Sunny Surroundings

Days at UC Davis

I’m writing surrounded by the swaying trees at UC Davis that I can see from my bedroom window.  The sun is peeking through their branches, giving my bed that dusty glow. It’s peaceful, quiet. Perfect. What a beautiful little secret haven of California. I’ve been here for over a week now and I’ve fallen in love with this little town. The modern yet personal eateries, the children watching outdoor movies at the park—and yes, the desserts. How can you not be happy here?

IMG_1892I’ve been visiting the women of the Omicron Kappa Chapter of Chi Omega for Recruitment. The girls are very sweet and it’s nice how we share a mutual love for California and the UC system. I’ll be here for a few more days and then I’m off to Connecticut—which I am equally excited about. I’ll finally get to see what fall looks like since changing leaves aren’t really a thing in California.

I always like learning from the women I meet. These girls have taught me the value of self-worth. They trust in who they are and they shine because of it. Being different and unique is not something to shy away from, it is something to embrace! I love that.

IMG_1915We toured the Make-A-Wish office earlier this week, which is Chi Omega’s national philanthropy partner. It was incredibly touching and I’m thankful that such an incredible organization exists to bring happiness to children and parents who are experiencing an extremely difficult situation. We learned that not only do these wishes improve a child’s state of mind, it actually helps with the physical treatment as well.

As much as it saddens me that I haven’t found as much time to write recently, I feel incredibly thankful to have this opportunity to travel the country as a National Consultant for Chi Omega. I am meeting collegiate women who inspire me every day and it is my hope that I can bring a positive change to their lives as well. So as the sun is setting now and the twinkle lights about town are starting to turn on, I’ll bid adieu. Think happy thoughts, friends.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

KONY: Finding the Facts First

But do we all agree?

Edmund Burke famously said, “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” An exemplary quote to live by but I think it needs a little adjustment: “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for well-informed good men (and women!) to do nothing.” Even good intentions can be misappropriated if they are not backed by education. As is evidenced by the Kony 2012 phenomenon, propaganda should not come before research, and action should not come before investigation.

By now you’ve probably seen the Kony video. If not, I think it’s time. Even if you don’t agree with it, it’s only fair that you become aware of their argument if you’re going to oppose it in the first place. I took the time to watch the 29 minute video earlier this week and yes, I was moved by it—for about the first 15 minutes or so. I’ll be frank; I was ill informed about the tragedy in Uganda before tuning in to the now famous YouTube globe icon. I was aware of the situation but not to the extent that I should have been. And no thanks to this video produced by Invisible Children, I was only slightly more educated about KONY and the LRA; instead I was very well educated about the “campaign” to make KONY famous—of which doesn’t have my vote—at least not yet.

Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely happy to see our nation aroused by more than celeb fanfare and surface gossip. It has been inspiring to watch our country use social media in a new way—to spread a political message (albeit rather convoluted) rather than another weekly “Who Wore It Better?” buzz feed. More than 70 million views in one week—all in hopes of learning who this “Kony” persona is—even though it’s sad that many of us (myself included) had never heard the name until now. And while I love how our country is caring about this cause—I don’t want our cares to be misguided—by a temporary trend. As much as I sincerely hope it won’t be a trend. As in, I’m writing this on March 11th and I hope that by April 20th this will still be a very relevant and on-point article.

Maybe it's not as simple as it seems.

If we truly care about this cause, to save these children, then we need to properly educate ourselves before we sign ourselves to this Kony takedown. We need to find resources from more than this initial source that sparked the debate—we need to balance our facts so that our opinions are aligned with our education. If we believe blindly, then we are offering ourselves to be blindly fooled. I too was quickly convinced at first when I watched the Kony video—I thought to myself, of course, we must take Kony down immediately! But is it really that simple? Heavens no. In fact, when the very country we are attempting to aid has a backlash to the video, I think it may be a bit of a sign that the video was a little skim on the history and a little heavy on the hammed up mission to destroy one man. Uganda’s struggles are more than symbolic though—they are situational and taking Kony down is a step, but it’s not the entire solution.

No matter where you stand on the issue, inform yourself. Go to sites other than Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (where you were probably directed to the Kony video in the first place) and let it lead you to other resources, like the New York Times, CNN, and the Huffington Post. Find the facts before you invest in your opinion. I’m still finding my facts before I come to a conclusion on the Kony campaign—not that your decisions have to be resolute as you acquire more knowledge. Keep your mind open to ideas other than the original one presented.

I hope you’ll join me in taking a heightened awareness not only this week but throughout your academic and professional career to always find the facts. We may not always have videos like Kony to remind us to look for both sides of an argument before succumbing to the common consensus. I hope this video, no matter how you feel about it, has been a reminder to you, as it has been to me, that we can’t stand by and let evil occur. But we can’t do anything about the tragedies in our world if we don’t educate ourselves in the first place.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

 

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

What 26 Hours of Dancing Does

$450,000. That’s a heck of a lot of money. That could buy a house (maybe if you live outside of California), more than enough cars, heck—it could pay off multiple student loans. But if you ask me, that money is going to a better cause because thousands of people are going to be affected, in fact potentially saved, by that $450,000. This past weekend on February 18 and 19, 2012, UCLA students ushered in their greatest fundraising total as they danced 26 hours for a world free of pediatric HIV/AIDS. With this sum, the Pediatric Aids Coalition has now raised over $3 million dollars in their 11 years of existence.

So where is that money going to go? Dance Marathon has prevented thousands of infants from being born with HIV through the purchase of preventative medication and they have offered support and community to children who are affected by HIV/AIDS whether they or their family members suffer from the disease. Through the generosity and compassion of so many college students who truly care, children are being saved from a disease of which they have no control over.

I have been moraling at Dance Marathon the past three years and I’m always amazed by the perfect integration of education and entertainment. While the event is non-stop fun with an abundance of costumes, endless dancing (hey, the whole point is that you can’t sit down) and an undeniable camaraderie amongst students, Dance Marathon doesn’t ignore the heart of the event—education, prevention, awareness, and acceptance for those who are affected by pediatric HIV/AIDS. Even though the cause may seem distant to some, the Pediatric Aids Coalition brings it close to home by bringing these very children to the event to dance right alongside. With over 7,000 people being infected by HIV/AIDS on a daily basis, and many of them being children, it’s crucial that we care about this cause. I’m so proud that UCLA adamantly cares; there’s no denying it as evidenced by that final total.

Another reason I’m proud? The Greek community cares more than ever. The committee is composed of many Greeks and many of the top teams were from sororities and fraternities. I have to give a shout out to my sorority, Chi Omega, for raising over $10,000. That’s absolutely exceptional. If there’s anything that makes me happy, and hopefully the rest of our campus happy, it’s knowing that community service is still alive and well at our university. More than the classes, more than the social events—UCLA is concerned about those who don’t always have a fair shot, and we stand up for them. In fact, we’ve stood up for them every year, for the past 11 years, for the 26 straight hours, without fail. And we’re not about to sit down.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

P.S. Another reason I love Dance Marathon? Two years ago, on my birthday when I was a freshman at the event, I just happened to meet a person who is now very important to me. You never know who you might meet at an event like Dance Marathon… so if get the chance to go next year…then get up and dance!


The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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