iWitness October 2009: Service is a Two-Way Road

Publication Date: 
October 27, 2009
News and Inspiration from Sierra Friends Center
October 2009
Featured Videos
From the Woolman YouTube Channel


Featuring a rare interview with the late Utah Phillips, students document the power of community service in Hospitality House: More Than a Shelter.


Students discover how ordinary people can make a difference in Bringing the Darfur Crisis Home.
Service Takes Many Forms
Students divided into three groups for the recent service trips:
-Habitat for Humanity-

The daily bike commute...

...to the new habitat houses.

Working on landscaping

Wood splitting, and much more.
-Western Farm Workers-

Tabling for workers' rights

Helping in the office

A new coat of paint

And meeting Dolores Huerta!
-SoilBorn Farm-

Students worked in their orchard

Gleaning fruit for low-income families

Packing boxes...

and delivering it to the food bank
Your Old Bike Can Still Be Of Service
Thanks to those who have contributed so far, our bike library is growing! But we still need your help. We especially need road bikes, hybrid, commuter & comfort bikes. If it's collecting dust in your garage, consider giving it a new life at Woolman!
Support our Local Garden
Please contact us if you have anything on our garden wishlist
- plastic crates
- waxed produce boxes
- sturdy rubber bands
- long twist ties
- 4 inch pots
- harvest knives
- a produce scale
- leaves/straw
- rototiller
Service is a Two-Way Road
In this issue you will find a multitude of ideas and experiences of service by Woolman Semester students, interns and staff, inspired and informed by their recent week-long service trips. Is service really relevant to Peace Studies class? What's the relationship between service and activism? Who do we serve, and in what ways does service serve us? You'll find the full versions of these abridged articles, plus more on our WordPress blog. And we hope you will join with us in creating a two-way dialogue by adding your own voice, either by commenting on blog articles, or by submitting your own. And be sure to join the Woolman Facebook fan site to be part of the dialogue.
Service & Activism: Sides of a Coin
by Hannah Rose, Student
      I believe that service and movements for social change are two manifestations of the same thing: the quest to live in integrity. While service often addresses individual problems, a social movement addresses a larger pattern, ideally the root cause of many problems. Service embodies Kahil Gibran's idea that, "Work is love made visible." Although service is seen by many people to be an act of selflessness, in my experience it is impossible and unnecessary to do anything completely selflessly. We engage in service when we recognize that our own well being and happiness is intimately related to that of the people surrounding us. And we become part of a social movement when we identify the interconnectedness of issues across the world, and realize that neither our problems nor our struggles for solutions exist in isolation, but are held by people across the world.
      I believe in living life in service. I strive to serve my friends, humanity and myself with my every action. My search for integrity drives me to serve every day of my life, whether it be to listen to a friend in pain, or to install a toilet, or to participate in a march or engage in direct action. I believe that each can be equally fulfilling and joyful, and can meet my needs in comparable ways. Each seeks to bring joy into the world, and to remove impediments to joy across the world.
Going Out On The Line
by Ruby Brinkerhoff, Student
      For my service trip, I traveled to Yuba City to work with the Western Farm Workers Association. The idea of service is one that has been slowly flowering in my mind since the trip, and I have come to find that service has many meanings. It means getting hands dirty, challenging yourself, helping out and uplifting those in need, learning something new from those that you help, pushing boundaries and finding new limits for yourself. Service also involves the idea and goal of bringing people together under a common purpose. The things I've learned in Woolman classes and the things I did on the service trip all carry these themes of service which I have come to realize.
      The Western Farm Workers Association was an all volunteer program that reached out to low-income families, providing clothes, food, health care, and legal services. Our work there ranged from the mundane task of alphabetizing files, to the fun of canvassing in the rain and painting office walls - our trip fully embodied the spirit of perseverance and service. I got my hands covered in paint, I learned some Spanish, I documented and documented some more, and I even talked to those scary strangers on the street (who aren't so scary after all). It is hard to put oneself out there on the line, drumming up support for the organization, but I realized how important it was and really tried to take up the challenge.
      The sense of unity I got at WFA resonated with my experiences at Woolman. In all our classes we learn about social movements, ideas, and actions that bring people together. We do shared work and chores, we come together for meeting and meals, and we are all involved in the day to day life that makes up the Woolman experience. I believe what we learn here shows how powerful and altering this unity can be. The entire semester takes the idea of service, and creates a community that labors together to create a better sense of the world and our place in it.
Serving the Planet, Serving Local Food
by Malaika Bishop, Garden Manager
      This week I joined 5,400 groups from 181 countries in the largest international environmental day of action in recorded history. It deepened my awareness about climate change, and focused my attention on the number 350. Since the industrial revolution, our atmosphere's CO2 content has climbed from 275ppm to today's 390, and this number is rising by 2ppm each year. Scientists now agree that 350ppm is the safe upper limit and that we'd be wise to return to this number as soon as possible.
      In order to reach that goal, we need to do everything we can to curb greenhouse gas emissions now. This means doing all those things we know about but take a little extra effort; curbing airline flights, biking to work, and looking closely at what we eat! Believe it or not, about 1/3 of all greenhouse gases are produced through agriculture. By eating local, organic, unprocessed foods, we are making huge steps toward lowering our carbon footprint. Here at Woolman we are committed to getting as much of our food as possible from our own land, and to making responsible choices about the food we buy. If you don't have garden yet at home, this is a great time to begin. You can also support our garden by donating items on our wish-list that you just might have already.
For more info on this topic, check out coolfoodscampaign.org and 350.org.
What Does Service Have to Do With Peace Studies?
by Zoë Dillon-Davidson, Student
      My service trip was amazing. I had one of the best weeks I've ever had working and learning. I met new people through volunteering, and grew closer to those I already knew. It was also a lot of fun. But I must admit I was having trouble figuring out how it related to Peace Studies class, for which it was the official field trip. Then, after a class reading that explained service in a spiritual sense, and a discussion in Humanities and Ethics, I began to understand.
      When you do service, you are not simply giving up self absorption and devoting yourself to helping a needy someone else, you are entering in a mutual agreement with that person, creating peace between everyone who is working together to serve. That is one connection. Another is that pushing aside self absorption can have powerful effects on peoples' perspectives about themselves and others. Gaining a sense of empowerment and self-confidence can lead to a more peaceful inner self, and a person who is peaceful within can more effectively spread that peace to others.
      Having realized this while doing service, I can say with confidence these things need to be personally experienced, not just read about. Considering intellectual concepts and ideas around service does nothing if one does not then actually follow up and do the work. Physically taking part in service can bring, in addition to the tangible benefits, clarity and understanding to ideas about service one may have had before, as well as a sense of integrity and honesty. This experience has inspired me to make greater peace with myself and others in my community through continued acts of service.
Simple Gifts
by Bridget Mendel, Community Intern
      It's good to be biking up and down damp roads under October's yellowing trees. We are biking to our first day of service at Habitat for Humanity, equipped with raincoats and apples. We come down Ivy Street and park our bikes on the side of the road. The volunteer coordinator has brought us muffins and orange juice, which we devour on the floor of the almost finished Habitat for Humanity house - a simple building with plenty of light.
      Outside, people are sawing and drilling. The yard is covered in piles of rocks, wood scraps, tarps, shovels, paint cans, stray nails. Our group asks many questions about Habitat for Humanity. Is it green? Who applies for Habitat houses? How much does it cost them? The question no one asks is why we are here helping to build the houses of strangers for free. The students do not question the necessity of that work. The student were vibrant with energy and eagerness every moment of Service Week. When a tree fell on a neighbors' house, everyone rushed to help split logs and stack wood, enjoying the task even while sympathizing with the tragedy of the family's ruined house.
      On the last day of our Service Week for Habitat for Humanity, some students stood around chatting with Frank, one of the full time volunteers at the building site, before the final bike ride home. I heard him say, "You are not afraid to work, and this is something rare." It is something rare, and wonderful. To love work is to have internalized the values of simplicity and humility.
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