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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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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

Spring into Service with us!

13 Mar

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Join us for Spring into Service on March 22, 2014 from 8:00 AM – 12:30 PM!

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Fresno State volunteers help revitalize Woodward Park during last semester’s Serving Fresno Day.

With triumphant Make a Difference Day and Serving Fresno Day behind us, we at the Richter Center joyfully look forward to the next one-day service opportunity, Spring into Service Day

Volunteers can choose from one of these awesome locations/ projects:

  • Planting and beautification of the group activity area at Woodward Park with Fresno PARCS
  • Planting trees and shrubs on our Fresno State campus.

alexi

Fresno has a lot of critics, but with some positive attitudes and a little teamwork we can change that negativity! We of this under-appreciated Central Valley city are blessed with splendid sunshine, vibrant urban developments, rich and abundant fields of agriculture, and so much more. Everything we could ever need is right here. Most of us don’t have to worry about our next meal or finding shelter from day to day. We have a successful university full of bright minds just waiting to change the world.  Fresno is home to amazing, dedicated, down-to-earth people, and we shouldn’t doubt its potential for a second. All it takes to recognize its beauty is a little optimism. I can assure you that community service is one of the best ways to guarantee this much-needed positive outlook.image_28

Granted, there’s always room for improvement, and that’s just what Spring into Service is all about! The general consensus from our previous one-day service events was that although it was early on a Saturday morning, each and every one of us left our service project with feelings of accomplishment and camaraderie. We each became excited to watch our web of outreach unfold! Our goal at the Richter Center is to regenerate these positive vibes on March 22nd.14

Let’s work together to spread an awesome message about our community! Let’s revitalize Fresno! Spring into Service Day will be a springboard for the Spring into Service Lifestyle: where we’ll work every day to make our home even better!

Join us! You are officially invited!

Visit the Richter Center website to register by March 19th; space is limited.

 

Which Spring into Service site are you most interested in and why? What do you hope to gain by participating in Spring into Service?

~Ambassador Lilliana

Summer of Service

7 Mar

EmNic1It’s never too early to start thinking about what you will do with your summer break.  Last summer I had an incredible opportunity to go on a mission trip to Nicaragua. I will truly never forget the incredible relationships and special memories that I made. This trip has shaped the way I see global service, international politics, poverty, community, gratitude, happiness, and so much more. Serving in Nicaragua has certainly been one of the highlights of my life, and I would encourage everyone to go serve abroad.  Traveling to serve is one of the most rewarding and affordable ways to see the world. Don’t ever let money hold you back from going on a trip like this, because if it is something you are passionate about, you will be able to find people who will be passionate about helping you make it happen. My trip was made possible by grants that I received from the Friends for Civic Engagement and from the Division of Continuing and Global Education.

emNic2The organization that I went through, Students International, really does global service work the right way. They work closely with people of the country to understand what their needs are and how to best meet them. Each of the service teams are all led by Nicaraguans who helped us connect to and understand those that we were serving. The service teams included education, social work, water filters, microfinance, and medical. I had the pleasure of serving on the Social Work Team. The team was led by Maria Jose and Miriam, two compassionate, inspiring, strong, and selfless Nicaraguan women. Our main focus was on empowering women as there is not much respect or gender equality in Nicaragua. Through home visits and community groups we would form relationships with the girls, teens, and women in the small communities surrounding Masaya in order to understand and improve their current situation.

EmNic3Interacting with these women and girls was my absolute favorite part of the trip. Although we were there to help and support them, I always left feeling so inspired and empowered by them.  In the two short weeks we were there we conducted over a dozen home visits, had dinner in the home of a family, threw parties for Mother’s Day and Child’s Day, played countless games, connected with about 50 women and children, taught skills such as pottery painting, jewelry making, and bag making, visited four communities, and made lasting memories. Being able to spend two weeks encouraging these ladies by reminding them of their beauty, capabilities, and worth was so inspiring. I was completely humbled by this experience and felt so honored to be apart of their lives.

EmNic4

I could spend hours sharing pictures, memories, and stories from Nicaragua; but what I really want to share is this experience. Please go. Go serve, love, learn, play, grow, give, and experience another country. Your life and your perspective will never be the same.

What global issues are you passionate about?  What is your dream location for an international service project?

-Ambassador Emily

Serving the Little Ones

28 Feb

P1110870Serving children is unbelievably rewarding. Their innocent, curious outlook on life is contagious. Whether teaching them something new or just spending time with them, it is my experience that they look up to college students and seek our approval earnestly. Sadly, many children aren’t getting the love and attention they deserve, for one reason or another. I believe that many of society’s problems could be addressed solely by properly nurturing our community’s children.

I challenge you to give back to the next generation as a mentor for children everywhere. It is beyond excellent to go out of your way to work with little ones often, but first it is important to live your life in a way that would inspire them.

Lead by example. Be someone to look up to.

Patrick & Raymond Reading 2

When you are ready to set aside time to serve children, look at opportunities with an open mind and heart. In the numerous settings where I’ve worked with kids, all of them (even the slightly troubled ones) are capable of being good because that is their natural way. They just need someone to show them politeness and uplift them in their goodness. Your care and attention could be just what they need to succeed!

Don’t know where to start? There are many ways to make an impact in children’s lives. Take a look at the few suggestions below, or reach out in your own way!

-Serve as a tutor or mentor

-Donate to local food pantries to feed hungry children and their families

-Volunteer at the SMILE Center at the Bulldog Pantry on Saturday mornings

-Organize or donate to clothing, book, backpack, school supply, and toy drives any time of year

-Volunteer at a local hospital (Like Children’s Hospital Central California); or volunteer at awesome events like Kid’s Day to raise money for Children’s Hospital!

-Be ultra-adventurous and volunteer abroad!

-Work with Fresno PARCs to renovate local parks for children

-Connect with local children’s organizations like Girl Scouts or the Boys and Girls Club

Identify your unique gifts, and then freely share them with the younger generation. I firmly believe that you will receive as much benefit as they do.

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“The soul is healed by being with children.”-Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Some thought-provoking questions:

Who inspired you as a child?

Do you have a favorite childhood memory or experience that you could recreate for another person?

What is one lesson you learned as a child that changed your perspective in an unforgettable way?

How can you give to the next generation?

~Ambassador Lilliana

Daily Good

20 Feb

Giving your time and money are both amazing ways to contribute to the organizations and causes that you care about. Without volunteers and donors, community benefit organizations simply couldn’t exist. However, you don’t have to do anything extraordinary to make a difference. There are many ways to help support your favorite cause, by doing things you already do.

Here’s how you can turn your daily activities into difference-making dollars.

Working Out: Charity Miles  

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Charity Miles is a smart phone app that allows users to earn 10 cents per mile for bikers and 25 cents per mile for runners and walkers to donate. They believe that every mile matters and encourage users to take their philanthropy and fitness into their own hands. Currently the participating organizations include Achilles International, ASPCA, Autism Speaks, DoSomething.org, Every Mother Counts, Feeding America, Girl Up, Habitat for Humanity, Ironman Foundation, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Nothing But Nets, Partnership For a Healthier America, Pencils of Promise, She’s the First , Shot@Life, Stand Up to Cancer, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research,  The Nature Conservancy, VisionSpring, The World Food Programme, and the Wounded Warrior Project.

I personally run for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. My Grandmother battled Parkinson’s disease so it is a perfect motivation to get me out there and running .

Searching the Internet: GoodSearch

 goodsearchMake GoodSearch your homepage and search engine to contribute to your cause in a very simple way.  One cent for every search gets donated to the charity of your choice and a percentage of your online purchase with select retailers can be donated as well. More than 15 million people used Goodsearch last year to support more than 100,000 non-profits and schools. Since 2006, Goodsearch users have raised more than $9 million, participated in over 1.1 billion charitable actions, and have truly made a difference.

My searches donate money to the Fresno State Humanics Program, which trains students to serve humanity through community benefit organization work and activism.

Taking a break from your phone: Unicef Tap Project

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For every minute you can go without touching your phone, you can earn one day of clean water for a child who needs it. All you have to do is go to uniceftapproject.org on your phone’s search engine and set your phone down for a while. This also doubles as a tool to help you stay focused and unplug for a bit.

I made it 1 hour and 26 minutes and donated 86 days of clean water before I answered a phone call.

 

Training your brain: Free Rice 

freerice-screenThe mission of Free Rice is to provide free education and food around the world. The way it works is you can choose to play a trivia game in a subject area you want to learn more about such as math, chemistry, language learning, geography, humanities, anatomy, and even SAT prep. For every question you get right, you are able to donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme.

So, do you already use one of these sites?  How do you incorporate service into your daily life?

-Ambassador Emily

 
 
 

Talk About Kindness

13 Nov

What random acts of kindness have you witnessed or done in your life? Random Acts of Kindness Week is coming to a close, but what kinds of things can you continue to do on a daily basis to bring kindness to others? How does doing random acts of kindness towards others affect your own life?

Dr. Robert Levine

Dr. Robert Levine

Dr. Honora Chapman

Dr. Honora Chapman

On Friday, November 15, at 12:00 pm Dr. Robert Levine and Dr. Honora Chapman will be featured on our Random Acts of Kindness Week panel in North Gym 160. Dr. Levine is a Professor of Psychology and Dr. Chapman is a Professor of Classics and Humanities. Both will speak about how kindness can impact your life and those around you, and how kindness can come about from service.

 
Barbara de Angelis once said, “Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” Doing simple acts of kindness each day will have a positive impact on you as well as the receiver of the act. Join us at in North Gym 160 on Friday to listen about how significant kindness can be and how easy it is to adopt into our daily lives. Let us know your random act of kindness ideas by using #FresnoStateServes and #RAKWeek13 or posting to our Facebook (www.facebook.com/richtercenter).  Also, stop by our other events happening during Random Acts of Kindness Week.
 
Spread the word to spread the love!
-Ambassador Alexi

 
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