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The Power of Relationships

July 3rd, 2015

My friend, Rena, a referee, stood on the sidelines before a scrimmage, talking with a frustrated basketball player. She gave her some advice for improving her game. She explained in detail how important her role was on the court and why the coach had changed her position. She gave perspective to what was going on. Rena helped paint a vision and expectations for leadership for the girl’s role and how she could step up her game.

 

After her next game, the player sought out Rena and told her that she had taken her advice and had the best game she’d ever had and scored the most points she’d ever scored.

 

This quick moment is a great example of how a caring adult created a relational space, took a few minutes to listen, focus on the player, be real, and find her strengths. A mere 5-10 minutes of listening and sharing together can build a person up!

 

Rena simply took advantage of a moment, and turned it into something deeper. She seized an opportunity to show the player she cared and to offer encouraging words, actions and challenging ideas for making things better. The result? The player ran with it. She needed someone to listen, to care, to create a safe space for sharing and then she was open to feedback for making changes. That’s positive youth development in action!

 

To learn more about creating relational space, the value of listening and empowering youth to be proactive in their own lives, check out our book, Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms, The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.

 

 

Have you had a passing conversation with a young person that you later learned was a bigger deal to them than you ever thought possible? Share with us!

 

 

Youth Heroes: The Power of Words

July 3rd, 2015

Without anyone in the church knowing it, a youth pastor in Charlotte County, Florida challenged his 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders to a thirty day project in the power of words. For thirty days, these young teens and pre-teens were asked to make a conscious effort to only say encouraging things to everyone they met. No put downs. Only positive, encouraging words wherever they were. At home. At school. In the neighborhood. At church. In the mall. In the grocery store. Everywhere and anywhere these youth were to avoid put downs as the norm for communication style and replace them with loving kind words.

 

Oh, and this project of love was to be done on the sly. No one was to know what they were up to or doing. It was a secret mission.

 

After three weeks into the project, the senior pastor called his youth leader into his office and asked him, ‘have you noticed the difference in our church (of some 380 people)?’

 

‘What difference would that be?’ the youth pastor asked.

 

Reverend Hayes replied, ‘months ago, everyone was growling about everything. Now, everyone is excited about the ministries we have and the upcoming projects. I am just so grateful that God is doing this.’

 

‘Me, too,’ Keith Coss had replied at the time. ‘Will you come to youth group and share this with them?’

 

‘Why?’ the pastor asked.

 

Keith smiled. ‘Trust me.’

 

The youth group meeting came and Rev. Bob Hayes shared exactly what he had shared in his office earlier. As soon as he was done speaking, a huge roar of laughter from the 28-29 youth present erupted. The pastor looked confused. Keith asked one of the 6th graders to tell the pastor what they had been doing for the past four weeks and why. The youth told the pastor about the verse they had studied (which they had all memorized).

 

The senior pastor’s response to the revelation of this big secret was so profound. He looked at that group of kids (which it should be noted was a diverse group of youth in a less than affluent part of town) and told them, ‘don’t ever let anybody ever tell you God can’t use you to change other lives for the better’ and then he quoted 1 Timothy 4:12 to the group.

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

Warren Bennis on leadership and life

July 1st, 2015

“The point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely—all your skills, gifts, and energies—in order to make our vision manifest. You must withhold nothing. You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming.”                             –Warren Bennis, author

Youth Heroes: Computers for Communities

June 26th, 2015

When Jacob Komar from Connecticut found 30 old computers being discarded from a school, he (then 9 years old) decided to find a home for them.   He started Computers for Communities an organization that works with volunteers in prisons and schools to refurbish and distribute to computers to people who can’t afford them.   Through distributing over 1000 computers, they have empowered countless volunteers and increased job skills in volunteers and recipients.   Prisoners with no former computer training now have marketable job skills in a technology-based workplace. For more information, visit www.computers4communities.org

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

One Person. One Moment. A Lifetime of Change.

June 24th, 2015

Repost from www.jonathanfields.com:

We tend to think of profound change as a process that happens over time.

Sometimes, that’s true. But other times, deep, lasting change can happen in a moment. I have no idea if there’s a clinical name for it, but I’ve seen it happen so many times, I just started calling it “snapping.” As in something snaps you into a new awakening or state of being.

It could be a deed, a word, an experience. Seconds long. Something that shifts your belief and empowers faith and action. Sometimes that new state is negative or destructive. I’m more fascinated with positive or constructive snapping.

In this week’s episode of Good Life Project™, iconic designer and founder of New York magazine, Milton Glaser, shared just such a moment. Something happened more than 50 years earlier in his life. A moment that lasted no more than a few minutes. Yet, he’s never forgotten it. The impact was that deep.

The story gave me chills as he told it. So, I felt I had to share it here with all of you:

Keep reading the story here:  http://www.jonathanfields.com/one-person-milton-glaser/

Youth Heroes: Suitcases for Kids

June 19th, 2015

Aubyn and Welland Burnside were ten and seven years old, when they learned that the average foster care child moves three to four times during their youth. They were further saddened to realize that the children don’t have suitcases, so they usually move their belongings in garbage bags.   Wanting to give them more dignity and a way to protect their treasures, the Burnside children founded Suitcases For Kids. They invited churches and youth organizations to help collect suitcases for every foster care child in their county. The enthusiasm spread from county to county, eventually all across the United States. Twelve years later, the Burnsides are still involved – primarily handling logistics and speaking around the country. They have personally collected, cleaned and delivered 25,000 suitcases. They estimate that hundreds of thousands of suitcases, backpacks and duffels have been donated by volunteers involved in 87 countries around the world. They are excited about the suitcases, but they are even more thrilled about the increased awareness of foster care and adoption needs. The Burnsides that believe that one person can really make a difference, and they challenge you to make a difference with the passions and skills God has given you. For more information, visit www.suitcasesforkids.org.

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

Silence – An Unexpected Strategy for Engaging Youth

June 17th, 2015

As you listen to youth, make sure you invite silence into the conversation. Some of us hurry conversations because silence makes us uncomfortable. Silence, however, is a friend to conversations and creates space for introverts to think and for everyone to reflect. After you ask a question, wait 10–12 seconds (count: one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, and so forth) before you ask another question. Or breathe slowly in-between. These two tricks will help you slow down and focus on them.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Youth Heroes Help in an Orphanage

June 12th, 2015

Amanda Smith shared one of the projects she was involved with in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Over time she has sent 10 groups to a local orphanage. The youth group would go to the Presbyterian home for children to provide assistance for various odds and ends jobs. They would work on the grounds, do repair jobs and yard work.  The amazing thing about these simple tasks is that the youth groups would come back amazed that there were still orphans in today’s world. They were amazed at the challenges the kids face going into the school system who felt they were outcasts because they attended school on the designated Presbyterian home bus. The youth groups would come back with a little more understanding and a little more compassion for what it means to not have a ‘regular’ home.

 

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

Why do you do the work that you do?

June 10th, 2015

A friend asked me a question today: “What is the most important aspect of your work and what does it mean to you?”

My quick answer was something to the effect of “I love taking research and best practices and translating them into  easy-to-use activities and strategies for youth workers and educators. I love working with so many passionate and creative people who care so deeply about young people.”

It’s an important question to ask of ourselves.  Why do you do the work that you do?  What do you love about it?

Listening to our answers holds important keys for how we refuel our energy and maintain our focus over the longhaul!

Youth Heroes and Financial Advocacy

June 5th, 2015

A group of inner-city teenagers signed up for an eight weeks financial literacy course offered by Community Impact in East Nashville, Tennessee that matched savings and financial literacy. At the end of the course, they opened a mandatory savings account for college that Community Impact matched (up to $40 per month). First, the youth learned about saving money, balancing a checkbook and interest. Then at the end of the course, the teenagers had to put a minimum of $10 per month into their account that they had earned (had to show they had earned it). The agency would write a check to the college of the young person’s choice when the time came for them to enroll. (The agency also did a match of monies for the stipend to increase the amount beyond the percentage of the savings.)

 

After taking classes, one young person said, “This is great for us, but my mom needs to know this stuff. My aunt doesn’t know this. My sister has a bill collector at her door. What about them? How can this help them?”

 

The youth did research and were trained to lead the financial literacy classes. Stipends were now paid to youth when they took on leadership roles, and they started doing the research and offering the classes. They offered the classes in churches, school, and community centers (wherever they were welcomed). They taught their families, friends and neighbors valuable skills in managing money.

 

As time went on, they realized that there were forces working against them: predatory lending laws to be exact. These laws include pawn shops, rent-to-own, title lending, payday lending (where people could borrow money upfront against their upcoming pay checks against two weeks of interest). These various places work against the poor and continue to oppress them and keep them trapped in a cycle of dependence.

 

“How can businesses do this to us? How can they get away with this?” asked on of the youth in the program. The youth group started doing what they have historically done for the past five years. They started doing research. Students started doing research to understand what was happening and what these places were and why they could do what they were doing.

 

They started asking questions of businesses and lawyers and other leaders and members of the community. As of the writing of this book, they are currently exploring how they might change the laws that regulate predatory loans to expose the injuries and make right the injustice that is being done towards low-income neighborhoods.

 

Anderson Williams reflects on how the program has moved through the crawl, walk, run stages itself.

 

‘We began to crawl when we moved out of purely adult led workshops to students starting to take on roles in leading financial education sections of our workshops.

 

‘We began to walk at the point when youth started asking questions ‘what about my family?’ Our walk stage was trigged by questions that led to youth starting to do research about these issues that were specific to their neighborhoods. They turned their research into workshops to educate the community.

 

‘Then we started our run phase when youth said how can we affect policy? Our youth are building a broader coalition of interested community folks to look at policy and loop holes in policy that allows businesses to prey on low-income communities.

 

‘This was a natural evolution over five years that looked ahead to say ‘where does this go and how do we have more impact with this work?’

 

Anderson goes on as he thinks through what he’s learned about developing youth partners. ‘The development over time is key. The growth came by baby steps. We didn’t start thinking we would address piracy issues. We did one project, then in reflection thought about how we could go deeper with the process. “Go interview someone. Find out what someone else thinks.” Talking to others fuels itself, it fuels the process so that it doesn’t become static.

 

‘Our kids received financial education and said ‘yeah, but’ – there is an inherent interest in being more valuable in the work, having a bigger impact in the work and being more connected.

 

‘It’s not just that interviewing a homeless person, for example, validates them, it makes you want to do more, to find out more. Interviewing homeless people and finding out why they were there leads to a new understanding of the issue and may spark within a young person a desire to go into medical care or address Medicaid issues.

 

‘Our role as adults is to keep pushing that next opportunity to deeply engage youth, that next angle of learning and depth of the issue we’re exploring. We need to keep pushing the process further, keep pushing the thought process in reflection. As adults, our responsibility is to see where it could go.’

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

3 Thoughtful Ways to Celebrate Youth

June 3rd, 2015
  1. Designate a “student of the week” parking space; if you have space for a sign, write his or her name on the sign
  2. Shower them with cards throughout the year: birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving
  3. Write personal notes to children when they are absent, letting them know you missed them and look forward to seeing them soon. (Susan still remembers her mom, Betty Ragsdale, doing this in her youth group and how much it meant to the kids.)

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Youth Heroes: Reuniting Refugees

May 29th, 2015

Youth With a Mission sponsored a picnic with free food and entertainment to reunite Sudanese refugees (boys age 17-25). These boys lived in the same town in the Sudan, but they hadn’t seen each other since coming to America. They had a great time eating an American style picnic, playing soccer, and learning to play Frisbee. Volunteers cooked, transported the boys, led games, and just enjoyed time with the Sudanese boys. It was a great community effort involving 3 nonprofit agencies, a college, and many volunteers.  “Playing soccer is a task focused activity that helps bridge the gap between language barriers AND it enables people to express feelings they can’t express verbally,” recalls Karen Ragsdale, of her time as the volunteer coordinator of World Relief.

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

8 Simple Gifts to Celebrate Youth Achievements

May 27th, 2015
  1. Make a certificate that highlights their work
  2. Give them candy with a note attached:
    • Starbursts—you are a star student
    • Kudos—we’re grateful for you
    • Almond Joy—you bring joy to our group!
  3. Surprise them with a hot chocolate or lollipop party
  4. Bake a thank you cake or cupcakes
  5. Give gift certificates to their favorite places
  6. Make CDs or iTunes playlists with songs that commemorate their achievements
  7. Provide a free meal or soda
  8. Handwrite a note expressing what you appreciate about them

Want to learn more?  Check out our newest book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Youth Heroes: Displace Me Campaign

May 22nd, 2015

Ingrid Smith, of STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand) shared that the first thing that came to mind for this focus area was a national event called “Displace Me,” a demonstration for peace in Uganda. The founders of Invisible Children simulated a refugee camp, prayed for the displaced families in Africa, and challenged Americans to pay attention to the war in Uganda.   The participants made their own shelters out of cardboard boxes.  They rationed out saltine crackers at certain times to simulate the poverty that takes place in refugee camps.  They had to make multiple trips to the water station, to simulate water scarcity in the camps. Ingrid Smith, a participant, says, “Even crackers sound good for a meal when you are hungry.”  She said the event reminded the participants to be grateful for their freedom, and not complain about trivial matters.  They learned about the war in Uganda from a Ugandan speaker.  They wrote to senators about ending war in Uganda.  It was a great lesson about politics, community change, and ways individuals can impact the system.  For more information, visit www.invisiblechildren.com.

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

9 Daily Disciplines for Practicing Happiness

May 20th, 2015
  1.  For every negative thing you say, you must state two positive statements to negate the bad juju and reinstate positive vibes. This tactic comes from counselor Elizabeth Parrot.
  2. Use visual cues to remind yourself to be grateful. Post a favorite quote someplace you can see it every day or put a string on your finger. Wear a bracelet on your arm to remind you to focus on good things. Every time you catch yourself saying something negative, move the bracelet to your other arm as a reminder to start again. Forgetfulness is often the force that blocks us from being grateful, so create a visual reminder.
  3. Use an inspirational daily reading or look at things that make you happy. Some examples are the comics, a favorite blog, stories of kindness, the sunset, or photos on Pinterest.
  4. First thing in the morning, before rushing headlong into the day, jump into gratitude and say out loud or in your head three of four things that make you happy. Name little things, maybe even the ones that you take for granted, such as hot showers, coffee, the coveted best seat at the coffee shop, or the fact that all your toes wiggle just as they should.
  5. Always note the smallest efforts and successes. As you start your day, you can probably bank on the fact that not everything will go perfectly. So, why not start the day by identifying five things you have control over. Examples include brushing your teeth, telling your children you love them as they go off to school, getting in a 10-minute workout at the beginning of the day, saying no to the extra donut. We aren’t perfect. Our days aren’t perfect. But there are gifts in each day and we have a choice: we can look for things to be thankful for, or we can disregard things that happened because they didn’t meet our expectations. If you choose to be thankful and magnify that thanks by acknowledgment, you create more of the very energy you want in your life.
  6. Use the words “happy heart” and “happy day” in your daily conversations to generate happiness and remind yourself and others to think about being happy. We often end phone calls and e-mails with “happy day.” And one of our friends uses “happiness” as her password to serve as a daily reminder.
  7. Refer to your journal for inspiration. If you keep a journal of improvements, growth, observations, and unexpected surprises, refer back to it on the hard days when you need a pick-me-up.
  8. Look for successes around you in your youth, colleagues, and even yourself. Be quick to tell your colleagues about little victories; they mostly likely need encouragement too.
  9. Listen to our Practicing Happiness channel on youtube.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!