Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"It's My Bag" SED program assists local children

“As the community grows in size and in capacity to maintain vitality, the friends will, we have indicated in the past, be drawn further into the life of society and be challenged to take advantage of the approaches they have developed to respond to a widening range of issues that face their village.” December 28, 2010- The Universal House of Justice

The Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’is of Lacey, Washington, share with us a report about their most recent social and economic development (SED) initiative, It’s My Bag. These friends are located in the Olympia-Mason-Thurston Counties cluster, which has already launched its intensive program of growth.

Annual Report April 2011, It’s My Bag
Social and Economic Development Project - Lacey, WA Branch

The Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’is of Lacey, WA continue to be blessed to sponsor a local extension of It’s My Bag social and economic project.

About It's My Bag
It's My Bag was founded in 1999 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization by 5 members of the local Auburn, Washington community with the support of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’is of Auburn.

Our mission is simple:
To focus our efforts on children in need and include the strengthening of unity and harmony in the community, the development of individual capacity and the improvement of the social environment. In support of these goals we are forming partnerships with other community groups and seeking ways to expand our projects to aid more children in the community. To conduct its programs and activities, we receive support from individuals and the partnerships we have formed. We continue to hope to add to the list of donors in the future. The Lacey Branch of It’s My Bag formed in 2006. Currently there are three members.

The project provides bags of comfort and personal care items to foster children or other children in crisis in Thurston and Pierce County distributed by the Department of Social and Health Services’ Child and Family Services for the State of Washington.

Items for the bags were donated by Bahá’is, their friends, co-workers, extended family members and facility contacts. We received in kind donations and cash from other Local Spiritual Assemblies in the area.

Items put in the bags are travel sized toys, crayons, shampoo, bar soap, Kleenex, toothbrushes with cases, combs, toothpaste, washcloths, notepads, pencils and pens.

Accomplishments this past year
50 bags were delivered in August 2010 to Mason County DSHS office to deliver to foster children. The Mason County office was delighted to receive them. 25 bags were delivered to the Thurston County DSHS office and 25 bags to the Pierce County DSHS office in February 2011 during Ayyam-i-Ha. 100 empty bags were given to Auburn, WA its My Bag (original group) as they had run out of their bags.

The project continued its community outreach to try something different by making bags of school supplies for Lacey Elementary School. We were able to supply a bag for each school room. The cost of this project was extensive which is why it involved only one school. This project involved multiple very specific items asked for by the school that were needed for each bag. The left over items not put in the bags were given to the Evergreen Village Bahá’i School and items appropriate for the foster child project were put in that inventory. In the future if we should contemplate this project, we would need commitment from communities or individuals to fill an entire bag to make the project viable.

Two bags of miscellaneous toiletries, hats, scarves, and socks were delivered this past year to Rosie’s Place, a center for homeless teens who can shower there and get community resource information and help. These items were donated anonymously, not noted as the SED project because the items really came from anonymous donors and included some items received for the other SED projects but did not meet the criteria for those bags.

“Much will fall on the Local Assembly, not as an executor of projects but as the voice of moral authority, to make certain that, as the friends strive to apply the teachings of the Faith to improve conditions through a process of action, reflection and consultation, the integrity of their endeavours is not compromised.” December 28, 2010- The Universal House of Justice

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Supportive and Warm Reflections Gathering

This is an account from an individual as they think about aspects of a successful reflections gathering:

Our recent reflections gathering was different than previous ones. At times, the reflections gathering can be seen as a bully pulpit, to stress the importance of following the plan, to get more Baha'is involved in the core activities and to try to move forward as a collective. We know and long for the sweetness of the culture developing, one where we see ourselves walking hand in hand, treading a common path of service, learning from each other and rejoicing in the progress and service of others with distinct goals of starting more core activities and building in ourselves and others a vision of individual and collective transformation fueled by the Revelation of Baha'u'llah. But how does this get translated into our reflections gatherings? How does everyone come out with practical steps to take to start new core activities? Strengthen existing activities? Share with new souls the Beauty of Baha'u'llah's Message and Station? Invite new friends to be a part of this process of empowerment?

These were the questions before the friends planning the reflections gathering. A few steps of progress were made and below is an account of what happened:

In preparing for the reflections gathering, it was decided that it could be helpful to have a range of stories shared, as there is a large diversity of experiences in the field of service. So, a broad range of individuals participating in a core activity or teaching experience were asked to share stories. A very sweet account was shared, from an older member of the community. He described his desire to help out with the junior youth program, and the skepticism of his family... since he didn't fit the usual profile of youth animators.  He persisted, however, and began going with a very grateful animator to support his group.  At first, this member of the community was not sure how he could be of service, or if he was even being useful. But he enjoyed being with the junior youth and seeing them study, learn and grow. So, he kept going to the group. Soon, he realized that a major obstacle for the group was having a quiet, calm place to meet. He took it upon himself to help arrange a room for them in a local community center, which they were then able to use throughout the winter. His service on the Local Spiritual Assembly also was helpful in this process, to channel information and resources in the right directions to get access to a room. 

Everyone was uplifted, hearing this account. It gave the gathering a humble, joyful tone that carried through the planning and goal setting activities.