Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Service Works: We Just Want to Remind You

Voices for National Service and Service Nation held their annual National Service Capitol Hill Day last week and engaged leaders from throughout the national service field to give voice to the many ways in which service works. A two-day event held in Washington, D.C., National Service Capitol Hill Day is an opportunity for national service alumni, program staff, service partners and corporate sponsors to meet with Congressmen and their staffs in an effort to promote the benefits and necessity of national service.

Thursday morning, day two of National Service Capitol Hill Day, began in the Capitol Hill Visitors Center's Congressional Auditorium and Atrium with a series of talks, or, what guest speaker Paul Winfield, Mayor of Vicksburg MS, referred to as a ‘Pep Rally’ entitled Service Works. Mr. Winfield noted that we need to “get pumped up in order to pump others up.” The Service Works talk did just that, with many influential and inspirational speakers taking the stage throughout the 1.5 hour talk, we were treated to many differing perspectives of the movement for national service.

Congressmen Vern Ehlers spoke on the importance of AmeriCorps, suggesting that we must educate Congress about what we as service providers and organizers require in order to accomplish our work, stressing the importance of soliciting not just money, but also the participation of Members of Congress. Congressman Ehlers also mentioned his retirement from Congress next year, and recounted a conversation with a reporter saying, “I was asked by one reporter, “What are you going to do now? Are you going to become a lobbyist?”” He responded saying, “no, I would never do that,” then thought a minute and said “wait, yes, in fact I will be a lobbyist, but I’m going to do it for free. That’s what volunteer work is.”

Patrick Corvington, the new Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service, took the stage and said simply: “We know that service works, we just need to send that message to the rest of the country!” Mr. Corvington spoke passionately saying, “Every American ought to have the right and opportunity to serve their country no matter their age, gender, race, or religion. In doing so, you experience something profound, the powerful feeling of giving yourself to others.”

Representative of North Carolina David Price pointed out an important source of hope in the strong bipartisan history of support for civic service saying, “Washington, D.C., is a polarized place right now, but service is one thing that has not been affected by that polarization.” Mr. Price also mentioned a figure which he was particularly proud of; for every dollar the government spends on national service, the country receives four dollars in return to community benefits and improvements.

Another panelist, Karen Baker, Secretary of Service and Volunteering for the State of California, offered some advice to the eager audience about to embark on a campaign to Congress saying, “They [the Congressmen] need to see your passion in order to believe in your cause. If I have one piece of advice for you, it is to smile!”

Finally, Martin Heinrich, US Representative from New Mexico, pointed out that the important results of national service are not always tangible or measurable; national service builds people of character who go on to do bigger things for their community and continue to be a positive impact on society throughout their lives. However, the panel recognized that, while the immeasurable results of volunteer work are extremely valuable, without hard data it is very difficult to secure funding and support from policy makers in Washington. Therefore, as was mentioned several times throughout the discussion, it is important that we, as national service leaders, analyze and publicize the success of the service work being done throughout the country, and use such data to our advantage when speaking with policy makers in DC—proving to the government and the country that the money spent on national service pays back two, three or even four-fold.

It was inspiring to be in a room so charged up and ready to make a difference. Immediately following the talk, attendees divided into smaller task forces and prepared to meet with Members of Congress to advocate for the necessity of national service to community development throughout the US.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hurricane Reconstruction in Haiti Encourages Youth Civic Participation

by Christina Malliet

In the wake of the devastating earthquake on January 12, the need for youth civic participation in Haiti is greater than ever. And as reconstruction is underway, Haitian youth have been eager to get involved. UNICEF is harnessing young people’s enthusiasm and providing them with opportunities to participate through its “Children and Youth Participation Movement for a Transformative Agenda for Children” program. The movement started recently in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, just in time for the upcoming elections for President, being held in November. The movement involves a series of debates, forums and conferences, allowing young people in Haiti to consider issues and draw leaders’ attention to topics that are important to them.

The most recent forum, on September 21, included 50 young participants. The Minister of Youth, Sports and Civic Actions also attended, hearing the young people speak about their main interest areas and desires; the over-exploitation of minerals, deforestation, erosion, employment generation. They also aimed to stress their presence during election season, so candidates know that youth voices must be heard and they must be involved in future policy-making.

This is a good example of action occurring all over the world to further engage young people in decision-making processes and in their communities’ development. With only one month left before IANYS 9th Global Conference on National Youth Service kicks off, this trend is particularly exciting for us, here at ICP! This conference, held from 25-27 October in Alexandria, Egypt, will help leaders create and/or expand programs engaging young people, such as these young Haitians, in community and youth development. It will bring together policy-makers, practicioners and stakeholders from every corner of the world, allowing them to exchange insight and resources for the development of effective youth civic engagement programs. For more information, visit the conference website.

Photo credit here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's Even Cooler on September 11...

by Christina Malliet

In this post, we’re following up on a July 20 ICP blog regarding the trend of “pop culture volunteerism.” The examples made from the participation of the country’s leaders in service projects are especially effective in uniting the country on days such as September 11. On Saturday, celebrities and leaders around the US and from every area of popular culture participated in The 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. Want to know where your favorite figure was serving this year? Keep reading!

  • President Barack Obama helped with a multi-organizational project that involved the design and creation of quilts to be sent to children of deployed service men and women. Michelle Obama worked at the Vinson Hall Retirement Community in McLean, VA, repainting and repairing parts of the building.

Photo credit here.

Photo credit here.
  • Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden volunteered for New York Cares, creating care packages and writing cards for military members overseas.
Photo credit here.
  • The MLB observed a day of remembrance on Saturday by wearing special caps, which were also sold to fans to profit their organization, Welcome Back Veterans. Some MLB players also served in person on Friday; Jason Michaels, Jeff Keppinger and Bud Norris, of the Houston Astros, visited local fire stations to thank firefighters for their service.
Photo credit here.
  • Chef Joan Nathan participated in the Bookmarks 2010 Festival of Books, an admission-free event promoting literacy, especially in youth.
  • Cuban-American Entertainer Jon Secada and his family served at the Mission of St. Francis community center in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The family helped the staff distribute food packages at this rehabilitation center and in the surrounding community.
  • Pop artist Jordin Sparks served with VP Biden for New York Cares, making cards and care packages.
Photo credit here.

Where did you serve on September 11? Tell us your stories in comments below!

(For more information on day-to-day celebrity volunteering, please click here.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Remembering 9/11 by Giving Back

by Christina Malliet

It’s hard to believe that, next Saturday, nine years will have passed since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Those of us who are old enough will never forget the images of that day – the immense cloud of smoke as the towers fell, the crowds of confused people covered in ash, firefighters searching for survivors in the rubble – or the feelings that ensued – anger, patriotism, a need to come together as a country.

Two years ago, President Bush declared “volunteering” an appropriate form of remembrance for that day. Thus, in an effort to replace the bad images and to perpetuate the sentiment of unity that developed from the event, four agencies (MyGoodDeed, HandsOn Network, The Corporation for National and Community Service and 9/11 Memorial) have come together to develop The 9/11 National Day of Service. This event, now in its second year, brings together millions of Americans by encouraging them to volunteer for, or otherwise support, charitable causes nationwide.

The event’s website, 911dayofservice.org, features a database of causes to support. It also has lesson plans for service-learning and suggestions for teaching youth to remember the day itself.

This project is an important means of perpetuating the power of unity that came out of the attacks, as well as a means of promoting understanding. By raising awareness of September 11 in a positive light, the initiative helps prevent hatred, anger and racism that the memories might otherwise evoke, encouraging greater global understanding.

We hope that, this year, you’ll remember the lives lost by joining a project in your community. What are you planning this September 11? Tell us your story in a comment below!

Photo credit here.


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