A couple of weeks ago we mentioned a series of studies that showed a strong correlation between community service and happiness, but we didn’t discuss the implications of the studies. The results are clear, and striking–doing service in your community will make you happier.
- Volunteering improves health, self esteem, and happiness.
- Children who volunteer are more likely to grow up to be adults who volunteer.
- Children forced to volunteer fare better than children who do not volunteer.
- Communities with lots of volunteers are more stable and better places to live.
- The more often one volunteers, the better the psychological benefits
The underlying reasons explaining why people initially volunteer are a bit circular–most site a desire to give back and make the world a better place, an interest to learn more about their community, to learn new skills, or to feel better about themselves. But the data is clear–regardless of your age, volunteering will make you happy. Something to remember on the days we’d rather be doing something for ourselves!
One issue I imagine that many of you will be discussing in your classrooms is social mobility in America. America, as you well know, has always prided itself on being the land of opportunity, the country where anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become successful. But that’s become less true in recent years, and countries such as Denmark, Norway, and our neighbor to the north, Canada, have become much better at moving poor people up the social ladder.
A recent study highlights the social mobility in different areas of the country, and found wide variations. Metropolitan areas around Salt Lake City, San Jose, Seattle, and San Francisco had high levels of social mobility, whereas Atlanta, Charlotte, and Indianapolis scored near the bottom.
What factors accounted for this variation? As summarized by commentator Fareed Zakaria in this article, the most important factor correlating to higher social mobility is social capital — strong families, active civil support organizations, and community service activities. Certainly there are other factors at work here, but do remember that your investment of time and work in your community, and in teaching others the skills you learn in school and at Teach2Serve can have a sustainable, positive impact on your community. Something to keep in mind as you work in and out of the classroom hard this year!
Happy August! We hope you all are finding your summer fun and productive. First, I wanted to introduce Kevin, the new program director of Teach2Serve, who’ll be replacing Peter. Peter has taken a position as a head of school in New Jersey, a very exciting opportunity. Thanks for all your work, Peter, and good luck!
We’re looking forward to the start of a new school year (we’re sure you all are too, ha ha) and the continued growth of Teach2Serve. As you all are learning, philanthropy and community service provide enormous benefits—both to your community and the world, but also to yourself. Getting involved in service is personally rewarding, and studies have shown that service correlates with higher levels of happiness and satisfaction with one’s life—read this if you don’t believe us: http://ow.ly/nOSji. In addition to helping the world, you can help yourself!
OK, so how does one get started in philanthropy or a non profit? Where do you go if you want to get involved? The first steps towards getting involved can be the toughest, so we wanted to flag some resources for you. One such guide is http://www.servicegiving.com/about, which explains the importance of nonprofits, philanthropy, and volunteering to society. The site includes resources for people looking to volunteer and deciding what sort of activities they should involve themselves in, given their interests.
The resources page http://www.servicegiving.com/resources will especially help you see what other organizations are out there and potentially give you some ideas for capstone projects and other community service you can get involved in.
I hope you’ll take a few minutes to use these resources and think about where you best fit in the non-profit world.
We’ll look forward to seeing you soon. Enjoy the rest of your summer!
At a Stanford cafeteria table back in August, I had my first meeting with my Team Leader, Sol. I had thirty minutes to express my interests and passions and to explain exactly what I wanted out of this year. Although I probably made very little sense at the time, art was at the forefront of my mind. I wanted to spend this year exploring the influence art has on empowerment, human potential, and economic development, for despite my lack of direction, the way these concepts floated around in my head made my face burn with excitement. I imagined myself immersed in an African, European, Latin American paradise, of cobblestone streets, painted alleyways, and drum circles on every corner. I pictured myself working with an organization that inspired me by its authenticity and approached change in an artful and impactful way. ”I want to feel like a part of the beat and rhythm, the dance and drums, the unity and collective energy, the exposed potential and empowerment,” I wrote in my journal that night. Totally over-the-top, perhaps, but no one could have told me that this year wasn’t going to be perfect. When I heard of my apprenticeship placement, that excitement intensified even more. I was going to be spending my year working at Bagunçaço, a youth community space that uses art and culture to empower at-risk kids. I couldn’t have arrived at a better placement. But when I showed up on the ground, in person, reality hit. The place was a little less organized than I had imagined. The kids were a bit more difficult and the guidance slightly less constructive. I didn’t expect to be breaking up rowdy eleven-year-old fist fights or battling pre-teen sexual advances. Where was the art? At the time, the only art-worthy activity that existed was a doodling class. Kids sat in broken desks drawing hearts or coloring in pre-drawn smiley faces. Every few minutes, a child would have to be dragged back to his or her chair after starting an argument with a friend across the room. This was not the environment of meaningful and affecting art that I dreamed of–but that’s all the more reason to start something myself, I resolved. I decided to teach a photography class to girls. I wanted to use the girls’ photos and the power of photography and story-telling as a springboard for discussion about the issues of their daily lives. But after putting together a presentation for my first lesson, I few roadblocks became clear: a) Cameras. Realistically, how can I run this class without cameras for the kids? b) I’m teaching 6-10 year-olds–how am I possibly going to keep them seated, much less focused on photography? c) I’m not a teacher, a professional photographer, or a native Portuguese speaker. How do I make this work despite my own shortcomings? So I got overwhelmed. I freaked out and shied away from the idea. After all, I was sensing some mixed messages on the part of the organization anyways. But instead of pushing the idea, convincing Bagunçaço of the project’s vital importance, and forcing myself to step into the realm of inexperience, I allowed uncertainty to pervade my once so eager attitude. I shifted my focus away from gender inequality, art, and story-telling, and only now, in March, has a stroke of luck brought me back to these passions. Girls With Cameras is a project that empowers marginalized Afro-Brazilian women and girls to speak for themselves and to advocate for their communities through photography and digital storytelling. Due to multi-layered societal norms, women, particularly of Afro-Brazilian descent, often believe that their lives are destined for only a scarce number of outcomes. But with a camera and some publicity, these women can replace inaccurate images of themselves with true representations of their realities, creating more balanced local and global conversations. With the resources to speak at the same volume as the powerful, they can define their futures, advocate for lasting social change, and raise entire societies out of poverty. Although still in its beginning stages, the project is already connected with two Salvador-based organizations, the Pierre Verger Foundation, an artistic center with a focus on Afro-Brazilian culture, and the Steve Biko Institute, which empowers Afro-Brazilians through the pursuit of higher education. Photo diplomat Gabrielle Williams laid the foundation for all this brilliance, and together, we are fine-tuning the vision, raising funds, and getting this project up and running. Stay tuned. It’s happening, and every night, as I’m lying awake in bed thinking about how to make this initiative more impactful, I’m reminded that this is exactly the kind of work I came here to do. What could possibly be more satisfying than that?
To read the full post and leave me a comment, visit http://globalcitizenyear.org/
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Thanks for reading, Camille LeBlanc
Sat. Jan. 26 – Teach2Serve students head back to Staten Island
The Teach2Serve class is sponsoring another trip to Staten Island to help rebuild after Hurricane Sandy on Saturday, January 26. Nicole Mount and Jack Murphy will be taking 18 students for a day of community service work. The group is asked to meet at Solebury at 7 a.m.
In an impressive showing over the past school year, Teach2Serve students were accepted to the following colleges and universities:
Bryn Mawr College
College of the Holy Cross
College of William and Mary
Durham University (UK)
George Washington University
Johns Hopkins University
Loyola University Maryland
New York University
Ohio State University
The College of New Jersey
University of British Columbia
University of Chicago
University of Colorado
University of Edinburgh (UK)
University of Indiana
University of Michigan
University of North Carolina
University of St. Andrew’s (UK)
University of Vermont
University of Virginia
This past Saturday, the Teach2Serve students at Solebury School put on an event to celebrate the end of the tutoring program they created this year to help elementary school students from the Village Charter School in nearby Ewing, NJ. Check out this blog post about the event from Scott Eckstein, Solebury School’s Director of Admission: http://scotteckstein.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/this-isnt-simply-community-service/