Youth from Gates Presbyterian Church in Rochester, N.Y., are featured in a religion special that will be telecast Sept. 26 on CBS.
The program is entitled "Faith in Action: Young People Making a Difference." A CBS press release states, "Young people are often at the forefront of social change so this program takes a look at how they are creating change today in a world of conflict, poverty and social inequality."
John P. Blessington is the executive producer and Liz Kineke is the producer of the special, which was made with the cooperation of the National Council of Churches, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Islamic Society of North America, the Union for Reform Judaism and the New York Board of Rabbis.
One segment follows students from Gates Church as they spend a week in New York City volunteering for the Youth Services Opportunities Project (YSOP) alongside Lisa Gesson, director for this decades-old, service-oriented program inspired by Quakers.
YSOP is a 25-year-old non-profit organization that offers students from across the United States a chance to volunteer in projects that help alleviate poverty and hunger. In the segment featuring the Gates youth, the young Presbyterians work at the B'nai Jeshrun lunch program on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and then return to YSOP headquarters to reflect on their experiences.
While some young people like those in YSOP choose to work closer to home, American Jewish World Service provides the opportunity for others ages 16-24 to volunteer for summer projects in impoverished areas abroad. Viewers will meet a volunteer who recently returned from working in Ghana.
The special also visits Artsbridge, a conflict resolution leadership program that brings Israeli and Palestinian high school students to Boston each July to collaborate on an art project. Part of the collaboration is meant to encourage new ways of communicating with one another.
The program's founder, Debbie Nathan, is a mental health counselor and art therapist who wanted to start a program that would help young people living in conflict. She says, "What I want the students to get out of working together through art is how to take a challenging situation where you may not agree…but still come together and work constructively to solve challenges and build something."
A third segment of the special follows Nadia, a young Muslim woman, as she fulfills her faith obligations during the holy month of Ramadan (a time when Muslims fast, pray and perform acts of community service). The special also highlights the efforts of a non-profit organization, "Muslims Against Hunger," through an interview with its founder, Zamir Hassan, a Pakistani American from New Jersey. The group provides volunteers — of all faiths — to work in underserved communities in 20 different cities across the United States, serving hot lunches and dinners to the homeless and working poor.
Information for this story furnished by Jeremy Murphy, CBS Television.