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EXPLORATIONS - Four People Who Are Making a Difference in the Nation's Capital

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VOICE ONE:

I'm Bob Doughty.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about four more individuals who are making a difference in the city of Washington, D.C.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Psychologist Satira Streeter organized a Girl Scouts group in the Anacostia community
Psychologist Satira Streeter organized a Girl Scouts group in the Anacostia community

The neighborhood of Anacostia is one of the poorest and most dangerous in Washington. Anacostia has a high rate of crime. Many young people do not complete their high school education. And many girls become pregnant while still in school.

A young woman who is a psychologist is helping teenage girls in the neighborhood. Two years ago, Satira Streeter started the first group of Girl Scouts in Anacostia.

The Girl Scouts is a national organization of young women and girls. It was founded in the United States almost one hundred years ago. Its goal is to help girls develop leadership skills through many kinds of projects. The Girl Scouts has about three million members, plus more than nine hundred thousand adult volunteers.

VOICE TWO:

Satira Streeter is having fun with a group of girls after school. They are working together on homework for the first time as Girl Scout members.

Miz Streeter wants to help these girls to be successful in school and avoid early pregnancy. Miz Streeter is a trained psychologist and executive director of Ascensions Community Services. She started the center in an area of Washington where no one else offered mental health treatment.

VOICE ONE:

Ascensions Community Services provides many services to people who have emotional, behavioral or mental disorders. The center offers services to people in need, without requiring payment. Miz Streeter and other therapists help people face problems and improve their relationships with others. They also offer classes on how to be a good parent. In her first three years, Miz Streeter worked without pay. Then a local group provided money to pay for her work.

VOICE TWO:

Satira Streeter says she grew up in a community like Anacostia. She did not know her father and lived with a mother who had mental problems. Her mother became dependent on drugs and could not take care of her. So Miz Streeter began living with other families when she was eleven years old.

She says other people helped her deal with her problems. So she believed it was time for her to help others. She says her goal in life is, in her words, to be a healer and a helper to the people of her community.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

People around the world have protested the killings of people in the Darfur area of Sudan. But a group of students at George Washington University in Washington wanted to do more. They formed a group called Banaa, which is a Sudanese Arabic word that means "to build."

Banaa is the Sudan Educational Empowerment Network. It is working to build lasting peace by educating a new generation of Sudanese leaders. Its goal is to get colleges to provide Sudanese students with scholarships – money to attend college in the United States.

The group persuaded George Washington University to provide money for a four-year scholarship. After completing their studies, Sudanese students are expected to return home with the skills necessary to help deal with the complex causes of conflict in the country.

VOICE TWO:

Justin Zorn, left, and Makwei Deng work on a Banaa project
Justin Zorn, left, and Makwei Deng work on a Banaa project

Banaa's first student is a Sudanese refugee, Makwei Deng. For him, coming to America to attend George Washington University was the chance of a lifetime.

Mister Deng had spent sixteen years living at a refugee camp in Kenya after his village was destroyed. He says his school work is harder than he expected. He prepares for classes until very early in the morning.

Mister Deng says he will return to Sudan after finishing his studies. He plans to work to improve the legal system so that competing groups can settle their differences in court instead of the battlefield.

VOICE ONE:

George Washington University student activists like Justin Zorn started Banaa and brought Mister Deng to the United States. Mister Zorn says he believes he has a duty as an American citizen and as a citizen of the world to take action against genocide. He says members of Banaa want to bring about long-lasting change in Sudan.

Banaa groups have now formed at more than thirty other universities. In the next few years, the group hopes to empower hundreds of Sudanese who will help bring peace to their country.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Hunger affects more than thirty-six million people in the United States. The Department of Agriculture says that is up by more than forty percent since the year two thousand. Many hungry Americans also are homeless. Over the past year, groups that care for homeless people have seen an increase in the number of people in need because of the nation's economic crisis.

VOICE ONE:

Steve Badt operates a popular restaurant for the homeless
Steve Badt operates a popular restaurant for the homeless

Steve Badt operates Miriam's Kitchen, an aid group that feeds homeless people in Washington, D.C. He starts work early in the morning. While most people are still asleep, he and his helpers prepare a meal every weekday for more than two hundred people.

Until seven years ago, Mister Badt worked as a chef in fine restaurants in Washington and New York City. Then, he finished a study program in non-profit management because he wanted to do something different with his life.

VOICE TWO:

Miriam's Kitchen is operates in Western Presbyterian Church, not far from the White House. It has served nutritious, hot breakfasts to homeless people for more than twenty-five years.

More than one thousand people volunteer to work at Miriam's Kitchen every year. Many local groups also volunteer there. They include people from religious organizations, businesses, non-profit organizations, high schools, universities and government agencies.

Steve Badt explains the morning's activity in the kitchen. Some volunteer cooks are making scrambled eggs. Others are baking biscuits. Another volunteer is cooking meat. Still others are making home fried potatoes. And others are making fruit salad. The goal is to have everything ready to serve a hot meal at seven in the morning.

Mister Badt says he wanted to change the way a traditional soup kitchen operates. He wanted to operate it like a busy, successful restaurant where everyone wants to do the best job possible.

VOICE ONE:

In addition to a hot breakfast, homeless men and women can get many social services at Miriam's Kitchen. These include mental health and medical services. Homeless persons can also get help finding a job and a place to live. And they can take part in art, poetry, creative writing classes and book discussion groups. But it is for Steve Badt's hot breakfast that they stand in line.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

In cities like Washington, many poor students are not able to attend college. Also, Washington has one of the lowest rates of students graduating from high school. Susie Kay started the Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund, which helps poor student to go to college. "Hoop Dreams" is the name of a nineteen ninety-four movie. It was the true story about two high school basketball players from a poor area of Chicago, Illinois, and the problems they faced in college.

VOICE ONE:

Hoop Dreams founder and president Susie Kay
Hoop Dreams founder and president Susie Kay

Susie Kay was a teacher at a mostly African-American high school in Washington when she launched Hoop Dreams in nineteen ninety-six. She says she was troubled by the many barriers her students faced in going to college. Her group holds many events like basketball games to raise money. The money comes mostly from businesses and organizations that support good causes.

The non-profit group has helped send almost one thousand poor high school students to college. It provides scholarships and job training. And, it provides older, trusted, more experienced adults to offer helpful guidance to the students. These adults are called mentors.

VOICE TWO:

LaQuintha Carroll is one of many Hoop Dreams graduates who have returned to the program to work as a mentor. She says high school students respect her because they know she was able to attend college because of Hoop Dreams. She says she wants the students to know that even when facing hard times, they can succeed.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

This program was written by VOA correspondents and adapted by Shelley Gollust. Our producer was Caty Weaver. I'm Bob Doughty.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Barbara Klein. You can find other stories about people who are making a difference on our Web site, www.unsv.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

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