Wednesday, March 24, 2010

International Service Day Newsletter

International Service Day

The basic idea of the day is to go and make the world a better place. And then, spread the good that you did with others around the globe!

We all have talents to share. Too often we don't try to do something to help because we fear our little impact would be too small to matter. This is a day to show that we all matter and that if everyone does a little, much will get done.

And that we can make the world a better place!

The work need not be hard. It need not be of a grand size. It just needs to be in the spirit of helping. The job can be as small as helping an elderly neighbor to the store or walking dogs at the Humane Society (SPCA). On the other hand it can be as large as organizing hundreds of volunteers in Haiti or Chile in earthquake recovery.

All the jobs are important. All are needed.

Volunteer and Change the World

Location: wherever you are. Officially we will have events in ten countries and in over 25 US cities

Time & Date: Saturday, March 27th, 2010. Times will vary by location.

What to Bring: A good attitude, a willingness to help, and extra smiles to pass on. (Oh and a camera!)

Attire: Varies with location, but in most places you be working so dress appropriately and for weather conditions.

Some of the sites: (this is by no means a complete list as we don't even know the entire list!)

  • Atlanta GA- a crew from Haygood Methodist Church will be working on a Habitat Build for a family from Iraq

  • Birmingham AL-will be working at a home for women just released from prison

  • Buffalo NY-will have over 100 people working at 10 different sites in conjunction with VillaVolunteers and the SBU Alumni

  • Cambodia: Sean (one of the original leaders of BonaResponds) will be working at an orphanage

  • Chicago IL- a large group of volunteers led by BonaResponds-Chicago will be working at Grant Park

  • Leogane Haiti- Andy (another of the original BonaResponds leaders) will be working on earthquake recovery

  • Olean NY: Mary (another of the original BonaResponds leaders (and Jim's sister) will be working with the American Red Cross on disaster preparation

  • New York City, NY- Bridget (another of the original BonaResponds leaders) and her family will be cooking for a local homeless shelter.

  • San Diego CA- Sarah, Carrie, and others will be helping a retired Marine who has been living in his garage since wildfires swept the area in 2007.

  • Los Angeles CA- Anna and over 100 of her closest friends will be helping with a large health fair, walk, and run.

  • Philadelphia PA- Three teams will be working on painting, a lot clean up, and with children at a local pool.

  • Greenville SC- Fr Pat will be working among the poor and often forgotten around his parish.

  • Ethiopia- Sr. Rosie will have a crew of high school children working around her hospital

  • Dallas TX- approximately 20 volunteers will be helping physically challenged children enjoy a day at a local horse ranch

  • Machias NY-Pete and his CYC crew will be repairing picnic tables, painting, and cleaning a park
  • Washington DC-A group of alumni led by the Zimmers and Anthony will be working at a food bank.
  • Your hometown- you tell us!

Many more sites will be doing things! But you get the idea. And you can join the list too! It is not too late.

(See for more info on how to get involved, or just go do something on your own!)

While working:

  1. Be Safe. We want to get much work done, but staying safe is job #1.

  2. The normal legal disclaimers apply. As volunteers you are on your own. We are suggesting you go and help others, but you are all assuming risk on your own behalf. Which means you can not sue St. Bonaventure, BonaResponds, or anyone else involved with this day.

  3. Talk to others. Don't just work. It is supposed to be fun. Play music. Talk.

  4. Whenever possible, get others involved. Especially those you are helping. This is great for their mental outlook and makes it much more meaningful for the volunteers as well. (invite them back to "camp" for a meal if at all possible").

  5. Things will go wrong. Don't sweat it too much. Remember better not perfect.

  6. Be flexible. If you start out to do job A and job B gets done instead, oh well. Often these things happen for the best.

  7. Have fun! We are not paying you. So you better have some fun!

  8. Be Safe! (so that makes staying safe both job #1 and job #8)

After working

Rather than just going home and getting on with your regular day, we have another request: Share your work and what helping others means to you. (And what it means to those that you helped!)

There is no right or wrong way to do this. Generally after our workdays we take a page out of HODR's playbook (we got our start working with them in Biloxi after Katrina and still believe that 3-4 month period was the best run volunteer experience to date) and have an "all Hands meeting" where every team tells what they did that day. Why? It is not to brag but rather to help other volunteers see how much got done. If this part is missing, many volunteers fail to see the "big picture" and think that all that got done was the part that they themselves played.

But this reflection period is more than that. It is also a time to listen to the stories, to learn, to grow, and to make new friends. Many times, but especially after disasters, these reflection discussions can be moving and lead many to tears. They need not be serious. Indeed, much more often they are full of hilarious stories of mess-ups, mistakes, and mayhem. But they are still a good and important part of the day and a good way to make friends as well!

So we encourage you to get together with other volunteers for a meal or at least a few words to recount the day and to take in the day's good feeling.

But that is not all. There are people working for others everywhere. And they too want to now what went on at your jobs site. So we are asking everyone to share their day with others as well. How can you do this when the other volunteers are spread around all corners of the earth? With technology of course!

There are at least three ways to you can share your day:

1. Audio: VoiceQuilt: (This is really cool pay attention :) ) It works like this: You call in, and leave a message. Pretty simple right? But how cool is this? The message will be available for others to listen to AND will serve as the basis for the soundtrack for the video we hope to put together capturing the day.

  • Call 1-877-OurQuilt (1-877-687-7845). Overseas callers see for instructions

  • When asked for your invitation number, enter 92266.

  • Record your message, just as if talking to an answering machine.

2. Digital Pictures and Videos: Pictures and videos are great! Please take many pictures! (in my day job I teach finance and as anyone who has ever been on a trip with me knows, the variable cost of a picture is ALMOST zero. Which means take many pictures! "Before shots", work shots, group shots, shots of whom you are helping, "after shots", well you get the idea. We want lots of pictures. (and short videos too. Flickr allows you to upload videos of up to 90 seconds. If you make one longer than that, let us know and we will use YouTube.)

Once you take the pictures, you have to share them with us (and others!) here is how:

The best way is to upload pictures of your day (with names and descriptions please!) to the Flickr account we have set up for the day:

Account: Bona_Responds Password: Email for password

If that does not work, you can also email the pictures to us at

Of course you can also upload your pictures to your own accounts to (facebook etc) but many people (especially outside the US) are not on those accounts and definitely are not friends with everyone who worked at other sites, so PLEASE upload to flickr as well.

3. Written reflections: We'd love reflection emails (as attachments or in an email) as well. Whether it is a few sentences or several pages, write up what service means. Or what it is like to be helped. Or why you like volunteering. Or how volunteering changed your life. Or anything else about volunteering in general or the day in particular.

Need some ideas? here are some past reflection essays members of BonaResponds have written.

Email them to us at BonaResponds (at)

Remember all pictures, audio, video, and reflections will be available for others to see and we may use them in our video, so your uploading or sending them is our permission to use :)

Why the emphasis on sharing after the work is done?

Saturday is about more than just a day of good deeds. We will make the world a better place. But there will still be so so so much more work to be done. In a world where bad news makes the news, we all need encouragement from time to time. To realize that we can make a difference.

The videos, pictures, essays, and VoiceQuilt are to help serve that role. To remind everyone who participated that good things do happen. That by coming together and doing a little, a great deal gets done. It is a message that needs to get out. It is a message that needs you to happen.

From Jim's Messy Desk

I hope you are at least half as excited about this day as I am!

I am often reminded of the story of how a Butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can lead to major storms half way around the world. This day is like that. We don't know how the day will play out. We don't know the end result of the good deeds. Oh sure, in some instances we may thing we know. We see a cleaned school or a painted wall and say that was what was accomplished, but I challenge you to realize that is not all that was done.

Indeed, we do not know where the work may lead. We probably will never know. But it is possible to speculate:

To the volunteers:

  • some may discover skills they never knew they possessed.

  • some may find a new calling.

  • some may find a much needed friend.

  • some may find maturity.

  • some may find a fountain of youth.

  • some may find themselves.

And while I have no doubt that it will be a wonderful day for the volunteers, the real reason for the day is to help others. So if you allow me a second, please speculate with me to what the day will mean to those helped. And as we do this, please stop and mentally put yourself in their place for second:

  • Who can possibly know the feeling of the earthquake survivor who after more than two months, gets a tent, or sees his family vaccinated.

  • Consider the former Marine living in a garage for over 2 years. Getting help, any help, may just give him faith that that world still cares.

  • And don't forget the elderly neighbor with no family and no means of getting around. Getting to the store may be impossible without the volunteer's help.

  • Or what about the disabled child who for his/her entire life will fondly remember the day when he/she got to ride a horse.

  • Or the child who can afford school because the school was painted by volunteers.

Of course all jobs may not lend themselves to such easy speculation, but trust me they all matter. Who knows, that clean park may keep families coming back, may keep drug dealers out. We just don't know.

We do know that the world would be much poorer without the services of many thousands of people who give their time and efforts every day. Saturday will just be one more day for many of them. But by working along side them, we honor them while helping them to make a difference. So to those of you working in Haiti, to those working in Africa, to those working in the poor parts of developed cities, or in the rural parts of lesser developed nations, thank you.

In closing, I encourage you all to get involved. To go and help. No matter how small, no matter how big. Together we can make the world a better place. Maybe not a perfect place, but a better place...... jim

PS #1 We hope to make this an annual event. Tentatively next year it will be March 26, 2011.

PS #2: We have about 700 people on our mailing list. It is estimated that there are 1.5 Billion email users. So please forward this. The odds that they already got it are really really really small! (.00000046 if you are keeping score at home).

You can do this. Whoever you are and where ever you are. If you are very religious, or agnostic, if you are 5 years old or 95 years old. If you live in a big city or a small town. In whatever country you are in. Go and help someone. Together we can (and will) make this world a better place.

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