College is always an emotionally charged time. It is four years of self-development, from deciding your major to finding your home away from home. Some days you could feel unstoppable—you get a great grade on a paper, the cafeteria has your favorite meal, and you got a full night's rest. Other days, you bomb an exam, the coffee machine is broken, and your roommates kept you up all night. For some, it's hard to pick yourself up after a bad day, to quiet the voice in your head kicking you when you're down, saying, "If only you studied more..." or "I'll never be successful this semester." It's hard to keep your head up in the face of defeat, to keep on when the course gets tough, but know it takes more than just dedication: It also takes proper mental health.
National Depression Screening Day is today, October 8—a good time to take advantage of Kappa Alpha Theta's online mental health screening programs. Taking this free, anonymous screening can help you or a friend recognize signs of depression and provide avenues to productively treat depression early on. Please take a few minutes and go to www.SistersSupportingSisters.org to start living better.
During the month of October, we are asking Thetas everywhere to participate in the Love is Louder social media movement to show our love and support to all of our sisters—in Theta, in Panhellenic, in life—and let them know that LOVE IS LOUDER than depression (and anxiety, and self-doubt: We need your help to fill in the blank). Last year, we started to make waves on social media bringing awareness to this issue and supporting our friends (see a sample post in the image above). In 2015, with your help, we hope to make an even bigger impact. Have a conversation at your chapter meeting and share the resources on the Sisters Supporting Sisters web page. Share you photos on social media and tag Kappa Alpha Theta in your post (@kappa_alpha_theta on Instagram, @BettieLocke on Twitter, and tagging @Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity on Facebook). You may also send photos to socialmedia@KappaAlphaTheta.org.
Love is Louder was started by The Jed Foundation, MTV, and Brittany Snow to support anyone feeling mistreated, misunderstood, or alone. You can participate by taking a photo of your hand with "Love is Louder" or "Theta Love is Louder" written on your palm. Please join us in this campaign by sharing your photos answering this statement: "Theta Love is Louder than _____." Tag your photos on social media with the following hashtags: #LoveIsLouder and #ThetaLoveIsLouder. Let Theta love be felt everywhere.
It's hard to believe Theta's Day of Service is only two weeks away! By now you should have identified a service site that will suit both the needs of the organization and fits with the type of service work your chapter members wish to do. You've communicated with the organization about a timeline and ensured you have a workable timeline for the service, including any education or training that needs to be done prior. You might have identified a reflection activity or two that you can do with service participants after the project concludes.
Now let's focus on motivating others in service work. Why do people serve in the first place? According to Adam Davis, people choose to volunteer for five reasons:
- We love other people and want to serve them
- We realize we're all on this planet together
- Our own self-interests
- A religious obligation (if we have one) calls us to serve
It's important to note that each of us chooses to serve for our own reasons. Some might just because they were asked. Some might to fulfill a requirement. Others serve to feel like they're part of a team. Still others serve because they truly believe in the mission of the organization.
It's also important to note that the motivations people have to volunteer with a certain service organization or agency might not ultimately be why they choose to continue. For instance, many Thetas began their volunteer work with CASA because of its connection to the Fraternity, but many have continued to serve the organization because they believe in the goal of assuring each child has a safe, permanent, and nurturing home.
In order to connect others to causes we care about, it's important to use storytelling. I often use the phrase, "Facts tell. Stories sell." Providing statistics or reciting information to others doesn't inspire them to want to serve. Storytelling, on the other hand, is the vehicle that calls others to action. Ultimately, motivating others in service is a call to action. You just have to find the right story that is going to connect. Remember, all of us are motivated by different things, so what motivates me isn't necessarily going to motivate you. So, how can you encourage others to be excited about the service you will take part in on October 19?
- Know their reasons for volunteering. Are they participating so they can feel close to their sisters? Because they connect to the mission of the organization? Or for another reason?
- Tell the story. Storytelling is not just about facts and figures. It's about individual persons and emotions. Ultimately, people make decisions based emotion as opposed to rationale, so ensure that when you tell the story about an organization, you connect others to the human element.
- Communicate. Good communication is critical in helping to manage expectations and responsibilities. People need to know what they're getting into and what is expected of them. This is also a two-way street. Welcome suggestions and feedback from members. When others feel valued, they're more likely to do what you want them to do.
- Show appreciation. Service requires no payment, but a simple "thank-you" goes a long way.
- Show them how they made a difference. Helping others see the impact their work made on the overall mission of the organization is crucial. Allow them see the results of their work, while also helping them understand what they learned in the process. This is why the reflection piece of service work is so important.
I look forward to serving alongside you (in just 14 days!) in an effort to support a culture of Theta women who serve in meaningful ways to build community and exercise the widest influence for good.
This human element is the only way we can hope to bridge gaps and understand others. It recognizes that people and the systems within which they operate are complex. Think about a time when you saw someone experiencing homelessness (and it's "people experiencing homelessness" and not "the homeless" or a "homeless person") on the street and then continued walking on. What assumptions did you make about that person? What unconscious judgments about that person crossed your mind? What stereotypes were reinforced? Why did you think those things?
When we reduce people to the stereotypes we have about them, we dehumanize them. That is why serving, rather than helping or fixing, is so important. By serving, we do not assume that we know more than the people being served. We do not think those being served are broken or lacking. It's also why the learning doesn't stop after we've spent a few hours volunteering at an organization that serves a particular population or advocates for a particular cause.
The reflection piece is incredibly important. Without it, our service is incomplete. Again, I will encourage you to visit the Day of Service - Plan page, and to not forget about the reflection activities that are provided there. Reflection is where we can make sense of our service experience in order to think about things in a way we had not previously, or to critically think deeper about the work we have done. Without it, community service can be pointless or even harmful. We can reflect through writing, speaking, listening, and reading about the experience of doing service. Essentially, it helps us learn from ourselves.
There are three lenses through which we can reflect on our experience—the mirror, the microscope, and the binoculars. The "mirror" looks at what we've learned about ourselves; the "microscope" looks at what we've learned about community agencies and issues; and the "binoculars" looks at what we've learned about broader social and global issues. All three of these pieces are crucial to breaking down barriers, creating more empathy, and helping us better understand what it is we are doing.
Without the "What? So what? Now what?" pieces, we haven't made meaning of our experience. Without creating that meaning, it's not likely someone will want to serve again, and after all, that's what the Fraternity's Day of Service is all about: taking the time to do service together in celebration of Bettie's birthday, while simultaneously aiming to create a culture in which service is at the core of who we are and what we do as Thetas.
This example is used to better illustrate the concept of primary prevention, which is used most often in public health to eradicate an unhealthy behavior (e.g., smoking). Pulling individuals out of the river (i.e., only focusing education on telling women to "stay safe") is not a long-term solution to end interpersonal violence. Our strategy has to include primary prevention tactics, which include challenging the myths that, even unintentionally, support sexual violence.
I know it is challenging to have conversations around sexual violence. It can be especially challenging for women (or women's groups) to think about how they can work in a meaningful way to end sexual assault when we are not the perpetrators. It can be difficult to develop educational programming that goes beyond risk reduction and supporting survivors. Directing efforts through a primary prevention lens that focuses on our engagement in rape-supportive culture empowers us all to take a role in ending sexual violence.
Our cover Theta, Tracey Long Carisch, Beta/Indiana, and her family traveled in 25 countries in 15 months on an adventure they dubbed "100 Ways to Change the World." During the two to six weeks they spent in each location, they became part of the community by participating in service efforts, from habitat restoration in New Zealand to assisting with preschool classes in Fiji.
The subject of our In Her Own Words feature—Louise Lev Geil, Beta Iota/Colorado—is also an enthusiastic traveler. In addition to skiing black-diamond runs, she has been trekking in Nepal. Twice.
Finally, our "How To" expert, Lisa Smith, Delta Kappa/LSU, offers tips on taking great photographs, whether you're using a DSLR to shoot Mount Everest or a smartphone to shoot the family vacation.
If you're receiving the print version of the magazine, it should have already arrived in your mailbox. If you're not, an explanation of our distribution system can be found on our website. That's where you can also access the online version of all issues, dating back to 2006.
Whether you're reading the online or print version, we hope you enjoy the current issue of our magazine!
1. Community voice: Development of any community service project should consider the voice and needs of the community. Project planners should allow the community (typically represented by groups such as agencies, schools, and neighborhood organizations) to define what needs to be done before developing a project. Community voice is essential to building connections, making changes, and solving problems. When you make contact with the volunteer coordinator at an organization or agency, inquire about possible volunteer projects for your group, sharing with the coordinator your group's likely number of attendees and possible dates (in this case, on or around October 19!). Your project should fit your group's needs and be educational, fun, and rewarding. At the same time, it should meet an identified community need as articulated by the agency. If your ideas don't mesh or if schedules conflict, it's okay to tell the agency that the project won't work out. Just be sure to communicate this clearly and with advance notice. You don't want to leave an organization that's depending on you high and dry.
2. Orientation and training: Like I mentioned in the last blog, orientation and training is necessary, and often required, by the organization with which you're working. Project leaders should provide information about the community, the issue, and the community group with which they'll be working. This information should provide the knowledge participants need in order to act effectively and appropriately at the service site. Participants should be well-educated about the organization's mission and goals. Ask questions such as "Why and how did the agency develop?", "What are its current successes and challenges?", and "How will the project you work on contribute to the overall mission of the organization?" The agency can provide the orientation, even if it's just a quick 10-minute overview. If you're doing indirect service, it is even more important to learn about the work of the organization so you have a context for the work you're doing.
3. Meaningful action: Meaningful action means that the service being done is necessary and valuable to the community being served. It also makes volunteers feel that their actions made a difference in a measurable way and that their time was utilized effectively. Without the feeling of meaningful action, participants may not want to continue their service, even if the other four elements are in place. And ultimately, we want Day of Service to be a starting point for participants to take part in ongoing service project. Remember that meaningful action can be in the form of direct or indirect service!
4. Reflection: Immediately after the service experience, participants should discuss reactions, personal stories, feelings, and facts about the issues they encountered. Reflection and discussion help to dispel any stereotypes about the group or community served or addresses any individual's alienation from the service. A time of reflection also offers an opportunity to place the experience into a broader context. Questions to ask include "How did this affect me?", "Did I make a difference today?", "How did my expectations line up with my experience?", and "How might I get more involved with this issue?" Remember that the service experience is about more than the agency you serve—it's about the larger social issue the agency is working to solve (i.e., hunger and homelessness, domestic violence, poverty, education), and so reflection is paramount in that. Find more ideas for reflection on the Day of Service - Plan web page.
5. Evaluation: Service participants should evaluate what they learned or experienced as a result of their work, and, likewise, the organization should evaluate the results of the participants' contribution of time and effort. Evaluation gives direction for improvement, growth, and change of future efforts. Questions to address might include "Did group members like the service project?", "Would they go back?", "Did the logistics work?", and "Would you recommend the agency to other groups or individuals?"
Ultimately, we know that as leading women, you will exercise the widest influence for good on October 19, thoughtfully devoting your time and talent to an organization you care about, and we hope you learn something you didn't know before!
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