If you are traveling on the highway and happen to see a bright blue 1984 International School Bus, make sure to wave. One of the young people on board is Amy Rose Chin, an Alaska Native and enrolled member of the Calista Corporation. As part of a traveling group, Chin and her four bus-fellows Amy Wallace, Chris Simon, Steven Hascher and Robert Gelb are making their way to the 48 contiguous states over the course of one year to find and report on positive and uplifting stories.
“Rob [Gelb] first started the project,” said Chin. “A few years before he graduated, he realized he was sick of the fact that there was too much negativity in the news. He wanted to do something about it and he also really wanted to do some traveling.”
Bus 52, as is emblazoned on its license plate, is Gelb’s brainchild He wanted to combine travel with telling stories of people doing good deeds all over the United States. The Bus 52 project is a nonprofit venture funded by sponsors and contributions generated from an amazing amount of social media done by the crew of five including Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Even the Bus, Stanley—purchased through a sponsorship from Stanley Black and Decker—has its own Twitter account—@StanleyTheBus.
“Bus 52 is supported entirely by donations,” Chin said. “We have been lucky to receive the generous support of private donors, as well as organizations. “We’re currently funded through November, so we’re still looking for some more support to finish our project. We’re $10,000 short of what we need to complete the year.”
According to Chin, “The only reason we’re able to do what we’re doing is because of social media. Our ability to connect with people not just all over the country, but all over the world has shown that there is a thirst for the kind of stories we’ve found. Social media allows us to connect with people on a personal level, create relationships, and reach people from all kinds of backgrounds and beliefs.”
Calling herself obsessed with social media, Chin says she is the friend that is always posting too much stuff on Facebook. “We’ve made some amazing connections through Facebook, Twitter, and Google+; we’ve even used social media to find stories. One story, 'Our Thrift Store' was found through the mobile app Instagram. “Our Thrift Store” was a huge thrift store in a strip mall just outside of Nashville, with clothing and cool and funky donations. There was someone who paid $300 for an entire Smurf collection,” said Chin. “If it’s out there, we’re willing to give it a shot. It’s fun to find people who are sharing good news.”
Since the beginning of the year, the crew has traveled to 39 states and have reported on a wide variety of uplifting stories including a women’s self-defense classes in Kansas, Luxury Car rides for chemotherapy patients in Texas, donated hernia surgeries in Nevada and to embrace a bit of diversity, the University of Oklahoma’s Spring powwow put on by the American Indian Student Association.
“As a project we want to represent America, and an important part of the American story takes place in Indian country. We had the opportunity to do a story on the OU Powwow and hope to share more inspiring stories of Native folks doing great work for their community.”
Another important note to consider says Chin, is though traveling such lengths are not easy and they often find themselves weary, the small person to person interactions and the small moments of kindness they experience on the course of their journeys help them stay inspired.
“I was once purchasing stamps in Birmingham, Alabama and didn’t have quite enough change, I had been talking to the woman at the counter about what we were doing and she covered me,” Chin said. “She also came out with a couple other people doing business at the post office to check out the bus.”
“In Utah we ended up grabbing Panda Express after a long day of shooting—we were wiped. When we got to the counter the manager recognized us from a story he saw on the news. He had made his teenage son watch our videos; he wanted him to see how people were giving to help one another. He also gave us a discount, but it was the fact that he was using our stories to try to teach his son. I don’t know what I expected to feel when we left, but it was a pretty powerful experience,” she said. To donate, visit the Bus 52 website.