Greenheart held a National Essay Contest for all CCI exchange students and their high school classmates this year.  Students were asked to research and write about an activist or service organization related to environmental issues, social justice, or any group that makes a positive impact in the world. Then the students were asked to briefly describe the organization’s  history, achievements, why they respect the group, and share what they can do to carry the group’s mission onward. The winning essay receives a $500 grant to do a  Greenheart project at their high school. We received an overwhelming amount of wonderful essays, from inspiring youth across the country. It was a difficult choice but finally after carefully reviewing them all, a winner was chosen.

Ana Indoitu of Estacada High School in Estacada, Oregon won with her compelling essay about the Oregon environmental organization SOLV. Ana is a CCI and FLEX exchange student  from Moldova. She is also a leading member of the Greenheart Club with nearly 300 volunteer hours of community service logged for this school year!

Read her essay below.

Let’s Build a Tomorrow!
By Ana Indoitu

The world is us! No matter our color, size or language we all have the same house – the Universe. We`ve lived in it for so long that we forgot to notice its perfection anymore. We left our homes, like rebellious children with no appreciation towards their home, and we’ve constantly ignored it since then. I don`t know when this happened, but it`s noticeably still going on, with the same attitude and ignorance. It`s not too late! We all can come back and find our peace and recognizance to the one who gave us life, and fulfilled our needs, the most welcoming home existing –our nature. To me SOLV is the organization who helps and leads us to find our home.

SOLV is a non-profit organization from Oregon that brings together government agencies and the business community in projects that enhance the livability of this state. Since it was founded in 1969(this is one of the oldest conservation organizations in Oregon), SOLV has worked to clean up litter in Oregon. To better reflect the changes of their goals over the years, SOLV dropped the words “Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism” from its name in 1998 and now just uses the acronym SOLV.

Over 50,000 people participate in SOLV projects each year. SOLV has grown substantially since its founding, and its leaders have taken it in new directions. At this moment, 80 % of SOLV`s budget comes from private donations. SOLV has started new programs to clean up illegal dumpsites, bus stops, and watersheds. It also coordinates a state-wide adopt-a-river campaign and has a program to foster youth leadership. From occasional cleanup activities SOLV`s programs expanded to regional events and ongoing programs that reach 250 Oregon communities each year and, over 75,000 volunteers just for the planned events of this year.

Through SOLV, individuals and groups from different backgrounds and different regions can unite to accomplish tangible results, and enjoy the camaraderie and satisfaction that comes from volunteering. Through its volunteers and contributors, SOLV cleans Oregon`s beaches, restores wetlands, streams and rivers. Besides that, to create a sensitive community, SOLV educates youth in K-12 about volunteerism, engaging them in hands-on projects to become future leaders. As well, this organization trains volunteers to lead projects in their own communities. I was involved in one of their trainings during my stay here. I joined their initiative after I participated in some of their programs which I enjoyed so much.

In 1999 this organization had a record 7,200 volunteers turn out for the Great Oregon Spring Beach Cleanup and removed over 42 tons of debris from the coast. Since then, it has progressed even more. Because of their success, in May 2010, Oregon Business Magazine named SOLV one of their Top 100 Best Green Companies to Work For in Oregon and Washington County gave the group their Recycle at Work award. “These awards demonstrate not only that SOLV is committed to improving Oregon’s environment using volunteer opportunities but that we also seek to minimize the natural resources it takes to deliver our programs,” said Brett Lyon, SOLV’s Outreach Coordinator and Sustainability Team member.

I consider this organization very well organized, beginning with its donators and ending with its volunteers. Progressing so much from the level it was created till now makes me appreciate its positive growth. I participated in their activities with such a big pleasure, meeting new people and at the same time working for and together with the community. I went ahead and received their training, because I found so many possibilities of change in my host community. And it`s so easy, because they are providing the necessary tools, trees and transport for the project which has to take place. Being already a trained volunteer from their team, I was asked to be present for leading an event, greeting everyone and assuring their safety and comfort of work. Of course, before this was a possibility, I was very well instructed, and I assisted at their demonstrations, where I learned and practiced very useful skills. I already have the knowledge of the type of plants and ways they have to be planted depending on the environment. If I come up with an idea, I can write a project to obtain support, and they will take care of the mass-media and promotion of the project. I find it so great! I already have one project in my portfolio, organized in my school this month. I love SOLV! Working together with them helps to make a difference in the Oregon community as general. And I want to help, to volunteer, because this state hosts me, and I`m so thankful for that. I want to improve it, to make it a better home for everyone. I want to plant trees with my friends, to clean the river from my town, to involve students in trainings, to make a difference. And SOLV works for this, they look for ideas, for vulnerable points of the environment in each community and gives possibilities to rebuild, to plant, to change!

For me, being in Oregon as an exchange student proved that even if I come from another side of the world it can be like home. The nature is our graceful warm-hearted house, where we all live as a family. In order to hurt it, we better take care of it, step by step, one individual by one, to build it tall and beautiful for a day of tomorrow- our future! SOLV is the day of today, where we all work as a big family for a clean, safe and happy future of Oregon.