Engaging Service Members of All Ages and Abilities in Service

Living today for a better tomorrow

May has been declared Older Americans Month, by the Administration on Aging (AoA) out of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the AoA: “This year’s theme ‘Living Today for a Better Tomorrow’ reflects AoA’s continued focus on prevention efforts and programs throughout the country that are helping older adults have better health as they age.” Many seniors of all abilities are “living today for a better tomorrow” by committing themselves to national and community service through Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn & Serve programs.

In May 2007, the Corporation for National and Community Service released “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research” (PDF). The study “documents major findings from more than 30 rigorous and longitudinal studies that reviewed the relationship between health and volunteering. The study, which were controlled for other factors, found that volunteering leads to improved physical and mental health.”

Key findings include:

  • Older adults are more likely to receive greater health benefits from volunteering; including improved physical and Continue reading

Abortion Services and Referral Added to List of AmeriCorps Prohibited Activities

A little talked-about change in the Serve America Act that recently passed into law includes a new “prohibited activity” for AmeriCorps members.

A new category has been added to the list of prohibited activities in the new law that will take affect October 1: AmeriCorps staff and members will be barred from “providing abortion services or referrals for receipt of such services.” The category seems to be included in order to quell the concerns of conservative groups that Federal funding will go to support abortions since, for example, Planned Parenthood chapters often host AmeriCorps members to work on public health education topics.

Check out the full text of the legislation.

And a word on prohibited activities which seem to confuse people unfamiliar with national service to no end.

While charging time to the AmeriCorps program, accumulating service or training hours, or otherwise performing activities supported by the AmeriCorps program or the Corporation for National and Community Service, staff and all Continue reading

RPCVs: Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor

Recently-returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) can find focused readjustment support, networking help, and even career guidance through a mentoring program established by the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA).

Almost 30 NPCA affiliate groups have signed on to help facilitate the RPCV Mentoring Program which matches pairs of individuals, calling on RPCVs who’ve been back longer to actively engage one-on-one with recent returnees who are currently facing the many challenges of readjustment. NPCA member groups all around the world have been a source of support and assistance for returning Volunteers since the organization’s founding.

RPCVs who would like to mentor, or to become mentees, each fill out a compatibility questionnaire to determine common interests. Once matched, the mentorship lasts at least four months, where the pair is encouraged to meet up or chat over the phone three times or more.

Mentors receive an electronic toolkit, including a Career Resource Manual, list of Peace Corps’ medical, psychological, financial and administrative resources, relevant story-telling material from Country of Service Trainer’s Kit and much more.

Mentees receive tailored guidance about readjustment, career, education, and networking issues.

Learn more about the National Peace Corps Association, the RPCV Mentoring Program, and Peace Corps’s services for Former Volunteers. Connect with the larger Peace Corps community through the NPCA’s social networking site Connected Peace Corps.

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HealthCorps Holds Annual Gala, April 30 in NYC

Green Garden GalaHealthCorps — the national service corps founded by Dr. Mehmet Oz that brings health mentoring and education into public schools across the United States — is holding its Green Garden Gala, an annual black (and green) tie fundraiser, tomorrow night at the World Financial Center in Manhattan.

The Gala aims to raise funds to establish HealthCorps’s curriculum in more schools and to honor actor and dancer Ben Vereenan advocate of diabetes awareness, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and New York Philanthropist and CEO of the Red Apple Group John Catsimatidis for their  considerable contributions to the health and well-being of American youth. Check out this video about the event.

HealthCorps will also grant its first Music for a Better Life award to music legend Quincy Jones. The night will also feature performances from Wyclef Jean, Stepp Stewart, and Eturnity Band. Hip-hop mogul and vegan Russell Simmons will attend, among 500 other supporters.

In addition to the entertainment, the Gala will also incorporate elements of HealthCorps’s Mental Resilience curriculum into the evening’s activities, with booths set up to offer tastings of healthy foods, and to teach guests about reading food labels, for example.

The fundraiser (individual tickets to attend cost $1000) goes to support the activities of HealthCorps which currently places health coordinators in 44 public schools across the country to educate teens about healthy diet and lifestyle through tailored peer-mentoring and activism. The two-year term of service offers a stipend and benefits to coordinators, who are often recent college grads heading for a career in medicine or public health. (Note that HealthCorps isn’t currently affiliated with AmeriCorps, so the benefits structure is different from AmeriCorps service.)

HealthCorps is currently recruiting — check out the elegibility requirements and consider applying.

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Emergency Preparedness and People with Disabilities

Photo of Bobbie Singletary at work, helping someone on the computer.Many AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America programs focus on emergency preparedness. Service members who serve in these programs inform and educate the public about the need for emergency preparedness, including emergency preparedness for individuals with disabilities, and respond when emergencies happen.

Bobbie Singletary is an AmeriCorps  VISTA who has been serving at Life of South Mississippi from 2006, focusing specifically on emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.

Bobbie, who is of short stature, was volunteering at Life of South Mississippi when she was asked to become their VISTA. “Life [of South Mississippi] helped my family, so I wanted to give of my time.”

In her service, she focuses on providing disaster preparedness trainings to the public and especially to persons with disabilities. She gets the word out to first responders and other emergency managers so that they are best able to assist everyone regardless Continue reading

Global Youth Service Day!

GYSD banner

Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) is taking place from April 24 to 26, and according to organizers, is the largest annual service event in the world. The annual days of service aim to “highlight and celebrate the difference youth make in their communities year-round through community service and service-learning.”

This weekend, estimated millions of young people will participate in and lead service projects in all 50 states and in more than 100 countries.

In partnership with families, schools, community organizations, faith-based communities, and businesses, the young people will address critical issues such as global climate change, homelessness, poverty, health, hunger, homelessness, education and illiteracy.

Youth spokesperson Miley Cyrus has been promoting GYSD this year — learn more about her involvement and check out her blog.

Ways to get involved:picture-44

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The Peace Corps Lottery

This year, Obama’s words and actions have inspired many people to serve their countryEvery day a new article appears in the press about the surge in Peace Corps applications. But given budget constraints and the nomination system, who gets in and who doesn’t is a bit of a lottery. And not just because the applicant rolls are swelling.

J. Scholes, Peace Corps Haiti

J. Scholes and a little friend, Peace Corps Haiti

Peace Corps’s funding has been challenged in recent years due to the falling value of the dollar and rising expenses — so fewer Volunteers are invited. And the qualifications for Peace Corps assignments are narrowly drawn. The net effect is that “generalists” — well-educated people who could learn to do many things effectively — compete against each other for fewer and fewer Volunteer positions while demand for Volunteers is growing around the world.

Peace Corps assignments each have their own very specific qualifications attached. For any given assignment it’s all spelled out — the degree you need, level of language proficiency in specific foreign languages, amount of time in relevant volunteer or professional experience. The requirements are there because host countries invite Peace Corps, determine the mission of the program there, and request specific skill sets among incoming Volunteers.

In the past, if you were an accomplished college grad with varied volunteer experience and few medical complications, your chances of getting into the Peace Corps were solid and fair. You could vie for one of a few generalist assignments — Community Development, Health Extension, or English Teaching, for example. Once in-country you’d be trained with all the specific skills you’d need to complete your service effectively.

Problem is, Peace Corps wants to place all of its talented generalists in these same assignments. That’s because the Continue reading