One More Way to Make a Difference

1 Oct

In a previous blog post, I wrote about an opportunity to get involved on this campus by joining Camp Kesem Fresno State. Because this is our first year, we are learning and growing, so I wanted to give you all an update about it.

As a recap, Camp Kesem Fresno State is one of many chapters across the United States that is geared towards helping kids ages 6 through 16 who have or had a parent that was affected by cancer. The chapter has various responsibilities, and we break up into committees in order to achieve our goal of sending these kids to camp in the summer of 2015.

You have an opportunity to be a part of this chapter and help these kids too! You can either be involved by heading a committee as a coordinator or by choosing to be a member of one of the following committees:

OPERATIONS

  • Create and manage a budget
  • Manage the plan for all camp programming
  • Search for a camp facility and communicate needs to the campsite for the week of camp

COMMUNITY OUTREACH

  • Recruit campers and maintain communication with families
  • Maintain community partnerships for camper and professional staff recruitment

DEVELOPMENT

  • Initiate and maintain relationships with foundations/corporations/organizations
  • Develop and execute on-campus and off-campus fundraising strategy
  • Manage private donor solicitation, donation processing, and relations

VOLUNTEER

  • Develop and implement student volunteer recruitment strategy and manage any volunteer events throughout the year
  • Recruit counselor applicants and manage the selection process
  • Develop and implement counselor training program, including all logistics, planning of sessions, guest facilitators, completion of online assignments, etc.
  • Develop and implement Counselor Debriefing Program

MARKETING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS

  • Manage development and maintenance of Camp Kesem website and social media presence
  • Assist other coordinator positions with event publicity
  • Manage efforts to obtain media coverage for the camp project

Please consider becoming involved with Camp Kesem Fresno State even if it’s just by spreading the word. Sadly, almost everyone can relate to cancer by either having gone through it, seen someone close suffer from it, or know someone who is affected by it. Camp Kesem can be a way to make this horrible disease seem less daunting by improving the lives of those who are affected by it.

For more information on how to get involved with Camp Kesem, please contact, fresnostate@campkesem.org.

-Ambassador Amanda

Mission Possible: Fresno State’s Food Recovery Network

29 Sep
Volunteers are ready to serve delicious recovered food! Photo credit: Fresno State FRN Facebook page

Volunteers are ready to serve delicious recovered food! Photo credit: Fresno State FRN Facebook page

Every Friday, a group of Fresno State students  from our new chapter of the Food Recovery Network is given an incredible, not-so-secret mission: help combat hunger in Fresno! They split up and strategically collect food that, under normal conditions, would have been thrown away. This is yummy cuisine that has been prepared, but never served, from restaurants and vendors around Fresno. There is a time frame in which the students may recover the food from various locations (including, but not limited to produce from a local farmer’s market, DiCicco’s, Dusty Buns, and Fresno State’s University Dining Hall). Once all the food has been collected, they then reconvene at St. Paul’s Catholic Newman Center, and are charged with the next portion of their mission: to prepare a meal from the delicious victuals they’ve recovered. A team of committed volunteers from the Newman Center and the Fresno State students creates a menu and cooks up a storm! In the end, anyone is welcome to a free hot meal, at 6:30 pm Friday night, in the cafeteria at the Newman Center.

Recovered produce from the farmer's market will go to hungry Fresno residents! Photo credit: Fresno State FRN Facebook page

Recovered produce from the farmer’s market will go to hungry Fresno residents! Photo credit: Fresno State FRN Facebook page

I have been volunteering at the Friday night dinners since they began this past summer. They require a lot of work; we have anywhere from 50-80 dinner guests per week! As I’ve volunteered, I have gained a lot of experience with food preparation, as well as learned more and more about the issue of food insecurity in our valley, and in the Fresno area. On an even smaller scale, I learned that 1 in every 3 Fresno State Students is “food insecure”. That is too many hungry students! Luckily, I can assure you that those in positions of leadership on our campus have been meeting and developing ideas for a brighter future for our hungry students, and students are encouraged to keep ears open for news of new programs and supports.
The Food Recovery Network at Fresno State has already begun making waves; we’ve even made it in the media!
Many guests enjoy a fun Friday night meal. Photo credit: Fresno State FRN Facebook page

Many guests enjoy a fun Friday night meal. Photo credit: Fresno State FRN Facebook page

Bright ideas and inspiration are always encouraged, and student volunteers are welcome! You can see the steps to becoming an active volunteer here, and contact directors Dr. Janine Nkosi and Dr. Sarah Whitley, or President Rose Cardoso for more information. At the very least, please join us for dinner one Friday night. We don’t want any food to go to waste!
How can you complete the mission to solve Fresno’s hunger problem?
~Ambassador Lilliana

Fresno State’s Food Recovery Network

25 Sep

“Fresno County reported above the national average on hunger at 22% of families struggling with hunger. Geographically we live in the hub of agriculture that grows enough food to feed the nation.” - Fresno State Food Recovery Network

With such a great issue, many wonder: is there anyone doing anything about it? Well, great news! Our very own Fresno State Students have jumped on board and have become a chapter for the Food Recovery Network (FRN). Now partnering with Fresno State’s University Dinning Hall, local restaurants, and farmer’s markets, the FRN is helping people who are food insecure in the Fresno Community.  Fresno State’s Food Recovery Network is proud to say we have recovered over 38,674 pounds of food to date. Amazing! Well, now it is your turn to jump on board. The Fresno State’s FRN will be tabling this Saturday, September 27, 2014 at the Health and Wellness fair on the Fresno State campus.  Come to the event to learn more about FRN and several other heath and wellness initiatives.

Watch this short clip on Fresno State’s food recovery efforts.

Do you know any community restaurants that will be willing to partner with the food recovery network? Contact the Food Recovery Network at frnfresnostate@gmail.com!

– Ambassador/FRN Event Coordinator Evelyn

Food For Thought…

6 May

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

-Winston Churchill

 

Winston Churchill’s quote reflects exactly a lesson that the Ambassadors try to promote: we, as volunteers, not only help others through community service, but we grow as individuals as well. Community service shouldn’t be something that we do to fluff up a resume or are required to complete in order to pass a class. Service can help everyone explore their interests in life, find a future in a career, or learn leadership skills that can’t be taught anywhere else. Finding service experiences that overlap with your personal interests can make that experience all the more meaningful for you and the community partner.

 

My own service experiences have helped me develop and narrow my career path while teaching me valuable life lessons that I can take with me wherever I go. What have been your favorite service experiences? What lessons has service taught you about life in general? If you are looking for a service opportunity, but are having trouble finding one suited to your interests, come by the Richter Center in Thomas Building room 107.

 

This video has been posted through multiple social media sites, but if you haven’t seen it, it is quite the inspirational watch. We can all take a lesson from Churchill and this video that the things we learn and receive in life are the result of what we give.

So, what about you?  How have you grown through service?  What have you gained by giving to others?

-Ambassador Alexi

Walking the Walk

1 May

As a Richter Center Ambassador, I am charged with the honorable duty of sharing the value and importance of service to the community among my peers at Fresno State.  With this responsibility comes a certain degree of freedom to spread my passion for service work and the avenue which I most often find myself taking is one in which my actions speak louder than my words.  I was raised to believe that, at the end of the day, it is that which a man or woman has accomplished in the pursuit of some higher purpose  that speaks for itself, not the explanations, excuses, or promises to do better next time that should do the talking.

bdogpantryWhen I speak with students , clubs and organizations on campus, or faculty/staff/administration about the need for active volunteerism in and around the Fresno community I always stress that while it is a good start to think about ways in which you can serve and “try on” (so to speak) a few service sites, some of the most rewarding service work comes from a sustained commitment to one or two organizations.  I find that many of my favorite, most enriching experiences as a volunteer have come from my on-going commitment to the Bulldog Food Pantry.  The Pantry provides food for more than 200 families every week and every weekend volunteers from the Fresno State community gather to pack bags of food and distribute them to our many clients.   I get a sense of satisfaction every Friday afternoon, when I join the truck convoy that picks up the food from the Community Food Bank and delivers to the Pantry because I realize that my efforts, insignificant as they are in the grand scheme of the benevolent machine that is the Pantry, are appreciated by many.  My available time to volunteer at the Pantry has decreased as the years go by, but I still make it a point to lend a hand whenever and wherever possible because I believe in the work of the Pantry and I want the world to become as passionate as I am about their mission.  I choose to ‘walk the walk’ and find it to be very satisfying.

Now, as a word of encouragement: Let your actions sing your praises as a leader in service!  Take pride in the fact that you are a leader in community engagement!  Know that your generosity and selflessness are directly benefitting and improving the lives’ of your fellow Fresnans (and beyond)!  As Jan and Bud Richter, whose philanthropy and desire to instill positive change in the Fresno community by providing a means for students at Fresno State to learn firsthand the importance of being a champion of service, said during the dedication ceremony of the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning in November of 2007, “We believe that this Center will help foster a set of values and habits in Fresno State students that are similar to the motto that we have tried to live by, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.”  What is implied here, of course, is that action must be taken to ‘do unto others’.  So what are you waiting for?  Find that special place to serve that enriches your life and brings you satisfaction, then keep up the good work!

For more information about the Bulldog Pantry, feel free to email us at thebulldogpantry@gmail.com.

What is your service passion?  Where do you like to regularly volunteer your time in order to make an impact?

-Ambassador Daniel

A Service-Learning Adventure

25 Apr

When I got the opportunity to participate in the Fiji 2014 Service-Learning Adventure last January, I was impacted in ways I never thought possible. I began my journey expecting to give to the people of Naboutini and improve their lives, but in reality, by the end of the week, I felt like they had given more to me than I could return.

Being a culture that is centered on relationships, mutual aid, and togetherness, the people of the village expressed a need for a place to meet, socialize, eat, give medicine, and house visitors. We were able to meet that need by funding and helping them finish a beautiful hall in the center of the village. However, the giving did not stop there. Coming into the village, we too expressed a desire to live amongst the people of Naboutini and learn from them, and they exceeded our every expectation, giving us more and teaching us more then I could have ever predicted.

Children of Naboutini embrace Heather.

Children of Naboutini embrace Heather.

The people of Naboutini that I met and built relationships with mostly taught me about how to treat others. Despite their lack of material things, they exhibited the most hospitality I had ever experienced. They gave us a place to live, more food than we could eat, and someone to guide us through the area, everyday activities, and Fijian customs. The people of Naboutini were also some of the most welcoming and kind people that I had ever met who embraced us into their community. They constantly taught us about their home and culture. Many invited us on adventures in fishing, snorkeling, hiking to waterfalls, dancing, fan weaving, horseback riding, grogging, and many more. The embracing and loving attitudes of the Fijians made me feel at home in a matter of days and showed me how important it is to treat people with such compassion.

In addition to learning about others, through this adventure, I learned a great deal about myself. I recognized my ability to handle rough circumstances and different living situations as long as I maintain a positive attitude. This experience of immersion in the Fijian village taught me that I could thrive in new places and situations despite them being so much different than to what I am accustomed to.

This service-learning adventure in Fiji gave me new perspectives in the areas of service, community, self-awareness, and international travel. I was able to give a little something to a village in need and gain new friends, thoughts, and viewpoints. International service is a truly rewarding way to travel where you can really learn about the place and the people.

I had such a life-changing experience in Fiji and you can too! Apply for the Fiji 2015: Intergenerational Service-Learning Adventure! The deadline is this TODAY, April 25th at 3pm. For more information, contact Chris Florentino, chrisf@csufresno.edu559.278.7079 or Continuing and Global Education, 559.278.0333.

You can also check out this post, this postthis post, and this post, by my fellow Ambassadors on information about other international service opportunities.

-Ambassador Heather

Stories from the Island – A Valuable Lesson Taught by Rev. Puanani Burgess

23 Apr

I had the good fortune of being able to present at the 17th Annual Continuums of Service Conference that was held April 2nd through April 5th, 2014 in Honolulu, Hawaii alongside my fellow Richter Center Ambassadors. The Ambassador team, in my humble opinion, did a wonderful job presenting an interactive session on how to best tell your ‘Story of Service’ to a diverse audience to most effectively garner their support and increase their knowledge of your cause. While the goal of the Ambassadors was to help all conference attendees learn how to tell their own story of service, there was one person in attendance who was an absolute expert on the intricacies of story-telling and from whom the Ambassadors learned so much wonderful information.

Puanani

Puanani Burgess, a wise woman who understands how to tell an effective story in order to show truth.

Rev. Puanani Burgess, a “mediator, community developer, facilitator of community-building and conflict transformation…, mother of three, and ordained Zen Buddhist priest” (as described on the API Women, Faith & Action website) gave a truly moving keynote speech to begin the conference. Her skill in story-telling was beyond compare and her thoughts on conflict resolution and mediation were brilliant. While she told many stories to explain her personal philosophy as it pertains to community, one stands especially clearly in my mind. I found a copy of the condensed version here.

One of the processes I use to help people talk to each other I call Building the Beloved Community. There’s an exercise that requires people to tell three stories.

The first is the story of all of your names. The second is the story of your community. The third story I ask them to tell is the story of your gift.

One time, I did this process with a group in our local high school. We went around the circle and we got to this young man, and he told the story of his names well and the story of his community well, but when it came time to tell the story of his gift, he asked, “What, Miss? What kind gift you think I get, eh? I stay in this special ed class and I get a hard time read and I cannot do that math. And why you make me shame for, ask me that kind question? What kind gift you have? If I had gift, you think I be here?”

He just shut down and shut up, and I felt really shamed. In all the time I have ever done that, I have never, never shamed anybody before.

Two weeks later, I am in our local grocery store, and I see him down one of those aisles and I see his back and I’m going down there with my cart and I think “Nope I’m not going there.” So I start to back up as fast as I can and I’m trying to run away from him. And then he turns around and he sees me, and he throws his arms open, and he says, “Aunty! I have been thinking about you, you know. Two weeks I have been thinking: ‘What my gift? What my gift?’ ”

I say “OK bruddah, so what’s your gift?”

He says, “You know, I’ve been thinking, thinking, thinking. I cannot do that math stuff and I cannot read so good, but Aunty, when I stay in the ocean, I can call the fish, and the fish he come, every time. Every time I can put food on my family table. Every time. And sometimes when I stay in the ocean and the Shark he come, and he look at me and I look at him and I tell him, ‘Uncle I not going take plenty fish. I just going to take one, two fish, just for my family. All the rest I leave for you.’ And so the Shark he say, ‘Oh, you cool, brother.’ And I tell the Shark, ‘Uncle, you cool.’ And the Shark, he go his way and I go my way.”

And I look at this boy and I know what a genius he is, and I mean, certifiable. But in our society, the way schools are run, he is rubbish. He is totally destroyed, not appreciated at all. So when I talked to his teacher and the principal of the school, I asked them what would his life have been like if this curriculum were gift-based? If we were able to see the gift in each of our children and taught around that gift? What would happen if our community was gift-based? If we could really understand what the gift of each of our communities were, and really began to support that?

So that for me is a very native approach—being able to see the giftedness in every aspect of life.

 

Hearing Puanani Burgess speak about what it means to find the gifts in others—and yourself—was one of the brightest moments of a truly wonderful weekend learning about best practices in community engagement and service-learning, one of my passions. Now that the conference is over and life at Fresno State picks up where it left off, I find myself wondering how I can continue to incorporate the teachings of Rev. Burgess into my daily life. How can I ‘see the giftedness in others’? How can you do the same? Do you have any tips or tricks that allow you to see a person’s (more than superficial, trite, or banal) worth? Share your thoughts below and, as you go about your day, make a conscious effort to appreciate the gifts of those whom you meet. I promise that the reward of doing so and appreciating the sundry talents of our community is many and truly gratifying!

-Ambassador Daniel

Spring Into Service Reflection

18 Apr

In the early morning hours of Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 a group of faculty, staff,  students, and community volunteers gathered on San Ramon avenue in front of the Science II Building at Fresno State to begin work beautifying the grounds and creating a water-wise garden, showcasing the university’s commitment to being a leader in responsible, sustainable practices in the San Joaquin Valley. The Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning hosts multiple one-day service events in the fall semester and one such event in the spring. The 2014 iteration of the Richter Center’s spring service day was called ‘Spring Into Service’ and featured new and exciting partnerships with different groups and individuals, including Associated Students Inc., Fresno State EES professor Dr. Mara Brady, and Associate Vice President for Facilities Management, Bob Boyd.

DSCN1065

Volunteers stand in front of some of their handiwork in lot P5 on Spring into Service Day 2014! Photo Credit: Richter Center S.E.R.V.E. committee

With more than 30 individuals, the work was completed rapidly and before lunchtime, more than 800 new trees, shrubs, and ground cover plants were successfully transplanted into many of the parking lots on the east side of campus. Three other sites also featured ‘Spring Into Service’ events: Woodward Park (Fresno P.A.R.C.S.), the McKenzie Preserve (Sierra Foothill Conservancy), and the Boys and Girls Club in the El Dorado Park neighborhood west of Fresno State enjoyed the work of over a hundred volunteers in completing meaningful projects.

 

DSCN1049

Volunteers dig holes for water-wise garden plants to be placed in. Photo Credit: Richter Center S.E.R.V.E. committee

What was especially exciting about the work done at Fresno State was that the project was held on the same day as the 2014 Preview Day, in which thousands of incoming Fresno State students and their families visited campus to learn more about the academic prowess of our school. However, as many walked past the volunteers planting trees in parking lots adjacent to the Smittcamp Alumni House, these people were also able to witness first-hand the culture of service that exists at Fresno State. Hopefully they are now able to realize that the more than one million hours of community service work that we as an institution completed in each of the last four academic years are not just numbers on a page; indeed, it is the work of the students, faculty, staff and administration who give so freely of their time and energies for the betterment of the greater Fresno State community, like those who labored early on a Saturday morning, that sums up to a tremendous impact in our city.

Working hard at the water-wise garden in front of the Science II building! Photo Credit: Richter Center S.E.R.V.E. committee

Working hard at the water-wise garden in front of the Science II building! Photo Credit: Richter Center S.E.R.V.E. committee

After a delicious lunch, courtesy of Subway Restaurant, volunteers were asked to reflect on their experiences that day. For many, this was a new experience, but having the opportunity to talk about the work that was done and why it was important was meaningful to all of the volunteers as many expressed when it was their respective turn to talk. Even more exciting than hearing what the volunteers thought of the day was hearing what they planned on doing as a result of Spring Into Service.   Many said that this was one of their first service projects, but that they did not plan on making it their last and were eager to learn about ways to get involved with the Richter Center.

As related to these students on ‘Spring Into Service’ day, the Richter Center student leadership groups are currently accepting applications for the 2014-2015 teams! Students are encouraged to apply for the Richter Center Ambassador program, the S.E.R.V.E. (service experiences through Richter volunteer events) committee, and the ReFs (Reflection Facilitators) program. Visit our Recruitment webpage for more details and to download an application.  Applications are due on Friday, April 25th at 12:00 PM.  Stop by the Richter Center in Thomas Building Room 107, call 559.278.7079, email fresnostaterca@gmail.com, or speak with a current member of the RCSL team for more information!

What are your spring service plans?  Did you participate in Spring into Service?  What about the experience sticks with you?

-Ambassador Daniel

Food for Thought

30 Mar

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Student volunteers resurface a playground at Homan Park during Make a Difference Day.  The SERVE Committee works closely with community partners, local businesses, and campus organizations to make this event a success!

Ambassador Heather resurfaces a playground with other student-volunteers at Holman Park during Make a Difference Day.

This quote perfectly describes what I have found with my service experiences. I have served in various places from giving food at the Poverello House in downtown Fresno to building a community center for a village in Fiji. No matter the experience, I always find that it feels really good to give my time for someone else. My experiences have caused me to look at my community more positively and understand the difference I can make. In addition, service has allowed me to surround myself with positive people whose dedication to others is truly inspiring. I have found a niche with these people and share some awesome memories with them.

Because of service I have met incredible people, made lasting memories, and gained new perspectives and goals. My hope is that I will continue to define myself as someone who lives to serve others. I have found myself in service.Have you ever “lost yourself” in service to others?  How has serving others impacted you?

~Ambassador Heather

Camp Kesem Fresno State

18 Mar

In 2000, four college students decided to make a difference in their community. They wanted to change the lives of children and families coping with cancer. Their solution: to set up the first Camp Kesem – a student-run week-long summer camp for kids that have or have had cancer and their caregivers. In 2001, these Stanford students hosted their first camp and gave 37 children the opportunity to just be kids.

bugkesem

The children who suffer from cancer do not always appear sick, but in reality, they are suffering tremendously and quietly. The effects are numerous – academic, social, emotional, and developmental. Before Camp Kesem, many of these kids were previously unreached and overlooked in their communities.

Camp Kesem is now a national community benefit organization, with 37 other chapters in different universities around the United States. A total of 8,489 kids have been positively affected by Camp Kesem. These positive effects include increasing a child’s confidence, self-esteem, and a network of support.

And now Fresno State has the opportunity to take part!

kidskesem

Kids strategizing in a game with their camp counselor.

Camp Kesem Fresno State is currently a campus club, with the goal of having our first camp in the summer of 2015. As a club, we will manage a budget, market Camp Kesem to our community, develop community partnerships, and recruit counselors. We also have the opportunity to plan the camp program for the children.

In order to accomplish this, we must fundraise thousands of dollars, find a campsite, and work closely with others in the community who are passionate about this cause. 

The last piece of this puzzle is YOU. We want Fresno State students who are passionate about this issue to get involved with Camp Kesem. If you’re interested in Camp Kesem, would like to receive more information about it, and/or would like to join our team, send an email to: amandadelima@mail.fresnostate.edu
~Ambassador Amanda
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