Tuesday, June 04, 2019

The India School Project Invests in Education and the Well-Being of Children

In India, girls are married off early, parents are not aware of the importance of education, school standards are low, and children are forced to work to help their parents in earning a living.

The India School Project (TISP) is a non-denominational and politically neutral charitable association headquartered in Switzerland. It invests in the education and well-being of disadvantaged children and their mothers in rural, underdeveloped villages on an island in India. As it is self-funded and reliant on donations, the association members work on a voluntary basis.

At present 170 children, divided into six classes, are being educated at a primary school and an additional 150 students at their Education Support Program in a small village in India. The curriculum is based on a holistic approach, which stimulates the cognitive, social and emotional growth of the students. Apart from the main subjects of math, English and Bengali, extra-curricular subjects, such as dance, singing, sports and yoga are taught. Furthermore all students are served a daily warm meal. 

Sandra Gojkovic, founder and president of the association, states, "This has a positive effect on their performance and serves as motivation for regular class attendance."

The school was recognized by the state government and was listed in the official school directory last year. 

Circle of Poverty
Gojkovic, states, "I learned that the circle of poverty has its roots in the rural areas, far away from the well-known slums of the big cities. Low living conditions in rural villages cause people to hope for a better life elsewhere and so they migrate to large cities where few succeed in finding a better life for themselves. Most emigrants end up in miserable slums and are forced to continue their lives begging. Our support, therefore, had to be based in the rural areas, so that help can be offered where it is most needed, while simultaneously easing the burden on the overcrowded urban slums."

Gojkovic enjoyed traveling with her parents at a young age. The travels exposed her to various cultures and experiences including witnessing poverty. She states, "Being confronted with poverty awakened my desire to help disadvantaged people at an early stage. I attempted to keep up with that by regularly donating money to various charities throughout my studies. However, this only fueled my drive to become involved and the plan to personally and actively help had been at the back of my mind ever since."

A work opportunity in Dubai opened new doors for her career in the field of Business Development and Marketing. In 2011 she embarked on a journey throughout India, which allowed her to redefine her priorities. She encountered unbelievable poverty that she could barely put into words. She shares, "As a backpacker, I crossed several areas of India by myself, visited several NGOs and helped locally in order to understand the source of this poverty and the potential for providing sustainable aid."

Given the fact that the drop-out rate at public schools in India are amongst the highest in the world,
it is remarkable that all final year students they worked with have passed the state exams.

Poulty Farm Social Business
In 2013, Gojkovic moved to Bangladesh for 3 months to study Social Business under The Nobel Peace Prize Winner Prof. Muhammad Yunus. This led to another venture: A poultry farm social business, which generates income and provides employment to villagers. So far, the group have created 20 jobs, which contributes to the improvement of the economic situation of the entire project area.

Women Empowerment
Gojkovic states, "As we believe in a holistic approach, we are about to set up a tailoring training center/Social Business to provide training as well as employment to women. They are the nurturers of the family and spend their profits on the whole family. Their income therefore leads to more literate children and less child labor as they are not dependent on additional income."

Twenty-five women just completed their tailoring training last month and will each receive another two months of additional training. 

The founder states, "My dream of being able to achieve a positive change in the world was realized step by step. In 2012, the money I saved up and the support of local partner organisations enabled the birth of the The India School Project.

"I currently dedicate every spare minute I have left after my studies and a part-time job to develop the project so that as many children as possible can be supported. I am very happy to be able to rely on the support of my family, friends and donors and thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

How You Can Help
Thanks to the combined effort of a team of 20 employees in India, as well as a board of seven members in Switzerland and the UK, TISP became a functioning reality. Simultaneously, without the support of private donors, foundations and volunteers in Switzerland and abroad, they could not have executed their work. Therefore any kind of help is highly appreciated. If you wish to make a contribution, kindly visit the organization's website at www.theindiaschoolproject.org or directly contact Sandra Gojkovic at sandra@theindiaschoolproject.org

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Volunteer Makes a Difference in His Community

Eddie and Russell
When Russell Prophet is not volunteering his time at Trailside Terrace, a Mercy Housing property where he lives, he can be found working on a bike to donate to a child or giving out popsicles to kids.

Prophet, who is involved in helping youth at the property, facilitates the Outdoor Club on Mondays and helps with tutoring and supervision of kids during various after school activities. It is not uncommon for kids to knock on his door to ask him for a snack or for help with something.

I think it means a lot to the kids that he is here, Shirin Wells, a mother and resident at Trailside Terrace who also helps out when she can, said. The kids just love him. If he was not here they would be lost without him.

Prophet started volunteering three years ago when approached by Resident Services Coordinator Eddie Zacapa, who has recently published a book called Essentials for Cultivating Passionate Volunteers and Leaders: Guidelines for Organizationsthat Value Connection. In the book Zacapa captures stories like Prophets and gives tips to leaders on how to build quality relationships with volunteers to help them reach their full potential. Prophet was really excited about a ping pong table that was donated to the community room and that is when the two first connected.

Building Connections
After a few ping pong games and a couple walks during our weekly Walking Club on Friday mornings, I decided to ask him if he wanted to volunteer with the kids, recalled Zacapa. He kind of shrugged his shoulders and said he would think about it. After he started volunteering he didnt stop and has been doing it since. He really means a lot to this community.

Prophet is one of three volunteers at Trailside Terrace and one of 20 active volunteers who are part of the Community Care Team that reaches out to both Trailside Terrace and White Rock Village. The team of volunteers wear t-shirts that read on the back, Demonstrating our care by doing our neighbor good.

Trailside Terrace is a property of Mercy Housing in Shingle Springs which provides affordable housing to create stable and healthy communities by developing, financing and operating affordable, program-enriched housing for families, seniors and people with special needs who lack the economic resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities.

Zacapa, whose intention in writing his book was to help organizations build quality relationships with volunteers that help them serve out of their passion and giftedness, says, Any time you meet someone, you can share your need and ask them if they might be willing to help. When you do, you are offering individuals a chance to contribute to making a difference.

Prophet and 20 other volunteers have been making a difference at both properties. Zacapa, who holds a community care team meeting once a month with his volunteers, believes it is important to include volunteers in the decision-making and giving them a voice.

Prophet, who has a chapter named after him in Zacapas book, came up with the idea to get a bike for all the residents at Trailside Terrace and worked on various bikes getting them ready. He also donated some to White Rock Village, another property of Mercy Housing.

People want to help and make a difference and many times it is simply about finding the right role for them to thrive, says Zacapa. It is about caring enough to get to know the volunteer and exploring with them what they like to do and their strengths.

Passionate Volunteers
Iva Bartley volunteers with the youth at White Rock Village and does an arts and crafts class in the summer and said that the reason she helps is because she wants to share her passion for art with the kids.

Terry Wagner, who has volunteered on the White Rock Village Knitting Team that has donated over 3,000 caps to newborns and cancer patients to local hospitals, says, The reason I help is really a selfish reason. It feels good to volunteer and help others. I like to share something that makes me feel good with others so that they can experience it as well. 

These individuals all have one thing in common - they shared the passion they had in their heart with others. Zacapa says that when this happens it is magical to watch what happens. I enjoy getting a front row seat to seeing these volunteers do wonderful things to enrich the lives of those around them, he says. 

Zacapas book demonstrates how to inspire and motivate volunteers and staff, reduce turnover and cultivate passion in the workplace. Zacapa, who has worked with volunteers for over 20 years with various non-profits and is also a certified trainer with The Center for Nonviolent Communication, draws on his experience and shares many inspiring stories of volunteers making a difference in his book.

Yoko Kono, Outreach Coordinator for Hands 4 Hope and an organization that has partnered with White Rock Village states, From building leadership skills to forming relationships and a sense of belonging, Eddie shares his expertise and knowledge for all agencies and organizations who work with volunteers. A must read for everyone involved in community engagement services!

Zacapas book is available at the Face in a Book Bookstore in El Dorado Hills and is available for sale at most online retailers.                                                         

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Kid Makes a Difference by Donating 200 Costumes

Christian with some kids who received costumes. 
Christian Pothast has been donating Halloween costumes since he was 6 years old. He and his mother Christa Pothast recently donated 70 costumes to Mercy Housing properties in El Dorado Hills and Shingle Springs. Forty-eight costumes were given to kids at White Rock Village in El Dorado Hills and 22 costumes were handed out at Trailside Terrace.

“I like helping others,” Christian said. “It is pretty rewarding.”

He named the annual costume donation drive "Project Spooky." The 13-year-old said he hopes that next year when he goes to Jesuit High School the charity program will adopt his project so he can expand his outreach.

Christian, who attends Golden Hills Middle School in El Dorado Hills, said the family is always accepting donations for more costumes. Some people donate costumes and others donate money.

Christian is already collecting costumes for next year. If you would like to donate costumes or money for costumes email us here

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Welcome to Harmony of The Heart

A hike I took at Stevens Trail in Colfax, CA.
I hope that you enjoy your visit to Harmony of the Heart. You will find inspirational articles, stories, poetry, beautiful photos, links, motivational videos and much more. This blog was created to spread life affirming and inspirational messages that enrich people's lives. I hope that you will be a part of that by sharing posts that you like via email, facebook, twitter or other social networks.

Feature Photo
Every once in a while we post the Feature Photo, a striking photo. To view all of the other feature photos we have posted at Harmony of the Heart simply click here.

Follow Us
Also, if you are new to the site and want to learn more about us click here. You can subscribe to Harmony of the Heart at the top right corner of the sidebar on the right. You can also follow us with Google Friend Connect (just scroll down the sidebar on the right and you will eventually find it). You can also subscribe or like Eddie or our Life Enriching Communication page on facebook.

Book on Volunteering
I recently wrote a book on volunteering, Essentials for Cultivating Passionate Volunteers and Leaders, that was inspired by the many volunteers I have worked with. I wrote the book to support volunteers in meeting their goals and to create life affirming environments within organizations that support volunteers and help them reach their full potential. If you are a volunteer or know someone who is or who works with volunteers, I recommend the book. I also appreciate when you get the word out about the book on social media, write a review or volunteer! Let's volunteer and make an impact in our local communities and in the world!

I enjoy hearing feedback and your comments on posts. You can email me or share comments on the posts on the blog. Also if you have ideas for posts or want to contribute a post feel free to email me and I will consider your suggestions.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Cultivating Passionate Volunteers and Leaders

PHOTO CAPTION: "Photo Courtesy of Flickr."
Note: This article was published on BayNVC.org
I recall the first time I volunteered in college. I volunteered at my local church. I was so excited to join a cause and be a part of something that I believed in. It meant a lot to me to be around other people who also really cared about making a difference. I made friends and connections that I would never forget. I am still in touch with some of the people I volunteered with, worked with and served. I think what I enjoyed the most about my experience was being a part of a community.
Giving from the Heart
Since then I have worked for nonprofits for over twenty-five years. I have had the privilege to work with many volunteers along the way and have found their joy and enthusiasm has been my fuel that keeps me energized and connected to the larger cause.
I agree with Marshall Rosenberg that we all have a need to contribute to others well-being. Sometimes, I have found that volunteers may be more connected to this desire to give from the heart than employees. They are excited and filled with anticipation, while employees sometimes get bogged down with the work and see their tasks and responsibilities as mundane. Volunteers can, at times, with their enthusiasm and excitement bring a positive spark to the workforce.
Working with volunteers and engaging them with the work and connecting them to others on the team is a process that can be fun to see unfold but, at times, can be tricky to navigate. Collaborating with others to fulfill a mission or goal is a sacred process. Making something sacred means preparing and creating a safe vessel, a container for others to join. This space is where we trust and build with others what is precious to us. It is the formation of community.
Culture of Empathy
It is important for an organization to practice what it wants to demonstrate to the public or it will suffer for it. “Every employee matters and every employee’s needs matter” is the motto of an organization committed to honoring needs. The same holds true with volunteers. By listening with care to the concerns and needs of individuals, the organization discovers ways to work together to better serve the community.
Mr. Gordan Bethune, retired U.S. airline executive and former CEO of Continental Airlines, said, “I like to think that a lot of managers and executives trying to solve problems miss the forest for the trees by forgetting to look at their people – not at how much they can get from their people or how they can more effectively manage their people. I think they need to look a little more closely at what it’s like for their people to work there every day.”
This goes for volunteers, as well. Sometimes managers can be caught up in the single-minded type of thinking that focuses on attaining effective outcomes or results and an attachment to one strategy to attain those results. Sometimes what can occur is that we become “blinded by the prize.” When we open our hearts to what employees and volunteers are experiencing and listen to their feedback, we demonstrate that we care, and we cultivate a culture of caring.
Of course, we desire to find people who are productive, hard-working and have the ability and skills to continually develop their potential. Yet, it is important to also nurture a climate where everyone’s needs matter and are held collectively. A climate where all parties involved have a voice and where feedback is received from all sides. The downside of not nurturing this culture is long-term losses that involve losing star employees and quality volunteers and high turnover. Loss of staff can lead to further costs and later failures.
Connecting Others to Their Passion
People thrive when they feel safe and supported and are growing and leading. When working with volunteers or staff it is essential to try to discover what they are passionate about. For example, I met a kid who loved playing soccer. Every time I saw him, he had a soccer ball. We got to talking and I encouraged him to start a soccer clinic at his apartment complex. He said he wanted me to do it with him. I said okay and we offered a soccer clinic every year in the summer. Many of the kids who participated in the clinic learned basic soccer skills and went on the play youth soccer in leagues.
The youth leader said, “It is meaningful for me to give back because I was once the kid getting the help. This property has helped me with my homework, provided positive role models and assisted us with our housing. I am grateful and want to give back.”
Another volunteer said about why she volunteered, “The reason I help is really a selfish reason. It feels good to volunteer and help others. I like to share what makes me feel good with others so that they can experience it as well.”
These individuals had one thing in common – they shared the passion they had in their hearts with others. When this happens, it is magical to watch. The world needs us to find our gift or talent, and the world waits expectantly for us to not only find it but to use it to contribute to life.
Eddie Zacapa is the author of Essentials for Cultivating Passionate Volunteers and Leaders: Guidelines for Organizations that Value Connection. He is also the co-founder of Life Enriching Communication, a certified trainer with The Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC), and a collaborative trainer with BayNVC. Eddie’s book is available on Amazon and most online booksellers. He offers leadership and volunteer training, NVC coaching and assistance with conflict resolution.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Being an Agent of Change Presentation - Face in a Book Bookstore

Here is a talk I gave at Face in a Book, a local bookstore in El Dorado Hills, CA. I spoke on Being an Agent of Change during Volunteer Appreciation Month.

Feel free to share with others.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Building Resilience in Our Children and Ourselves

PHOTO CAPTION: "Photo Courtesy Photos8.com." 
Here is an article on resilience that was recently published in the Mountain Democrat by the El Dorado County Child Abuse Prevention Council.

Building resilience is vital to our own personal growth and is essential for children. It is easier to run away from problems or not deal with pain. But building resilience and increasing our capacity to navigate stressful situations and trials allows us to grow and be better equipped to handle difficult life situations in the future. Helping our children develop resilience is the best gift we can give them.

Check out the article here.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Tiger Woods Incredible Comeback to Win the 2019 Masters

Tiger Woods comeback to win the 2019 Masters may be the best comeback ever. After having various surgeries on his back and at one point not being able to walk, it is amazing to see him win yet another time. At one point, he did not believe he would be able to play golf again. His celebration brings a tear to the eye as you get a glimpse of the emotion.

Woods, who overcame injuries and personal trials (many self-inflicted) demonstrates determination and persistence that can inspire anyone to not give up and continue to pursue their dreams.

Below you can watch some highlights on the road to his Master's win. Enjoy! For more inspirational videos you can scroll down the right column of this blog to find videos.