Transforming Your World through Service and Faith

The world over, people of faith — every faith — are called to action, to answer the plea of a neighbor in need, or to make the world a more just place. Some people volunteer through their place of worship, others through community and grassroots organizations.

For people who want to live out their beliefs through service, and to commit to full-time service in the United States or abroad, participating in a faith-based service program offers training, a connection to people in need, and a team for reflecting with on issues of religious and moral importance.

The Jewish Coalition for Service is a coalition of faith-based organizations whose mission is to inspire Jewish people to take part in a full-time term of volunteer service and to mobilize the alumni of service. JCS connects people with over 75 full-time service opportunities some of which are also AmeriCorps programs, including Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps.

Avodah engages young adults in direct service at in Chicago, New York, Washington, and New Orleans.

Watch this video about Avodah:

Another Jewish service group, the American Jewish World Service, offers committed citizens the opportunity to serve abroad in community organizations.

Next week, the Catholic Network of Volunteer Service will gather its program directors for a multi-day conference in Portland, OR. I’ll be there, partly because I am offering a workshop on supporting volunteer career transitions, but also because I am an alumni of one of CNVS’s member programs, Notre Dame Mission AmeriCorps Volunteers AmeriCorps (NDMVA).

CNVS is a national membership association of 200 faith-based domestic and international volunteer programs, some of which are either AmeriCorps-funded, or which offer the Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to its members upon completion of service. It publishes a directory of its programs called The Response Directory in print, and as a searchable directory on its web site. Regardless of your faith, you should check out this list of questions you should ask before joining a service program.

I joined the Notre Dame AmeriCorps program in 2000, immediately after finishing out my term of Peace Corps service.  In Peace Corps, I had taught English to Chinese college students, and the Notre Dame program allowed me to come back to the States and teach English and citizenship skills to Asian immigrants and refugees living in Lowell, MA. I couldn’t have found a better way to transition back to the States. (Plus I met my future husband through the program.)

Another prominent Catholic service program is the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, including Jesuit Volunteers International.

If you are seeking a faith-based program to join, you may not need to be an adherent of the faith — be sure to ask. And your service may or may not include missionary activities. AmeriCorps-funded programs are open to people regardless of faith and members do not proselytize during their service.

I have looked for Muslim term of service programs (AmeriCorps-funded or not) and haven’t found anything — if you have heard of one, or a service program run by any other religion, I’d love to hear about it.

Oct. 20 update: Also at the CNVS Conference I heard about Eboo Patel‘s Interfaith Youth Core Faiths Act Fellows, a group of young people from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, who serve to meet Millenium Development Goals.

Service Nation Summit the Finale

BetheChangeInc and RocchiJulia are tweeting.

Also see this post from Future Leaders in Philanthropy (FLiP).

Jean Case of the Case Foundation: bring the sectors together to change the conversation about national service and sustain the energy we’ve felt here. Introducing the CEO Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs. “It says something when one of the most powerful companies in the world works so hard to eliminate inequalities.”

Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs: Staff of Goldman Sachs are expected to volunteer with organizations they care about. People already come with a strong sense of service. People leaving the firm often go on to public service, so the corporate volunteer program at Goldman Sachs must be strong. One corporate engagement program, 10,000 Woman, is a program that enables business and management education for women in developing countries and the United States who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity. Alligns with fundamental business of Goldman Sachs. Program develop curricula, works with professors, increases accessibility of business education. Includes Goldman Staff employees through its mentor-match connections to the women seeking business education. Another Goldman Sachs outreach area includes helping nonprofits through the Capacity Building Initiative and is launching a new enterprise, Leadership in Service, a daylong conference for nonprofit executives. Coming Spring 2009, with Case Foundation. Sessions on specific areas like board development, financial management, staff development, and program evaluation.

Rick Stengel, Managing Editor of TIME. Great speaker. Educate the governed, essential for a democracy. He’s just doing his job.

Anne S. Moore, Chairman and CEO of TIME Inc. Doesn’t play favorites among staff and sees amazing work come across her desk. It’s hard to knock her socks off. Occasionally her breath is taken away. “If you want to be happy for a lifetime, help other people” — quoting from a Rabbi’s advice to a newly married couple. Says Rick is her favorite editor today. Will support him in escalating the call to serve. Introduces Hillary Clinton.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). Each of us can serve in a way that suits our talents and interests. Service Nation can make sure that the table of service in the United States can be big enough so that everyone can find a place. Many problems in the United States but with Service Nation’s leadership, we “can turn what is an American phenomenon and turn it into a great and growing movement.” AmeriCorps members turn a one-or-two year commitment into a lifetime of service. Bill Clinton says AmeriCorps is “one of his favorite accomplishments.” Clinton is proud to join the co-sponsorship on the Serve America Act. Also working on the U.S. Public Service Academy bill with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA). Need more youth to consider public service. She says she was taught the importance of service in church and school as a youth, that she owed something back. She says she has been in service her entire life, and it has taught her a lot about herself. “A candle loses nothing of its light by lighting other candles” – quoting from Fr. James Keller. “What we are doing is going out and igniting tens of millions of other candles.” Every year her staff volunteers on 9/11 and helped kick off MyGoodDeed.org, founded by Jay Winuk in the spirit of his brother Glenn Winuk who lost his life when he went into a tower as a volunteer firefighter on 9/11 to help. Clinton says we are the beneficiaries of the American experiment and struggle against enemy forces. “I think it takes a village, and now it takes a nation….Service Nation, we are ready…”

Followed by…Jon Bon Jovi…”How am I supposed to follow that?” The rocker is optimistic that candidates are going to meet and exceed goals of Service Nation, with the help and support of Service Nation and its partners. Proud that his oldest daughter was present to hear Hillary Clinton speak. Bon Jovi was born “a year to the day” after the creation of the Peace Corps. His oldest daughter was born the year AmeriCorps was created. “You might remember me as a 26 year old with a guitar and a dream,” he says. You don’t have to be wealthy to tap into the “power of we.” He is now the co-owner of the Philadelphia Soul Arena Football League team which serves its community in addition to playing football. The team takes on projects such as building homes and reclaiming troubled urban neighborhoods. “I want to make volunteerism the new black!” (If you don’t know, “the new black” means “the coolest thing ever.” I had to ask. In Portland we tend towards blues and greens I guess?)

Capt. Amy Clements of Colorado. Reading the Declaration of Service on stage with others who enthusiastically share in the reading. Consider signing the Declaration if you are of a mind to!

Dr. Mehmet Oz, Founder of the privately funded service program HealthCorps, heart surgeon, author, and Oprah favorite! [Life altering side comment: I have met a really interesting woman Amy B. on the Service Nation media team, who works with Health Corps and knows Dr. Oz, who in turn works with and knows Oprah. I am two degrees of separation from Oprah. I LOVE Oprah. What a great day today is.] Service Nation has the right prescription, Dr. Oz says, in bringing the private sector and the public sector together. Introduces Arnold Schwarzenegger who joins us by satellite.

Arnold! Has promised not to leave California till the state budget is passed — apologizes for not being here in person. He and Maria are all “pumped up” over national service. He’s really funny and has made the audience laugh out loud several times in the first few minutes of his talk. Blunt and has good timing to boot. As a youth, his goals were simple: build a perfect body and then go to Hollywood to make movies. He says he never would have guessed he’d be happy doing service, working for no salary (he hasn’t accepted a salary from the state of California since becoming governor). He started out serving people to “pump them up” but they pumped him up! Wasn’t making a million dollars, but “felt like a million dollars.” Says the Kennedy influence brought him into service. (His wife, journalist Maria Shriver, is the daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver who was active with the Special Olympics movement, and Sargent Shriver the first director of Peace Corps. She is also a niece of late President John F. Kennedy.) Going “from one thing to the next,” he got involved with fitness and exercising as a public health issue. Now he loves being a governor, to get up every morning to think “What can I do for these millions of people?” Sometimes government gets in the way. For example, volunteers couldn’t work on union-protected projects till he helped changed the law to pave the way for volunteers to serve. Today he tells his children (with a weight my parents could not have had if they had told me) that they can be millionaires if they want, but that they should reserve a place on their resumes for service. He also was the first governor to elevate the California commissioner on voluntary action and and service, Jesuit Volunteer Corps Alumnae Karen Baker, to a cabinet-level post. (New York governor David Patterson announced last night that he planned to do the same.)

With the conclusion of Schwarzenegger’s speech, Emily Cherniack of Be the Change Inc. thanked sponsors and partners, and the historic event concluded with the audience and volunteers enjoying a networking period.