In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 19-25, 2020), the organization I’m volunteering at—North Texas Food Bank (NTFB)—has asked us to share our own volunteer story of why we chose to volunteer with NTFB and about being a virtual volunteer as a Social Media Ambassador.
Founded in 1982, the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) is a nonprofit hunger relief organization that distributes donated, purchased and prepared foods through a network of more than 200 Partner Agencies in 13 counties.
My volunteer story with the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) started in early spring 2019 when my company hosted a canned food drive. Several of my colleagues and I volunteered to help organize the food items that employees at our company donated. During this period of collecting the food items, I learned that one of my coworkers received help from NTFB at a time when she really needed it. This touched me deeply and I knew I had to get involved and volunteer to help NTFB throughout the year.
I was so happy to learn about the NTFB’s Social Media Ambassador program since going to volunteer in person would not work for me. Because I have several social media sites (LinkedIn, Twitter, as well as my own blog and official website), I knew I could help spread the word on social media about hunger and North Texas Food Bank’s mission to feed food insecure children, families, and seniors in the North Texas community.
I’m passionate about issues related to children, poverty, and hunger. April 2020 marks 40 years that my family and I have been in the U.S. Ten years ago, I made a personal pledge to give back and encourage others to volunteer their time and donate money to worthwhile causes.
My life’s journey has been marked by challenges. These hardships have served as important life lessons. They keep me humble and remind me to give thanks, give back, help others, not complain, and be mindful that no matter how bad I think my problem or situation is in life, there is always someone who is much worse off than me, and who would give anything to trade places with me.
I give (my time and money) not because I’m a saint (far from it) or because I want the recognition (I don’t), but because I know what it feels like to struggle. Every time I give, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be alive, healthy, and living in America [read my story about the significance of April 30th and escaping from Vietnam].
I love this quote from the book, Ego Is the Enemy:
“Imagine if for every person you met, you thought of some way to help them, something you could do for them? And you looked at it in a way that entirely benefited them and not you. The cumulative effect this would have over time would be profound.” -Ryan Holiday
Finally, as a father and parent to a soon-to-be six year old girl, my hope is that, through watching her daddy and mommy help others, that she, too, would do the same. There is, perhaps, no greater honor or success as a parent than to raise a child to be happy, kind, compassionate, helpful, and generous.
“And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.’” (Mark 12:41-44, New American Standard Bible)
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership Development Advisor
Many long-time readers of WorkplacePsychology.Net know that I have a special place in my heart for philanthropy. I give because I know what it feels like to struggle. My life’s journey has been marked by challenges. These hardships have served as important life lessons. They keep me humble and remind me daily to give thanks, help others, not complain, and be mindful that no matter how big and successful I might become one day I’m never too big to help others.
People typically use the words philanthropy and charity interchangeably. Although both terms describe helping others and also giving money to help, there is an important difference.
“Charity is often thought to be helping someone or something right now by giving directly to solve the problem, not necessarily through financial contributions. It could be direct aid and is generally aimed toward the needy or suffering. Philanthropy, on the other hand, is love of humankind, the act of improving the situation of others through charitable aid or donations. Individuals also state that philanthropy in their opinion is long term, whereas charity is immediate and often short term in focus. . . . [A]ll of us have heard the adage that if you give a person a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach him to fish, he will eat for his entire life. Charity at its basic sense is giving the person a fish, whereas philanthropy is teaching the person to fish” (Dietlin, 2010, p. 5).
I am very thankful to be able to support three incredible non-profits:
charity: water brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. They raise awareness about the 1 billion people living without life’s most basic need, water. 100% of public donations go directly to fund clean water projects in developing countries. Here are two sobering facts:
▪ Diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. 43% of those deaths are children under five years old.
▪ Kids in developing countries spend 3+ hours each day collecting water instead of going to school.
Room to Read combats global poverty by improving educational opportunities for children and helping primary school children become lifelong readers. It does this by establishing libraries, improving school infrastructure, publishing local language children’s books and supporting reading and writing instruction through teacher training and material development.
Room to Read’s model focuses on transformation within schools in low-income countries during two time periods which are most critical in a child’s schooling: early primary school for literacy acquisition and secondary school for girls’ education. They work in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children and ensure girls can complete secondary school with the skills necessary to negotiate key life decisions (Room to Read, Press Kit).
Here’s a somber fact: 781 MILLION PEOPLE in the world are illiterate, about 16% of the world’s adults. Of the illiterate, 2/3 are women and girls!
The Navy SEAL Foundation offers support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Community and its families. The United States Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Teams, better known as the Navy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy’s principal special operations force and a part of the Naval Special Warfare Command and United States Special Operations Command.
Did you know that Navy SEALs can spend up to 270 days away from their home each year in the most unforgiving environments and training at an unrelenting pace in order to maintain their ability to execute our nation’s toughest military missions?
“A SEAL’s state of readiness is directly linked to the health and resiliency of their family. Their overall well-being and ability to cope with uncertainty and lack of predictability have a huge impact on the warrior’s ability to remain focused in combat and in training. In their line of work, a SEAL’s ability to focus means the difference between life and death. Their family’s ability to draw from the strength of their support networks, and become resilient themselves, is essential for the preservation of family cohesion while their SEAL warrior is defending freedom across the globe” (Your Commitment Makes an Impact).
The Foundation helps “preserve the force and family by providing a comprehensive set of programs specifically designed to improve health and welfare, build and enhance resiliency, empower and educate their families, and provide critical support during times of illness, injury or loss. The challenges faced by SEALs and their families aren’t short lived – they are perpetual, ever-changing and unrelenting” (Your Commitment Makes an Impact).
One area I especially like and applaud is the educational programs and assistance the Navy SEAL Foundation provides to NSW service members in transition, and NSW dependent children. For instance, the Foundation helps pay for college and graduate school test preparation. They also offer tuition assistance to enlisted active-duty NSW service members. Finally, the Navy SEAL Foundation has scholarship opportunities available to NSW active duty service members, their spouses and dependent children, as well children of qualifying former NSW service members (Educational Programs: Education and Motivation).
Every time I give, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be alive, healthy, and living in America (giving evokes gratitude). For those of you who do not know my story, here’s the short version: In 1979, when I was about 8 years old, my family and I escaped from Vietnam. We joined countless others and got onto a small vessel in search of a better life. Three days and four nights later, after outrunning Thai pirates and discarding a dead body, we found ourselves stranded at sea with little food and water remaining. By the grace of God, we were rescued and brought into a refugee camp on a tiny island called Galang (in Indonesia). After almost a year there, we were sponsored by my uncle to come to America. In the spring of 1980, more than one year after we left our homeland in Southeast Asia, my family and I set foot on American soil for the very first time.
My hope is that, by sharing about why I give, it will leave an impression on people reading this piece and inspire them to give too. As Suttie and Marsh’s article notes, “Giving is contagious. When we give, we don’t only help the immediate recipient of our gift. We also spur a ripple effect of generosity through our community.”
I urge you to make a small, recurring monetary donation to one of the reputable charities listed on Charity Navigator. It does not need to be a large amount and the frequency does not need to be often. Start small and pick two months this year to donate. For example, you might donate $10 to charity X twice a year (June and December). Simple.
Toward the end of December 2011, I wrote about donating to charity: water. This year, I want to talk about Room to Read. For some visitors who might not know, I’m passionate about charity and philanthropy. I have written often about various charities here on WorkplacePsychology.Net. As I shared back in a post about WeFeedback (an initiative of the World Food Programme), WorkplacePsychology.Net is about work, but it’s also about understanding the struggles of people, many of whom work. People all over the world struggle (sometimes daily with unimaginable hardships), and many of them are children who are already working or will grow up to work.
793 MILLION PEOPLE
in the world are illiterate about 16% of the world’s adults. Of the illiterate, 2/3 are women and 250 million are children.
61 MILLION PRIMARY SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN
are out of school. The majority live in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
5.4 MILLION TEACHERS
are needed to achieve universal primary education by 2015, more than 1/3 of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
have not achieved gender parity at the secondary school level.
Room to Read combats global poverty by improving educational opportunities for children and “helping primary school children become lifelong, independent readers.” It does this by establishing libraries, improving school infrastructure, publishing local language children’s books and supporting reading and writing instruction through teacher training and material development (RoomtoRead.org).
Room to Read has an incredible story about an overworked and burnt out Microsoft executive named John Wood. What began as a backpacking trip to Nepal, resulted in a life-changing moment for John. While visiting a school, he saw “a dilapidated schoolroom and a severe shortage of books.” The headmaster of the school made a small request asking him to bring back some books if he ever visited again. A year later, after collecting children’s books, and with the help of his dad, John returned to Nepal with “a train of eight book-bearing donkeys.” When he saw the faces of the kids with the books, he knew what he had to do. John left Microsoft and started Room to Read.
“Literacy gives people tools with which to improve their livelihoods, participate in community decision-making, gain access to information about health care. . . . Above all, it enables individuals to realize their rights as citizens and human beings.” — Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”
2. Giving is good for our health.
In a 2003 study on elderly couples, Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan and her colleagues found that those individuals who provided practical help to friends, relatives, or neighbors, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t.
In a 2006 study by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee, people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than participants who didn’t, suggesting a direct physiological benefit to those who give of themselves.
3. Giving promotes cooperation and social connection.
Several studies, including work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, have suggested that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else.
4. Giving evokes gratitude.
Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a gift, that gift can elicit feelings of gratitude—it can be a way of expressing gratitude or instilling gratitude in the recipient. And research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds.
5. Giving is contagious.
A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”
December 2012 marks the three year anniversary of this WorkplacePsychology.Net blog. I am so grateful for all the loyal readers and visitors. The amount of visits and the media links and mentions of WorkplacePsychology.Net has been phenomenal and I want to thank each of you for continuing to stop by.
Wishing you great health and abundant happiness in the new year,
[Note: Updated August 2020 for freshness, accuracy, & clarity.]
I want to wish all visitors and loyal readers of WorkplacePsychology.Net a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Instead of doing a wrap-up of posts for 2011, I want to talk about water. Yes, water. As many loyal visitors to this blog already know, I am very passionate about charity and philanthropy (remember it’s not how much you give, but that you give).
Several days ago I stumbled upon a new charity program (charity: water) that I’m adding to my growing list of charities that I support. By the way, I highly recommend doing your own research on charities before donating because there are many that are ineffective and poorly run. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has a good resource on what to do before giving to a charity.
charity: water is a non-profit organization that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. They raise awareness about the 1 billion people living without life’s most basic need, water. What I especially like is that because operating costs are covered separately by private donors, 100% of public donations (even the credit card fees from your donation) go directly to fund clean water projects in developing countries. Incredible!
Why water? Here are some eye-opening information from the charity: water website:
Clean water alone can reduce water-related deaths by 21%.
In Africa alone, people collectively spend 40 billion hours every year walking for water.
Kids in developing countries spend 3+ hours each day collecting water instead of going to school.
Women are twice as likely to walk for water than men. The hours spent walking and the resulting diseases from contaminated sources keep them from getting an education, earning a much-needed extra income and taking care of their families.
Without latrines or water for washing, many girls drop out of school when they hit puberty.
Of course, charity programs are most effective (in my opinion) when they are able to empower those affected to take charge and take care of their own needs. charity: water does this by working with their local partners to survey, analyze and test solutions in the field that can have real impact on the communities they serve. These partners carefully choose each water solution based on the area’s water availability, culture, economy and geography. When possible, these partners try to involve the community in the construction process. They implement sanitation solutions, provide hygiene training and form committees to handle project maintenance. charity: water projects are not “complete” until there is local ownership. charity: water wants “to make sure that the community is engaged and empowered to care for their own water project for years to come.”
These are remarkable and compelling reasons why charity: water gets my support.
Growing up in Dallas, Texas and seeing so much wealth, materialism, self-indulgence, and self-entitlement, I decided that rather than giving more “stuff” to my niece and nephew (who already have too many things) for the holidays, I would to donate to charity: water on their behalf.
I did just that and printed out a nice, simple card (above) and gave it to them. I explained that it’s because I love them so much that’s why I’m not giving them more “stuff.” They told me they liked it but that lasted for a good 20 seconds, and they both returned to playing with their new tech gadgets and video games.
Scott Harrison, the founder of charity: water, put this idea into practice when he threw a party for his 31st birthday. Rather than bringing gifts, he asked his friends to bring him $20 instead, and he used 100% of that money to fund water projects for a refugee camp in Northern Uganda.
Even though my nephew and niece do not understand or appreciate the significance of my donation to charity: water, my hope is that one day they’ll realize just how lucky they are to have plenty of clean water to drink, let alone all the material excesses they possess and the extravagant lifestyle to which they have become so accustomed to living.
In the U.S., every Christmas we hear radio stations play (ad nauseam) Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas.” Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song about love and about not wanting a lot for Christmas because “all I want for Christmas is you.” The song makes me feel all warm and really puts me in the holiday mood.
But how can I (or we) feel warm and sing along to the lyrics when there are people in the world who don’t have enough food to eat or clean water to drink? During this holiday season, won’t you please consider a small gift to provide clean water? To donate to charity: water please visit their website.
As 2011 ends and 2012 begins, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for your loyal readership and wish each of you health and happiness in the new year.