Service Reflections: Tips for Faculty and Students

Posted by Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 @ 09:47 AM

Empowering NobleLeaders: Service Reflections

Thank you for joining us for another “Empowering NobleLeaders” Blog with Dr. Kristin Joos and Liz Harlan.

Reflection in life, especially when positive, is almost always beneficial. The act of reflection can increase feelings of self-perception personal purpose, and community awareness, as well as increase understanding as to one's role in the greater community. We would like to share with you the importance of reflection on service experiences and offer some insight for both faculty and students on how to do service reflections.  Reflection is an integral component of volunteer service.

While a student is volunteering, the service experience can become more meaningful through constant questioning of motivations, asking why one is helping, and keeping those ideas at the forefront of their mind. A student may maintain their motivation to help by keeping track of both the work they do, as well as their initial and ongoing reactions to their service activities. Reflection before, during, and after a service experience is key, to set goals, and to remember and document observations, emotions, and activities. The most important reflection may come after when the student connects their individual experience to the bigger picture, whether it’s a wider community or national/international issue, cultural or environmental cause, or institutional motive. With reflection and further research, a student will gain deeper understanding of oneself, their community, and society. The more one reflects on their volunteer experiences, the more one knows what they like, dislike, and can identify personal strengths. Additionally, students can then use their service reflections to decide how to channel their experiences into greater action or next steps, which can be beneficial both for the individual (e.g., explore new passions or possible career choices) and the community (e.g., organizing one river clean-up to be an ongoing project with other students and community members in the area). 

How to do Service Reflections: 

For students volunteering, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine. As you begin to look back on your work, here are some helpful ways to take stock and connect to the bigger picture. 

Get started with three easy questions:

What? So what? and Now what? These questions are commonly paired with community service to help participants think about how to channel their experiences into action or next steps. Answer them on your own or with other volunteers. 

What? 

How would you describe the actual work you’ve been doing? What different types of situations have you been involved in and learned from? Whether it’s playing with kids or talking to an elderly person or filing hospital records, describe your day-to-day work. 

So What? 

What did these actions mean? Who did they impact? How did they impact you? How did they affect the community you worked with? How did they contribute to the larger impact your organization (or you) is making? 

Now what? 

Now that you’ve done your service, what are you going to do next? Are there other channels of involvement? What else would you like to know about your site or issue? How will you take this experience and put it to use helping others? What ripple effect will your experiences make for yourself and others? 

How to promote service reflections and service learning for faculty: 

Reflection is a key component of service learning in and out of the classroom. It can be accomplished in many different avenues that students can choose for themselves to fit their learning and creative styles. Encourage students to explore these styles and decide how they would like to record and reflect on their volunteer experience

Each time a student volunteers, it is beneficial to take a few minutes to make notes about what they did, what they learned, and how the experience impacted them. These notes will be useful for future reflecting on experiences as well as for possible use in creating a final presentation for a class. NobleHour has an work reflection tool for students exactly for this purpose.  

Engaging in conversation with others (e.g., friends, professors, family) to explain what the student has been doing and why it is important to them is another way to reflect. With a volunteer supervisor’s permission, a student may be able to take photos and document their adventures in service (there may be strict rules requiring permission and releases) and use these visuals later for reflection and sharing. NobleHour enables students to share their photos, videos, and reflections using the Contribute and Share tool.  Faculty members should encourage student reflection.

One of the main goals of service learning is that students will continue or expand upon their community service even after the final project is done. If students are interested in learning more about their cause or organization, people at the volunteer site are great resources for other contacts and groups that are doing similar work and organizing similar events. 

To maximize the service learning curriculum, components of reflection throughout the semester for students should be interspersed in the syllabus. Class discussion, journal entry writing, online posts, article critiques on surrounding service topics, and a final demonstration or project of the students’ volunteer experiences are wonderful and diverse ways to get students engaged and thinking about their experiences.  

Teachers can guide students' reflection processes in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to: discussion, role play, and journaling

Students are encouraged to reflect on their experience and:

  • Describe what happened.
  • Examine the difference made.
  • Discuss thoughts and feelings.
  • Place experience in a larger contect.
  • Consider project improvements.
  • Generate ideas.
  • Identify questions.
  • Encourage comments from partners and recipients.
  • Receive feedback.

To fulfill one of her global health minor requirements in college, Liz took a course called Core Issues in Global Health: Community Health Practice for Refugees. The professor employed a Community Based Service Learning syllabus guideline which included student-led discussions, lectures, presentations, several community guest speakers, papers, posters, and a community engagement project. The class concluded with each student creating a material (paper, art, video, or article) that described their community refugee experience and also would benefit the organization. The professor made it a class requirement to get out into the surrounding community and see for themselves the information they learned about. Liz's work as an after school tutor with Fugee’s Family outside of Emory every week for one semester created meaning for the statistics and health disparities they were learning about for refugee populations in America. She is now able to look back over her paper and final project, and remember how engaged she felt both in class and with the young refugee soccer players at the Fugee’s school house. 

Service learning and service reflections are valuable student and teacher tools and provide numerous opportunities for personal growth and community service. The more these ideas and actions are incorporated into classrooms, from K-12 to higher education, the better students, communities, and the world will be.

Tune in next time for a discussion of the power of volunteering in diverse environments and with diverse people.

 

"Writing in the Rapids" by Julie Jordan Scott is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Topics: service learning, volunteering, experience, abroad, community engagement, outreach, higher ed, high school, community service, engaged learning, learning strategies, community connections, alternative spring breaks, reflection

Surviving the Holidays with Your College Student

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, Jan 02, 2014 @ 01:09 PM


They’re BACK!  Our college students are home for winter break and they’ve brought a lot of baggage with them! Enjoy that first great big smile of recognition at the airport, followed by a wonderful hug and kiss. They’ve come home with their bags stuffed, including a few non-tangibles – that new-found sense of independence, an “air” of maturity peppered with attitude, a new curfew time, and of course at least two loads of dirty clothes! The first 24 hours are the best for me, but do they really need four to five weeks off for the holidays? I mean, even my husband only gets the week off between Christmas and New Year’s and I think that’s very generous. High school and elementary school students go back right after New Year's. So what am I going to do with two college students till mid-January? Get them up and out of the house before noon to share some of that youthful energy helping others.

Many organizations are looking for extra help during the holidays. Whether it’s collecting food for shelters or helping serve holiday meals to the homeless, have your college or high school student take a break from texting, shopping, hanging out, or playing video games and spread some holiday cheer. Start with your own city’s website. In Chicago, the city’s service initiative is called One Good Deed Chicago. The program lists opportunities to volunteer and support the diverse non-profits in the city. Has your student put on the freshman 15? Sign them up to help shovel snow for the elderly for a great workout!

New York City’s service website has hundreds of listings including tutoring, serving meals at shelters, and teaching seniors about the Internet.

In addition to city and state government websites, you can also check out your local chapters of the United Way, YMCA,  and the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army in Williamsburg, Virginia, needs bell ringers through December 24. To quote Buddy the Elf – “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!” According to their website, volunteers can sing carols, play an instrument, and of course ring a bell! In the midst of all the commercialism, your good-hearted son or daughter can remind others to share and care about people in their community. If it's too cold to ring the bell outside, you can also create your own virtual red kettle fundraiser!

The Greater Chicago Area, Northern Illinois and Northwestern Indiana Division of the Salvation Army also offers mobile alerts to let you know about opportunities to help in your area. 

Make sure to also check out some amazing volunteer opportunities listed on the NobleHour website. There are thousands of listings all over the United States, ranging from visiting nursing homes, volunteering at schools, or sorting and packaging food at local food banks. Find the true meaning of the holidays by getting your student excited about serving others.

If your son or daughter just wants to nest and watch every old holiday movie during their college break, then get those idle hands working. Even someone with all thumbs can make a no-sew fleece blanket! Blankets can be donated to local homeless shelters or you can contact your local chapter of Project Linus, a non-profit organization that provides homemade blankets to children in need. Their website provides a variety of patterns including quilts and afghans.

Knots of Love

If you and your child like to knit, spend some quiet, quality time together knitting caps for cancer patients. Knots of Love donates caps to men and women who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy treatment, burn accidents, brain surgery and head trauma patients, as well as individuals with alopecia.

At the point where you can’t take your college student acting like a guest in his own home anymore, it’s time to call in the big guns – grandma and grandpa! A little quality time with them will make everyone happier! Boost their ego by asking them to help their grandparents with a few technology lessons. DoSomething.org’s Grandparents Gone Wired campaign encourages young adults to use their online skills to help seniors get connected. Spend some time with gramps setting up a twitter account, or show grandma how to use Facetime and Facebook on her cell phone and laptop! Call your local nursing home to see if you can help residents there too. The campaign runs through January 21, and also offers an opportunity to win a $10,000 scholarship! The time spent together is a priceless gift.

describe the imageIf your student is always on the go and the thought of being home for four to five weeks will drive you both crazy, then consider a service trip to round out the winter break. All Hands Volunteers has a number of opportunities available, including Project Detroit, an effort to help those in the greater Detroit area recover from damaging floods that occurred this past August. Over 200 homes in the Detroit metro area have been mucked, gutted and sanitized. Experience isn't necessary. Trained supervisors are on hand to assist volunteers with a variety of tasks

Last year, volunteers focused on rebuilding the homes and communities affected by Superstorm Sandy and also responded to the devastation left by the earthquake and typhoon in the Philippines

Visit the All Hands Volunteers website to complete an application, as well as determine available dates.Project Bohol The organization provides three simple meals, basic accommodations, and basic logistics to ensure a positive and productive experience. Volunteers must cover their own travel expenses and meals on days off. The organization has a strict minimum age policy and cannot accept volunteers under the age of 15 (14 in the Philippines). All 16 and 17 year olds must be accompanied with a responsible adult. 

There is no minimum or maximum time commitment, and the organization does not charge a participation fee. Volunteers can come for a day or a couple of months. The organization wants to make it as easy as possible for people to volunteer and make a difference.

So, before you know it, you’ll be sending your son or daughter back to school with a duffel bag filled with clean laundry. While you’ll be happy to get back to your quiet routine, you’ll might also be counting the days until Spring Break! Don’t worry, we’ll come up with a few ideas to help you then too! 

Photos courtesy of Knots of Love and All Hands Volunteers.

Topics: Food Banks, abroad, winter break, volunteering, community engagement, outreach, community service, engagement, high school, service, community, civic engagement, opportunities, involvement, nonprofit, scholarships

Students Help with Typhoon Haiyan Relief Efforts

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

The images are heartbreaking. Many of us in warm and safe households can’t imagine the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan. Yet, there are plenty who know first hand the ravages of natural disasters. Within the U.S., we’ve seen what the forces of nature can do to our neighborhoods – tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and floods have all taken their toll. And, each time, we come together as a nation to volunteer and help those in need. We come together as a community to gather and distribute food, clothing, medical and housing supplies. After Hurricane Katrina and Super storm Sandy, many students spent holiday breaks volunteering to help rebuild devastated neighborhoods.

Right now in the Philippines though, with communications wiped out, limited security and roads blocked, only experienced disaster relief aid workers are allowed in. How do we help those so far away who are in desperate need of food, water, medical attention, sanitation and shelter? There are plenty of opportunities to help including donating money, organizing fundraisers and giving blood.

For now, Meredith Brandt, communications manager for the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region said financial donations are the most efficient way to help meet the emergency needs of those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Help people affected by the Typhoon in the Philippines.

As of November 16, the American Red Cross has committed $11 million to support their global response to the disaster. Funds will be used to distribute relief items, repair and rebuild shelters, provide healthcare and ensure access to clean water and sanitation systems.

“We don’t send in unaffiliated volunteers,” said Brandt. We have subject matter experts that go to help with disaster relief.”

These specialized emergency response teams are experts in logistics, disaster assessment, shelter, health, water and sanitation. They will assist the Philippine Red Cross with rescue efforts and relief operations.

Brandt emphasized that financial aid will go a long way to help rebuild and recover and said that individuals and groups may also consider fundraising for the Red Cross.

In fact, many college student organizations are doing that now. Their desire to help has resulted in a number of creative and tried and true ideas to raise funds for the relief effort.

From using social media to engage their community and collect donations to organizing fundraisers and selling t-shirts , students everywhere are volunteering at home to make a difference.

For the last 15 years, the Philippine Student Association at Texas A&M University has organized a talent show to help promote diversity among the state’s universities. This year they decided to donate 100% of their ticket sales, as well as any other additional donations collected during the event. “We decided to change focus and donate all of the money raised to the typhoon relief effort,” said Trung Mai, vice president of Texas A&M’s Philippine Student Association. “We wanted to make the event more about our mission statement and what we are all about.”

Mai said they accomplished their goal this year to get more schools involved in the program. “We were sold out and packed all 500 seats in the auditorium. We had six or seven other universities support us, including the University of Texas at Arlington, San Antonio, Dallas, North Texas, and the University of Houston. We raised about $2,500.”

The group decided to donate their funds to the Philippine-based humanitarian organization, Gawad Kalinga.

Mai said they looked at different relief organizations. “We decided to work with Gawad Kalinga. It’s an organization that has a lot of credibility within the Philippines. You can go to their website to donate. There are plenty of choices of how to use your donations. You can also help by keeping them in your prayers.”

The Cornell Filipino Association in Ithaca, New York, is utilizing existing events to raise funds. They’ve also planned a bake sale and a cooking competition, So, You Think You Can Adobo on November 22. The competition emphasizes the delicious diversity of the Philippines' national dish. For only $5, attendees can sample and judge the tastiest variation of Chicken Adobo. Their proceeds will go to Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization working to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.

The Cornell University group used the website Charity Navigator to determine where they would direct their funds. The nonprofit evaluates the financial health, accountability and transparency of nearly 7,000 charities.

The Philippine Student Association at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign held a bake sale and fundraiser this past weekend. Funds raised will be directed to the Philippine Red Cross.

In addition to volunteering to raise funds, students can also support relief efforts by donating blood or organizing a blood drive.

Most people don’t think about donating blood until a disaster strikes. It’s important to ensure a sufficient blood supply and it’s also a great opportunity for community engagement.

While you may not be able to travel the globe now to help with disaster relief, Brandt suggests that students check out their local Red Cross chapter for volunteer opportunities within their own community. Individuals 13 years and older can volunteer.

If you want to be ready to help with disaster relief in the future, then consider disaster response training. Most disaster responders must be 18 years or older. Each local chapter can provide additional information about volunteer opportunities.

“We encourage people who want to help with disaster relief to become affiliated with the Red Cross and be trained,” said Brandt. “So, if the next disaster occurs, you are trained and ready to go either nationally or internationally.”

If you are organizing a fundraiser or would like to personally help fund relief efforts, here is a partial listing of organizations, in addition to ones previously listed, working to help those affected by the typhoon. What are you doing to help those affected by disasters? Share your stories.

Catholic Relief Services

ChildFund International

Direct Relief

Habitat for Humanity 

International Medical Corps

International Rescue Committee (IRC) 

Salvation Army (Text TYPHOON to 80888 to donate $10.)

Save the Children

UNICEF 

World Food Programme (WFP) (Text AID to 27722 to donate $10.)

World Vision http://www.worldvision.org

Topics: service, volunteering, volunteering nonprofit, abroad, nonprofit, community, civic engagement, community engagement, outreach, opportunities, social media, global, involvement, engagement, community service

The Realities of Volunteering Abroad

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Jun 06, 2013 @ 10:45 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Volunteering teaches its participants to become more aware of the impact of their actions on the community.  Often when we think of community, we refer to local communities, but volunteering can transcend borders across the global community.  During the summer, many volunteers choose to use their vacation time to help communities in the developing world.  A variety of programs exist to connect volunteers with opportunities abroad, and, though the volunteers have the best intentions, these efforts can sometimes be misguided.  To truly make an impact on a community, volunteers should pay close attention to how their actions will negatively or positively affect a community. 

Students Volunteering on the Beach

The benefits of volunteering abroad are almost self-explanatory at face value.  Volunteers gain a global perspective, visit a new part of the world, immerse themselves in a different culture and language, all the while engaging in service and helping developing areas.  It’s easy to see how volunteers would be sold on the idea of going overseas, and it is possible to make a positive impact - just not as easily as it seems.  What some don’t foresee is that one simply can’t just fly off and try to change a community.  It takes careful planning, time, and a real understanding of the current situation in a community before one can attempt to help it.  Before quickly selecting a volunteer program this summer, it’s vital to have a full understanding of how going abroad could have inadvertent negative results and how to avoid these by engaging in meaningful and impactful service projects. 

It’s important to note that many would criticize volunteering abroad because of the lack of sustainability resulting from a long-distance project.  There is a careful balance between helping a community get through the day, or empowering it so that one day it can be self-sufficient.  It’s the difference between bringing food to last a few weeks and helping a community rebuild its irrigation system so it can grow and sell its own food for generations to come.  The latter makes for a service-learning project that is sustainable because both parties are benefiting.  When looking for service opportunities abroad, volunteers should do proper research to ensure that the impact of their service will empower a community by helping lift it from poverty or hardship permanently, rather than temporarily alleviating some of the stress on the community. 

“The harsh truth is that ‘voluntourism’ is more about the self-fulfilment of westerners than the needs of developing nations.” - Ian Birrel, columnist and foreign correspondent.

Student volunteering abroad on the beach.Critics would also challenge the amount of money being put into volunteerism abroad.  With the hundreds and thousands of dollars people spend for their travel and accommodations while volunteering, many warn against “the dark side of our desire to help the developing world” as put by Ian Birrel in his article “Before you pay to volunteer abroad, think of the harm you might do”.  Birrel warns that “orphanages are a booming business trading on guilt [. . .] Those ‘orphans’ might have been bought from impoverished parents [. . . ]An official study found just a quarter of children in these so-called orphanages have actually lost both parents. And these private ventures are proliferating fast.”  The trouble with so many more tourists wanting to enrich their vacations with volunteering is that it becomes a disturbing industry where locals can profit on Westerners’ consciences.  Thousands of organizations encourage people to volunteer with their organization, but often these short excursions do more harm for local communities in the developing world. They take away jobs from skilled locals and give them to volunteers who will pay to work there.  Often the money spent by volunteers to travel abroad would be better used cultivating new industries and building infrastructure to help developing nations grow, rather than keeping them dependent on the developed world.

To avoid these misguided volunteering ventures, be sure to preform in-depth research on the program before hand.  Consider how impactful you want your volunteering to be.  Is the program allowing you to be proactive in the planning and orchestration of the project?  Will the local community truly benefit for years to come? Are you learning new skills, and are the native people learning new skills that will help them help themselves?  What does the developing community already have that can help them, and what do they need to improve their lives? These are challenging questions, and oftentimes it’s easier for one to continue helping in one's own community rather than one abroad. 

Both at home and abroad, volunteers are meant to fill in the missing pieces in a community, not supplement what it can do by itself.  The end result should be giving a foreign community the ability to help itself rather than keeping it dependent on aid from the developed world.  Volunteers should strive to bring the resources and skills that combat the issues hindering a community’s ability to prosper and live better quality lives.  Eventually volunteers have to return home, but the communities they visit and the lives they attempt to touch will remain.  Before they leave, their actions should echo in the lasting improvements helped to achieve.  This summer, continue to track your Noble Impact on NobleHour both at home and abroad. 

Topics: service learning, service, education, volunteering, experience, highered, abroad

Subscribe via E-mail

Latest Posts

Need help measuring volunteer initiatives? Learn more about NobleHour

Posts by category

Follow Me