27 July 2008

Do you volunteer? One person can make a difference.

"Learn to lead in a nourishing manner.
Learn to lead without being possessive.
Learn to be helpful without taking the credit.
Learn to lead without coercion."

Lao Tzu
Lao Tzu sounds more like a modern mayor or community organizer than an ancient philosopher. As you've heard, "Those who can, do." However, those who can do more, volunteer. They know the reward of giving with no expectation of "taking the credit" (or even a tax deduction) for their effort. Nationally, about one in three people who volunteer in a given year do not do so the following year. In Miami, the metro area with the lowest ranking of the cities cited in the study, the drop-out rate is six in 10.

"There's interest in volunteering in a lot of people but they're just not staying with it," according to Robert Grimm, director of research for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

Rapid turnover is a problem across the country, but the report concluded that "volunteer intensity" is increasing, with one-third of volunteers contributing more than 100 hours of service in a year - the highest rate for that category since 2002. However the overall national participation rate dropped again in 2007 after reaching 28.8% in 2005.

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

Antoine de Saint Exupery

The CNCS, an independent federal agency, used Census Bureau data to determine its state and city rankings, which are based on three-year averages for 2005 through 2007. In all, the study found that 60.8 million Americans (aged 16 and older) performed roughly 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service in 2007.

"We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service relationship to humanity."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By region, the Midwest had the highest volunteer rate at 31.1% in the recent CNCS study, followed by the West at 26.1, the South with 24.7 and the Northeast at 23.4 -- the number one metro area of the top 50 ranked? That honor goes to the twin cities, Minneapolis/Saint Paul with an impressive 39.3% participation rate, possibly due in part to the efforts of their Corporate Volunteerism Council, the CVC. It's difficult to tease apart cause and effect: but maybe there really is something to that so-called "Minnesota nice" since even the sometimes contentious 2008 presidential campaign has spawned volunteerism in Minnesota.

Then, too, it was Mayor Raymond Thomas "R.T." Rybak of Minneapolis who declared July 9, 2007 as “Volunteer Day” in his city, to celebrate the important role that volunteers play in the life of any community. Since being elected he's been tirelessly leading by example, enlisting his community in reweaving what he calls the urban fabric while laying the groundwork for the future of his city.

So obviously there are many things coming together in Minnesota, (maybe R.T. has studied Lao Tzu) but the lessons can be applied anywhere in the world.
Act to help others, no matter if you're 7 or 77:

Learn to be helpful without taking the credit.

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21 July 2008

Interesting giveaway...

Sunnight Solar is set to launch the new SL2 (SunLight2) or SuperBoGo, solar powered flashlight by giving them away.

There are no charges, nothing to buy and they say they'll send them to you at cost, from a warehouse in Houston, when they arrive in mid-August. Each is individually numbered – 1/500 and they are in blue ABS plastic and on the side, laser etched – it says “Changing the World – Limited Edition” May 2008.

They welcome requests from people who want a free light, so send e-mail to info@sunnightsolar.com with the reason(s) why you think they should send you a light. They will decide who gets a light – and obviously, people who are in a position to either blog to a large audience, put out a media article, buy lots of lights in the future, are heavily involved in environmental or humanitarian work, work for FEMA, the upper management of Red Cross or Greenpeace, in charge of the US Senate’s oversight committee on incredibly large sums of money for foreign aid and really huge contracts for small businesses, the Governors of any the Gulf Coast states, the Pope, Al Gore or Angelina Jolie – all of these people are cited as "probably going to get a light" if they send a request. If you just want a free light, because you like to get free things - I can certainly sympathize, but you are probably not going to make the cut any more than I am.

Peace Corps volunteers getting ready to go abroad are high on the list of people they'd consider seriously, people set to trek alone across large parts of the globe, people working in remote places, American men and women heading to war, or people with just really good stories... you'll want to check the rules.