Let’s face it. Depending on the weather, February can be a pretty dismal winter month! Maybe that’s one reason Valentine’s Day lands right in the middle of the month and also falls during Random Acts of Kindness Week!
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Holiday Service Projects
It’s that time of year. Seems like there are multiple parties every week between now and New Year’s Day. Cookie exchanges, office parties, tree trimming parties, ugly holiday sweater parties, neighborhood get-togethers, family events, New Year’s Eve and don’t forget Festivus for the Rest of Us!
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and the best way to show your love for others is volunteering. Usually when we think of Valentine’s Day, things like chocolates, flowers, and cards come to mind, but this year why not extend Valentine’s Day to caring for others, perhaps total strangers, who are in need of some kindness.
*This post was updated on 2/11/2016
By: NobleHour Special Contributor Dolly Duplantier
Last February, Chicago marked at least 22 days of temperatures at zero degrees or colder. While winter isn't as bitter as last year, we’ve still got a long way to go with no end in sight. And, we are not alone! Even Southern states are dealing with frigid cold temperatures, ice storms, ridiculous wind chills and hazardous driving conditions. The only people enjoying this crazy weather are the students receiving snow days. The cold days and grey skies take their toll. It’s not easy to be bright and cheery when you’re covered head to toe in fleece, wool and long underwear. It’s just really hard to be nice when you can’t feel your toes.
However, there is something that may help thaw your hardened dispositions and warm your hearts! It's Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, February 14 – 20, 2016.* Considering Valentine's Day is celebrated during the week, it really is a great time to share love and kindness.
According to Brooke Jones, vice president of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, RAK officially began in 2000 and is now celebrated by millions of people worldwide.
“The week was created as a way to celebrate the everyday kindnesses we experience, but sometimes don't recognize,” said Jones. “RAK Week reminds us what it means to be kind with every word we speak and every action we take.”
The non-profit foundation was started in 1995 and is dedicated to inspiring people to practice kindness and pass it on to others. Their goals are to:
- Inspire others to be kind.
- Legitimize kindness as a way to improve society.
- Be a highly regarded, visible social and emotional learning education program.
The organization promotes unique opportunities for all types of organizations, groups and individuals by providing free online resources to encourage acts of kindness across the globe, specifically in school communities. Educators can visit their website for lesson plans, projects, resources, and research. In addition, their website lists kindness ideas for the home, office, and school.
“When going to a University of over 40,000 students it is easy to get caught up in all the small stresses of everyday life,” said Varshini Kumar, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Kumar saw a need for RAK at the end of her sophomore year and started a chapter at her school in August, 2013. “Random Acts of Kindness, as an organization, serves as a reminder for the campus that at the end of the day kindness is a cyclical thing - the more you are kind to those around you, the happier you are as a person. I think RAK week is a great opportunity for students to get together and create something positive for the campus, as well as spread awareness about the kindness movement that RAK seeks to inspire.”
Kumar’s RAK chapter uses Facebook and social media to post sources of inspiration for performing random acts of kindness.
The Bone Student Center at Illinois State University provided free treats and giveaways during their RAK celebration. The school’s Division of Student Affairs promoted new acts of kindness each day and encouraged the community to pass it on.
At the University of New Mexico, the Division of Student Affairs planned a variety of activities to celebrate RAK, including their “Pit of Kindness” where students could “Take a seat, Make a Friend” in a ball pit! Students also donated new teddy bears and made Valentine’s Day cards for children at the UNM Children’s Hospital Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center. At their student union, students enjoyed free kind words, candy, “Be Kind” buttons and take part in a kindness flash mob. Their RAK flyer encouraged student to smile a lot, send a handwritten note, volunteer at a shelter, pick up trash, or give someone a compliment.
The University of Alabama’s RAK chapter created a Daily Challenge Sheet for students to do something each day hoping to inspire, encourage, and cheer on their community to make a difference on campus. Challenges included encouraging students to introduce themselves to someone new, tell people thank you, pay for someone’s food or drink, and spend time with and listen to friends. The UA chapter planned events all week and worked with other university clubs and groups to “create a community of kindness.”
RAK encourages everyone to step out of normal routines and perform a new random act of kindness each day of the week. Are you ready to get in on the act? Here are 20 simple tips from the RAK Foundation to get you started this week. Who knows, you may want to keep it going all year long!
- Give someone a compliment.
- Post a positive comment on social media.
- Donate old towels or blankets to an animal shelter
- Do a chore without being asked (Moms will really love this one!!).
- Eat lunch with someone new.
- Buy someone a cup of coffee.
- Send a thank you note to a friend, student, teacher, custodian or co-worker.
- Visit a senior citizen home or volunteer at a shelter.
- Walk a neighbor’s dog
- Students can start a kindness chain and add a link for every new act of kindness.
- Put up “Kindness Zone” signs at the entrance of classrooms to remind people to practice Random Acts of Kindness.
- Hold the door open or hold the elevator for someone.
- Babysit for a friend or neighbor.
- Bring a treat to a friend who is tired or has had a long week.
- Surprise your team or study group with coffee or snacks.
- Make an extra sandwich in the morning to give to a homeless person.
- Prevent road rage and let the car in front of you merge.
- Pass out hand warmers or an extra pair of gloves to the homeless.
- Shovel a neighbor’s driveway or sidewalk.
So, as we prepare for the final long months of winter weather, don’t despair. Warm up your home, your office, or your campus with a simple act of kindness. It won’t cost you a thing, but the return could be priceless. Here’s one more act of kindness – come back and share your stories with us!
Want to continue performing acts of kindness all year round? Visit NobleHour for a complete listing of volunteer opportunities!
Photos: Dolly Duplantier
The holidays are upon us. As we approach the days of festive get-togethers, parties, and dinners, we sometimes complain that we overindulge. However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), shockingly there are approximately 49 million people in the United States, including nearly 16 million children, who live at risk of hunger everyday.
Service Learning Curriculum Ideas for Food Drive Projects that will Maximize Impact
By: NobleHour Special Contributors Dr. Kristin Joos and Shay Ernest
Food drives are intended to educate students about food inequity and encourage students to take action. But is this what is indeed happening in class rooms and campuses? When not properly planned, food drives can do just the opposite, producing unintended consequences that reinforce or exacerbate stereotypes students hold about people living in poverty. Today we are providing ways to use service learning to overcome common challenges of food drives and maximize your intended meaningful impact.
THE BIG PICTURE
Let us take one step back. To avoid negative outcomes, we need to first understand when there is an imbalance of education and action, food drives can unintentionally be piloted in the wrong direction. A private high school in San Francisco used to take students to the poorer parts of town to volunteer at soup kitchens and food banks for a few hours at a time. Malcolm Singer, the school director of community service-learning, explains what can happen when there is action without proper education, “What we realized, when we were driving them back to school, was that (students) were saying the same things about hunger and poverty that they had been saying the day before. We realized we were reinforcing the same negative stereotypes.” The same problem often occurs with food drives -- as there is typically little or no interaction between students and the community their donations are intended to help, and food drives may include little education about the root causes of hunger and poverty. The way to create a food drive that positively impacts both students and the community is simple – educate students about the issues of social justice and show them how to take action. Once a student becomes aware of the injustices in the world, they aspire to be a part of the improvement.
Nearly fifty million Americans face food insecurity. Education should be centered on the root causes of hunger and poverty with curriculum focusing on who, what, where, and why. Because food insecurity is such a multifaceted issue, it lends itself to easily being incorporated in different areas of study. Below is a list of curriculum ideas for starting discussion and research projects (please keep in mind many of the topics below are not exclusive to the subject they are listed under as there is much intersection between the issues:
- Define hunger and food insecurity.
- Investigate the impact of hunger and how many people it affects.
- Explore relationship of poverty and unequal distribution of food.
- Look at government response to national hunger.
- Research effects of malnutrition, obesity, diabetes.
- Compare rates of obesity in countries around the world with rates of malnutrition/hunger.
- Examine nutritional value versus cost of food.
- Look at MyPlate and USDA to understand what makes a healthy diet.
- Create a healthy menu for one week for a family of four. Price how much it costs to eat healthy.
- Define and examine the characteristics of food deserts.
- Identify the causes and consequences of food deserts.
- How does the neighborhood influence the choices made about health.
- Analyze the top five states with greatest food insecurity.
- Research SNAP and the Farm Bill.
- Create a formula to address the income needed to eliminate hunger; how much does it cost each week for a family of four to eat healthy? A single person?
- Define the current poverty guidelines.
- Create a budget for a set area (include housing, electricity, water, transportation, insurances, phone, internet); using the area’s minimum wage at forty hours a week as income, analyze how much is left over for food; discuss how unforeseen circumstances (sickness, school expenses, etc.) can affect food purchases.
- Determine what a family of four at poverty level would receive in government assistance. Could they feed their family healthy meals for this amount? If so, for how long? What income is needed?
- Have students track their own health budget for a week and compare it to various income levels and assistance programs.
- Social Sciences
- Study laws and policies impacting the rate of hunger, poverty, and lack of access to healthy food in America. Are new policies needed?
- Compare current rates of hunger in the US to rates during the 1980s and 1990s.
- Conduct comparative study for how others (various religions, cultures, ethnic groups, countries) approach the process of providing “charity” to the needy.
- Comparative study on who is hungry (rural vs urban, ethnic groups, age, etc.)
Now the fun part of service learning: taking action! Engage your students in a meaningful service project to enhance their learning and provide guided practice in social responsibility. Don’t just let the food drive end when a sufficient amount of cans are collected, connect the students to the community. Finding a food bank to work with will probably be the easiest part out of everything; there are food banks all across the nation. Feeding America is one of the largest food bank networks providing over 3.3 billion meals trough food pantries and meal programs. They have 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries serving more than 46 million people each year. Feeding America has a search on their website to help you find your local food bank. Conducting a food drive will require a little planning. Youth Service America provides an in-depth, mainly logistical guide to running a food drive, appropriate for the high school level. No Kid Hungry also has a guide to integrating service learning and eating healthy for classrooms. Please note that both of these materials can be adapted to fit students of different ages.
A FINAL THOUGHT
Canned food drives can be seen as placing a “Band-Aid” on the issues of hunger and food inequity. Service learning projects are the chance for a cure – an emerging generation of socially conscious students dedicated to empowering others, as well as themselves.
Are you ready to find a meaningful service learning project? Start your free NobleHour account today to find opportunities near you!
Photo: Dolly Duplantier
*This post was updated on 11/4/2015.
By: NobleHour Special Contributor Dolly Duplantier
Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11. Established in 1954, the federal holiday honors the service of all U.S. military veterans. Seems to me though, these brave men and women should be honored every day of the year. Both my parents were Marines. My father retired as a Colonel and my mother a Captain. I believe she was in one of the first classes of women Marines, one of her proudest accomplishments. I never fully realized the importance of their commitment until I was an adult. Maybe it’s because they didn’t talk about it that often. I’m not really sure. I do feel that it is extremely important for all of us to recognize our troops and our Veterans and to teach our children about the sacrifices made.
In the military, “Got Your 6” means “I’ve Got Your Back.” In WWI, fighter pilots referenced the rear of an airplane as the six o’clock position. This term emphasizes the way military members look out for each other. Now it’s our turn - on Veterans Day and year round, here are six ways you, your family and your community can honor all who served in the United States Armed Forces.
- Send a letter of thanks to courageous Veterans. This simple act is so meaningful and can have a lasting impact. In fact, it is one of Operation Gratitude’s most urgent needs. Send a card to someone you know who has served in the Military or you can send multiple letters that fit in a standard size business envelope to Operation Gratitude, a non-profit organization that seeks to meet the needs of and express appreciation to Active Duty and Veteran communities. They will forward the letters to Veterans. If you know a Veteran that would appreciate Letters of Gratitude, you can send his or her name, the war in which they served and their USPS address to email@example.com.
- Organize a collection drive or a “Care Kit Assembly” event. Engage friends and family, as well as church and school groups to collect needed items for Veterans. Operation Gratitude’s program delivers thousands of care packages to Military Veterans across the country. VA hospitals, nursing homes, and support organizations make requests for specific items. Their wish lists include everything from hats and scarves, to personal electronics, non-perishable snacks, and gift cards. You can also send donations directly through Amazon.com or donate to Operation Gratitude. Every $15 can cover the assembly and shipping costs to send packages.
- Recycle for Veterans! Collect old cell phones, iPads, and iPods, as well as inkjet cartridges, and laptop computers. Operation Gratitude receives money for items donated in their name and students can earn service hours while helping the environment!
- Take a Veteran to School Day.™ Show the Veterans in your community how much you value their commitment and sacrifice. Students can learn about character and strength, when Veterans bring history to life by sharing their stories.
- Volunteer at your local Veterans facility. The US Department of Veterans Affairs can help you find the nearest facility in your state.
- Use social media to #ThankAVet and help raise money! The HISTORY channel’s Thank A Vet social campaign will donate $1 (up to $25,000) for each Tweet using #ThankAVet sent between 11/9/15 and 11/13/15. Donations will support DAV (Disabled American Veterans).
Continue to honor our Veterans everyday. Let them know, "You've Got their 6!" Tell us about the special men and women in your life that have served our country! Thank you to our Veterans for your bravery and your sacrifice.