Imagine the impact 75,000 students could make if each one participated in just one community focused service-learning experience every school year. That’s just what the National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement (NCLCE) plans to find out with the help of a $50,000 NobleCause grant to foster volunteerism.
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Nearly 60 million people are displaced worldwide due to conflict, natural disasters, economic struggles, and more. About 70,000 refugees were granted residence in the United States in 2015. Many organizations and agencies want to spread awareness and support for the refugee plight. Refugee Support Services (RSS), a nonprofit located in Charlotte, NC, is doing just that. A recent recipient of a 2016 NobleCause grant, RSS plans to use to the funds to increase their volunteer base to provide support services for refugees who have recently arrived in the area. North Carolina receives about 2,200 refugees per year, and Charlotte alone resettles about 650 people.
June 5th is World Environment Day, and there is no shortage of environmental initiatives that have been made (and met) worldwide. One organization, Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), provides a number of programs targeted at preschool through 12th grade students (Generation Z), to help them understand the value of community outreach, and to get them interested in the nature and science departments. Recently, ELK received a grant from NobleCause which will allow them to increase their reach, provide stronger support for those already in their program, and more.
Over one billion people in 192 countries are expected to participate in the 46th anniversary of Earth Day, making it the largest civic observance in the world. This year, you can continue to help change the world by starting in your own neighborhood! Here are 10 simple ways you can take action with your friends, family, and neighbors on Earth Day or any day of the year to help protect our environment for future generations.
To meet the growing needs of our tech savvy customers, TreeTop Commons is expanding! In the last two months we have hired six new people. Our new team members come from all walks of life, with very different backgrounds, education, and expertise. They are all wickedly smart and have a passion for not only development, but for volunteering and making the world a better place.
Random Acts of Kindness are the little things you can do at any moment to make the world a better place. By being kind to strangers, the environment, friends, and family, you can truly make someone’s day and be part of a better community. Random Acts of Kindness are easy and beautifully simple. Here are 100 ideas for how you can show you care:
Volunteering through the Internet is not that uncommon, and there are limitless ways in which one can make their Wi-Fi connection more meaningful than watching funny videos and scrolling through newsfeeds.
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!
Since we started making turkey-themed crafts in kindergarten, we’ve been taught that being grateful is important. However, this year I challenge you not just to share your gratitude at Thanksgiving dinner, but to also be proactive with your thanks by expressing it to those you appreciate most.
*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
By: NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo
How will you be spending the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday? Will you be sleeping in, grateful for the shortened work week? Watch another season of your latest Netflix obsession? Catch up on work or studying? Will you be treating it like any other long weekend? Or, will you join the thousands of people who will use this day to create stronger communities through service?
What is MLK Day? Why is it Important?
In 1983, Congress signed legislation that created Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on the third Monday in January. In honor of Dr. King’s vision for equality and justice through community efforts, MLK Day is the only federal holiday that is designated as a day of service. People from all walks of life are encouraged to improve the lives of those in their communities by taking a pause from their regular schedule to take action against pressing issues, such as civil rights, education, the environment, health, hunger, and poverty.
We can learn from Dr. King’s life by modeling his dedication to solving social issues through nonviolent community collaboration. It’s “A Day On, Not a Day Off” where we can explore our ability to make positive change through service. The hope is that this celebration will illustrate that those who volunteer can exercise tremendous influence in our communities.
Anyone and everyone are encouraged to volunteer on MLK Day. It is important that both non-profits and businesses in the community collaborate. Non-profits can organize special service events to bring people together around a specific social cause. Businesses can help by sponsoring similar volunteer events or giving their employees time off for service. Both non-profit and for-profit organizations are key to the success of MLK Day.
How Can You Share Your Service?
Not only is it important to serve on MLK Day, it is also important to make your service visible to others in your community. Today it is easier than ever to promote service through social media.
Before MLK Day, share and invite people to volunteer with you through social media and by speaking with your friends, colleagues, and students. Organizations can also join the MLK Day Service network to connect with community members and access resources to help raise awareness and gain funds. Serving as a family can also help form a tradition of service and reinforce community values.
After your day of service, be sure to use social media to share how you volunteered. MLK Day is a chance to replace a lazy Monday off with meaningful action - we can replace one social media post or photo about ourselves with something we can do for others. With service also comes advocacy, and sharing your experiences and actions can help others become involved.
America’s Sunday Supper
A unique way of getting involved with MLK Day is to host a Sunday Supper. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream for bringing together people of different backgrounds in order to foster unity within communities, Sunday Suppers are a chance for people to come together and share a meal while discussing issues within their community.
Hosting these events is not very difficult. You or your organization will need to advertise your event and plan a discussion. If you are looking for funds, you could ask guests for donations, speak with local businesses such as grocery stores about donating food, or make the Sunday Supper simpler by simply having light refreshments and snacks. You might also want to use this event to collect material or monetary donations for your topic of discussion. For example, if you plan to discuss hunger, then ask guests to bring canned food donations.
Alternatively, you could incorporate a plan of action into your discussion. After discussing the important facts and causes of an issue, you could move the discussion into possible solutions and come up with a service project at a future date. Another option might be to plan a service project directly after the discussion.
When I was involved in hosting Sunday Suppers in the past, the program encouraged organizers to begin the meal with a film or documentary related to an issue and then end with a discussion about the issue afterwards. We hosted a Sunday Supper about health and obesity by showing the film The Weight of the Nation and a second event about violence featuring The Interrupters.
This year, documentaries about social issues are not available on the American Sunday Suppers event page, so getting appropriate films and the permission to show them may be more difficult. However, this shows how the idea of the Sunday Supper is versatile and adaptable. A Sunday Supper does not have to take place on Sunday nor does it have to be in the evening, but it is a chance to make the MLK weekend a dialogue about pressing issues in our community.
I hope that you will find some way to spend your MLK Day off by serving others. Volunteering is a special way to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy by continuing a tradition of service, as well as a way of honoring your community by giving back to those in need. Tell us how you plan to serve your community.
Looking for a meaningful service opportunity for MLK Day or for service events throughout the year? Sign up for your free NobleHour account and start making a difference today!
By: NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo
Around this time of year, high school graduates throw their graduation caps in the air, parents sob and wonder where the time has gone, and another generation begins their transition into adult life. For those students whose post high school plans involve higher education, the time to register for classes is quickly approaching. As students begin this new phase in their life and start thinking about their options for the first semester of college or university, service-learning should be a topic on their mind. Including service-learning courses in your college experience enhances your knowledge in a subject, benefits the community, and bridges the gap between a university lecture hall and the world waiting outside.
Service-learning differs from plain volunteerism and community service. Unlike volunteerism, service-learning incorporates topics and concepts discussed in the classroom and applies them to real world problems. Service-learning teaches through experiential learning. Students are engaged by their teachers both in the course subject area and in the ways they are challenged to use this knowledge in the greater community. Nazareth College, a place of higher education renowned for its commitment to including service in the education process, defines experiential learning as:
“Experiential learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience in a real world context. Experiential learning is a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills and clarify values. Facilitated and guided practice, reflection and evaluation are all essential components of this transformative method of learning.”
Service-learning is a unique educational tool and experience because it stimulates critical thinking and problem solving while also asking students to consider the consequences of their knowledge and their involvement in the community.
Students who opt to take service-learning courses as part of their university experience are more fulfilled and engaged in class. Students involved in service-learning are happier and more excited about their classes because they are involved in their learning and in critical thinking. Rather than just listening to lectures, students are engaged with the course material, their professors, classmates, and the community. Students are also allowed to explore and act upon their values and beliefs by making an impact in the community. They develop critical thinking, problem solving, and research skills by using the knowledge they gain in the classroom to tackle real life issues. By working with others and solving complex social issues, students develop leadership and interpersonal skills, which cannot be taught through lectures and tests. By engaging students in a variety of settings, service-learning can build knowledge, character, and civic responsibility, which are useful both to the students enrolled in the course and the community they serve.
Communities and organizations that partner with higher education institutions to develop service-learning curriculum benefit from the budding minds and dedication of young people. Service-learning has a positive place in the community by dealing with unmet needs. According to Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the public purpose of higher education, the top issues addressed through university service programs are K-12 education, hunger, housing, and homelessness. Through service-learning, students interact with diverse groups of people and other cultures in their community. By confronting these issues and developing service projects in their classes, students become more aware of social issues and causes. They consider the causes and symptoms of these issues and how their actions can alleviate different facets of a concern in the community. In service-learning courses, students are not just asked to consider new ideas in textbooks and notes but also the different viewpoints and positions of people in their community. This allows them to be more empathetic towards others and to consider the impact that their actions in their personal, scholarly, and professional lives have on different groups in the community. Both in their course work and their free time, students learn to ensure a better future for themselves and take initiative in satisfying unmet needs in their community.
Service-learning courses can have a positive impact on a student’s future and career. Service-learning is a way of gaining professional experience, fulfilling university credit requirements, and strengthening one’s resume with service work. In many service-learning courses, students will be able to get out of the classroom and network with professionals in their field as an integral part of the coursework. Starting to build these networks while still in school can help students find internships and jobs in the future. The experience gained from service-learning classes provides a head start in the professional field and a valuable set of stories through which can help to demonstrate innovative thinking and dedication in applications or interviews. Apart from its impact on a person’s professional life, hopefully a service driven education will be a meaningful experience that compels students to continue giving back to the community in the future.
Congratulations to this year’s high school graduates. If you’re a student interested in service-learning, be sure to consider talking to your university adviser about service-learning courses and opportunities at your school. There are many colleges and universities that are engaged in service learning, and more courses are added every day. Expand the impact of your service-learning by connecting with local organizations and other students interested in creating social change.
Image used under Creative Commons License via Tulane Public Relations
UNCG’s Institute for Community and Economic Engagement (ICEE) announced today that they have signed a software licensing agreement with NobleHour.com, LLC. UNCG will collaborate with NobleHour over the next year to develop the next version of the Community Engagement Collaboratory™ (The Collaboratory™),