Do you want the opportunity to have a meaningful impact on foster youth and orphans in your community and worldwide while honing your leadership skills and meeting new people? With the 2021-2022 school year approaching, Paper Bridges is accepting chapter applications for hard-working students around the world to do just that.
I started my school’s Paper Bridges chapter at CESJDS in 2020. Starting a chapter has been such a meaningful opportunity to help make a difference in my community. I know it may seem daunting at first, but anyone can start a chapter regardless of experience; it is about how much work you are willing to put into it. Paper Bridges has been a teaching experience, a fulfilling extracurricular and has allowed me to meet people I never would have imagined meeting.
What Are Paper Bridges Chapters?
Paper Bridges chapters are groups of high school or university students who are passionate about cultivating change to benefit the lives of orphans, foster children and other vulnerable youth globally. To accomplish this, each chapter works with an orphanage, foster agency or organization in their local communities to implement projects.
Who Can Start A Chapter?
To create a Paper Bridges chapter, the chapter must be associated with a high school or university with an adult sponsor for high school chapters. Chapters will successfully complete at least two projects a year to assist foster care centers or orphanages, in addition to supporting and fundraising for Paper Bridges’ national projects. While chapters can be registered at any time, there is monthly onboarding for chapters to connect with other chapters in their state and their state president. To learn more about the requirements for starting a Paper Bridges chapter, check out our website. Chapter Director Kyra Chassaing encourages prospective chapter leadership to email her with any questions regarding eligibility or running a chapter.
What Resources Are There For Starting Chapters?
There are many resources for starting chapters. In addition to reaching out to Chassaing or another executive team member with questions, the chapter starter kit includes chapters’ responsibilities, leadership structure, set-up instructions and potential project ideas. Also, when chapters are onboarded, chapters get acquainted with how chapters run and can reach out to other chapters or their state president with any questions.
Why Should I Start A Chapter?
Chassaing encourages people to create a Paper Bridges chapter at their school because it provides a unique and special experience. “Having a Paper Bridges chapter opens new opportunities to create projects, it opens opportunities to meet new people and to see new things that you might not see without creating a Paper Bridges chapter,” Chassaing said. “Making a Paper Bridges chapter allows you to have a really positive impact on other people and on your community.”
By starting a chapter, you not only get to give back to your community, but your efforts can make a global impact. One of my favorite projects our chapter accomplished was a pen pal program with the Kids of Africa orphanage in Uganda. Each chapter member was assigned a pen pal from the orphanage, and throughout the year we exchanged letters. We also organized a meeting with Kids of Africa via Zoom, where we all introduced ourselves and did many activities, including charades and would you rather. Sending pen pals and talking to the orphans made our partnership with the Kids of Africa both memorable and personable.
Chapters can also host fundraising events to raise money for their school’s chapter or for Paper Bridges’ initiatives throughout the year. We have seen many creative ideas from chapters from hosting fundraisers at restaurants to organizing raffles.
In addition to making a difference in my community and worldwide, starting a chapter allows you to develop your leadership skills. Coming into starting a new chapter, I wanted to try out my leadership skills in starting and managing a chapter and our team. For me, I grew confident in my ability to lead and problem solve by organizing biweekly meetings, working to complete projects and listening to chapter members’ input.
Chapters have lots of flexibility with what projects they can accomplish, and we love to see what new ideas our chapters come up with! With that being said, some project ideas include letter writing, organizing donation drives and hosting fundraising events. Some of the projects my chapter has achieved include sending letters to orphanages worldwide, sending thank you cards to foster care staff, making bracelets to donate to local foster care centers and fostering a long-term partnership with Kids of Africa.
Through our chapter programming, I have had opportunities to meet new people and learn about local businesses through partnerships. Through reaching out to other chapters and executive team members, I have learned more about how a nonprofit organization runs and heard many creative project ideas. Our chapter partnered with chapters at Poolesville High School, Walter Johnson High School, Montgomery Blair High School and Wootton High School to write thank you cards for our foster care staff for Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week. Not only did I get to collaborate with other chapters, but I also got to partner with local foster care centers to send our cards.
Through starting a Paper Bridges chapter, I have gained skills that I will use for the rest of my life. Paper Bridges has given me the tool to support vulnerable children around the world, gain leadership skills and meet new people in my community in a fun, supportive environment. I highly encourage you to create a Paper Bridges chapter because even though it may seem overwhelming, it is an amazing opportunity, and we are always willing to answer your questions or share ideas. You can reach out to me if you ever want to hear more about my wonderful experience with starting a Paper Bridges chapter!