in another culture. Students can build strong relationships with the elders they teach and there is a lot they can learn about the immigrant and refugee lives.

She goes on to say that she has found personal satisfaction from Project SHINE, explaining that thanks to SHINE, I’ve been able to cultivate my interest in immigrant rights, learn more about different Hispanic cultures, and improve my Spanish…I’ve helped some elders study for their citizenship tests, and I’ve helped others communicate better with their doctors so they can receive proper treatment. One of my students told me that she was finally able to understand her grandson, who only spoke English, and she was thankful for SHINE volunteers. Seeing these things pan out, and hearing my elders appreciate the work I do, is very rewarding.

Project SHINE recently won an E Pluribus Unumprize from the Migration Policy Institute, recognizing the organization’s success in integrating immigrants into their new communities. While this national recognition is a great honor, it doesn’t mean that Project SHINE’s work is done. In fact, the organization is actively searching for new volunteers to continue its tradition of excellence.

Currently, Project SHINE is recruiting AmeriCorps members. This position, which lasts from September 2011 to May 2012, involves a 9-10 hour a week commitment plus monthly training. In return, you’ll get a $1,500 stipend and an $1,132 educational award, as well as the intangible benefit of knowing you made a difference in your community. In addition, there are semester long ESL tutoring programs and a work force program. Interested in volunteering? You can contact volunteer@templecil.orgto apply.

You can contact Jordyn Kimelheim at


Fourth of July Fun

What are you doing for the 4th of July? That’s the question on everyone’s lips lately, and the answers are just as common: barbecuing, going to the beach, sitting on the patio with some friends and a couple of Cokes. But you don’t need to restrict yourself to your backyard when your backyard is the birthplace of our nation: this year, make it out to Philly to celebrate our Founding Fathers’ stroke of genius. After all, where better to celebrate Independence Day than the place where it all began?

The celebration has been going on since the 24th, but the good stuff’s just getting started: free movies, block parties, ice cream festivals, and fireworks are just a handful of the activities the city’s organized for us. Confused about where to go with so many choices? Read on for our picks on what to do on the days leading up to Independence Day!

Sure, you’ve probably sprinted up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art countless times as a tribute to Rocky – or at least rolled your eyes at the hoards of tourists who do. But on Wednesday, June 29th at 9pm, swallow your pride and head down to the infamous steps one more time to watch a screening of the film, sponsored by the city of Philadelphia. You really can’t get any better than watching the Philadelphia favorite on location. Bring a blanket and friends!

Just because it’s not Chinese Independence Day doesn’t mean Chinatown’s sitting out the festivities. On July 2nd, around 10th and Race St., the neighborhood responsible for supplying us with fortune cookies (read: a godsend) will host its annual independence Block Party from noon to 4pm to showcase Philly’s vibrant Asian culture, complete with an open-air market, food and live entertainment. Stroll by to sample delicious Chinese food, make a paper dragon or two, and watch martial arts and dancing demonstrations. As a plus, hilarious chef Joseph Poon will make his famous watermelon carvings, and to be honest, you would be a total fool to miss it.

For less than the price of two pints of Ben and Jerry’s, drop by Penn’s Landing on July 2nd through the 4th, for the Super Scooper All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream Festival and eat all the ice cream you want (for a good cause!). If there ever was a time to stop counting calories, it’s this one: all proceeds benefit the Joshua Kahan Fundfor pediatric leukemia research. The madness begins at noon and lasts until 5, then on July 2nd, grab a quick dinner and come back at 6:00pm for the first of three fireworks displays over the Delaware River.

If you’re still hungry, drop by the Independence Visitor Center on July 4th and sample delicious Kofee Kakes and other treats whose names should be spelled with a C from hometown national treasure Tastykake to celebrate America’s birthday at noon! But, back up a bit – did you just read that right? It’s the fourth already? You don’t have time to eat Tastykake! Not when you’ve got the Party on the Parkway going on! Rush on over to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for seven blocks of games, entertainment, and… yes, food. Then, at 7pm, get your music groove on for Philly’s 4th of July Jam, the country’s largest outdoor free music festival, with performances by Estelle, Sara Bareilles, The Roots, and other flawless musical talent on stages around the Parkway. This amazing night culminates with a final fireworks (phireworks?) display, proving once again that, just like 235 years ago, Philly has always had something special prepared on the 4th of July.

You can contact Magali Roman at


Outside Itch: Free Movies

Like many colleges students who are strapped for cash, I often look for the cheapest thing to do on the weekends. One of my newfound favorite things to do is to enjoy a free movie outside. Many venues across the city offer free movie screenings. Besides being free, the screenings are a great time to hangout with your friends. You can even make a day out of it, explore the city and at dusk head to the nearest outdoor venue to catch a free movie.

One place to start is at the TD Bank Theaterin Bensalem. Every Tuesday throughout the summer, family friendly movies will be shown outside. Movies being shown include Nanny McPhee, Megamind and Toy Story 3. While these choices might seem a little juvenile, they bring out the kid in you. Also it means it will be a chill crowd. There is no seating, so bring a blanket or a lawn chair. And some food isn’t a bad idea either!

All the movies start around dusk, which is about 8:20pm. And, Bensalem is pretty easy to get to. You can take bus 3 to Franklin Transportation Center, and then transfer to bus 20 towards Franklin Mills Mall. Last transfer is onto bus 129, and then you’ll be in town! However, this is time consuming, so it is best to get to Bensalem by car. All you have to do I hop onto I-95.

Another option for outdoor movie viewing that is within city limits is the Schuylkill River Banks, by the Walnut Street Bridge. Again, this venue is free and if you get there early enough food and games are offered before the cinematic event. Every other Thursday at dusk, movies like Spiderman, Iron and The Rocketeer will be screened. Again, no seating is provided so bringing a blanket or chair is recommended. You can also bring a picnic dinner and make it a date night or just a fun night out with friends. The Banks are easy to access, just take the subway to Walnut Street and go right, heading towards University City.

Penn’s Landingis also showing movies beginning every Thursday beginning July 2nd at dusk. Called “Screenings Under the Stars,” The Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing will be bringing feature films to you. Some will be family friendly; others will satisfy the drama bug in you. Be sure to check out the events calendar to see the latest listing.

You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to be able to enjoy a movie this summer. Save your $20 and take the subway down to the banks of the Schuylkill and Penn’s Landing or drive on up to Bensalem to experience the latest box office hits for yourself. Just remember to pack a blanket, some snacks, and bug spray!


The Edgy Side of Knitting

If I told you that knitting could be edgy and counter-cultural and vaguely illegal, you’d probably be surprised. Knitting? Isn’t that what grandma did when she was alone on long winter evenings during the war? It’s true that knitting has a rather matronly reputation. However, a new breed of knitters are taking their chosen craft to the streets through the unique art of yarn bombing.

Yarn bombing is, in essence, knitted graffiti. Knitters create sweaters, cozies, and other items to wrap around public structures such as statues, poles and bike racks. The phenomenon is believed to have started in 2005 in Texas, when Magda Sayeg knitted a cover for the door handle of her boutique. From those humble beginnings the practice has spread rapidly, brightening up dull cityscapes all over the world.

Philadelphia in particular is a hot bed of yarn bombing activity. Everything from trees in Rittenhouse Square to seats on the Market-Frankford line have been covered in soft, colorful yarn. Recently, yarn bomber Jessie Hemmons, a.k.a ”ishknits”, made headlines when she knitted a pink sweateremblazoned with the phrase “Go See the Art” for the Rocky statue by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This exemplifies the mission of yarn bombing: to bring beauty to the masses who may miss out on it in their hectic urban lives.

College kids are getting in on the action as well. Members of Temple University’s Knitting Club, besides from more prosaic activities such as knitting hats to donate to hospitals, has engaged in a few yarn bombing projects of their own. Erica Dewispelaere, president of the Temple Knitting Club, says that yarn bombing, offers a way to not only bring some color and spark to campus, but to remind students of our school’s history and founder as well as the many student groups that bring life to campus everyday.

So far, the Temple Knitting Club have placed knitted garlands of flowers around a bust of Russel Conwell, the University’s founder, and a statue of an owl, the University’s mascot. Dewispelaere promises more Hoot-tastic yarn bombing projects in the future, so eagle-eyed (or owl-eyed) pedestrians should watch for more of these vibrant displays.

Want to become a yarn bomber? There are several ways to get involved. One is to see if your school, like Temple, has a knitting club. In addition, there are many yarn bombing communities on the web that allow you to see other’s yarn-bombing work and connect with other practitioners, such as the aptly named Yarn Bombing and Magda Sayeg’s Knitta Pleaseblog.

Of course, you could always go rogue, knitting your creations in solitude, ready to wow the public with your scarf for the Liberty Bell. But isn’t it more fun when you knit with friends?

You can contact Jordyn Kimelheim at


Scandinavian Indie: Sondre Lerche

Scandinavian indie more or less falls into two different schools. There’s the meticulously composed tween pop exemplified by artists like Jens Lekman and the Acid House Kings, and there’s the noise and fuzzy guitars embraced by bands such as the Raveonettes and the Radio Department. Singer-songwriter Sondre Lerchebelongs somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Though Sondre Lerche may hail from Norway, his music is perfect listening for a summer’s day, whether you’re lounging on the grass at Rittenhouse Sqaure or stuck on SEPTA wishing you were lounging on the grass at Rittenhouse Sqaure. His music ranges from 60’s style chamber pop to jazz to spiky bursts of punk energy, and regardless of his inspiration of the moment, is always melodic and catchy.

On Friday, June 3, Lerche brought some of his versatile sound to Philadelphia when he performed at World Cafe Live to promote his new album (called, appropriately enough, Sondre Lerche). Sondre Lerche the album, not to be confused with Sondre Lerche the man, was released on June 7th, and as someone who scored an early copy of it (thanks, merch table!), I can highly recommend it.

The show opened first with a soulful performances from Kishi Bas, a.k.a Kaoru Ishibashi, who also served as Lerche’s back-up violinist. Then Philadelphia’s own Nightlands, fronted by Dave Hartley of the War on Drugs (among other projects) took the stage. With their dreamy sound, gorgeous harmonies and vaguely spiritual lyrics (representative sample: she prayed for rain/he prayed for gold/sometimes a mask’s alive like a true face/he prayed for stone), they reminded me of a shoegaze version of Fleetwood Mac, if Fleetwood Mac happened to have joined a cult. This turned out to be a surprisingly accurate comparison, because the band put their beautiful multi-part vocals in service of a fantastic cover of Lindsay Buckingham’s Trouble.

While Nightlands put the audience into something of a dream state, Lerche immediately brought things back down to Earth as he opened up with the bittersweet Ricochet, off his new album.

The charming Lerche jokingly apologized for forcing new songs on the audience, but their quality and craftsmanship made them practically indistinguishable from the older hits. When he did perform older material, Lerche frequently changed things up from the recorded versions, as exemplified by his muscular take on Two Way Monologue.

Though Lerche mostly performed with backing musicians, he stripped down his tunes during the encore, performing a solo version of the delicate, hushed Modern Nature, complete with supporting vocals from the audience. It was a fine ending for a delightful show, proving that Lerche’s songcraft stands up both to big band and intimate solo renditions.

You can contact Jordyn Kimelheim at


Puppet Uprising Presents Cleopatra

From June 7th to 12th, crowds about 100 deep gathered under the Market-Frankford Girard subway station wearing red carnations on their lapels, behind their ears, and even weaved into their hair. To onlookers this might have seemed like a meeting of the Philadelphia Flower Society, but in-the-know theater enthusiasts knew better: it was time for another Puppet Uprising Secret Shakespeare show.

Puppet Uprisinghas been holding secret Shakespeare shows for the better part of two years, and been an active member of the underground puppet scene for over a decade. What started as a bi-monthly marionette cabaret held in showcasing local and touring puppeteers soon fledged into a full-blown organization that brings both local and international theater troupes to various Philly stages and averages around ten performances a year. Secret Shakespeare performances are a special treat – patrons are notified of a meeting place and a symbol to mark you as a patron (in this case, a red carnation). After a crowd has gathered, they are escorted by a guide to the secret theater where they are served refreshments and various desserts as they watch five different theater troupes perform five acts. To make the show interactive, each act is performed in a different room of the secret theater – audience members make their way through five rooms, all set up with their own makeshift scenery and humbly-costumed thespians, while munching on vegan treats from local bakeries provided by the company. It is certainly unlike anything you’ll ever see on the Avenue of the Arts.

Perhaps inspired by the recent uprising in Egypt or as a tribute to the late Elizabeth Taylor, the show selected for this year’s Secret Shakespeare was Antony and Cleopatra: Shakespeare’s tragic tale about a set of doomed celebrity lovers caught in the middle of a political intrigue the likes of which the Roman empire has never seen before. Those hoping to be swayed by Shakespeare’s classic vernacular are sure to be disappointed, however: each troupe has complete creative freedom over their act, which includes deriving from the original text and even changing the sequence of events. Basically, Shakespeare’s words are employed as a rough draft that these players freely draw upon through improvisation, musical numbers, and slapstick comedy. There is dancing, DJing, dramatic monologuing, slow-motion fight sequences, and even a small-scale operatic quartet (an audience favorite included a gender-reversal scene staring Mark Antony and Cleopatra exchanging a witty comedic dialogue that would have made Tyler Perry proud).

This kind of free-for-all ramshackling through a classic masterpiece may prove too quirky (or, let’s be honest, too weird) to faithful Shakespeare enthusiasts, but to the rest of us mortals who have had to sit through a three-hour-long performance of Ye Olde English before, this quirkiness comes as an entertaining breath of fresh air. Audience members are encouraged to join in the fun, and many can be persuaded to shout responses to the monologues, or clap at appropriate times. Ultimately, it plays on a delightfully interesting theater technique: casting the audience as not just a spectator, but an active element of the performance.

Although the tragic suicides of Mark Antony and ultimately Cleopatra are tinged with sadness, the production manages to say something uplifting, even comedic, about the conclusion of this Shakespeare classic. The ending moral of the kooky but completely charming finale is simple: Don’t kill yourself, don’t kill yourself: suicide, it’s bad for your health. Sound advice; Shakespeare himself couldn’t have put it better.

In fact, he already has.