16 Guidelines community projects in Mexico and Canada

FDCW’s Building on the Basics programme (BoB) is aimed at busy people who want to make a positive difference, and one of its components is to carry out a service activity in the local community. The FDCW office team is frequently inspired by the stories and photographs we receive following these activities. Here are a few that particularly caused us to rejoice. Many thanks to all the people who chose to be a part of these rich experiences – and please keep the stories coming!   

Mexico City: visiting a residential home for disadvantaged elderly women
By BoB coordinators Pilar Maldonado and Brenda Tapia

“In contemporary Mexican society we perceive there is usually little care and respect for our elders. So we saw in this area an opportunity and a challenge to take the 16 Guidelines to a population that is often overlooked.
We found a residence for the elderly that aimed to offer, besides the basics of bedding and food, care for the spiritual and emotional needs of the residents. So they were already running a calendar of activities and the 16G fitted nicely into the mix.

The elderly residents of this home come from disadvantaged backgrounds; the majority don’t have close family and have been rescued from the street, two of them in really bad condition.

When we arrived for our first visit we were welcomed by a group of highly receptive and open, kind women, willing to participate and integrate into all the activities, as it showed when they reshuffled to ‘listen’ better.  We started by introducing a short mindfulness practice followed by a discussion on the guidelines of ‘Contentment’. Our aim was to offer a safe space for them to express their feelings and be listened to with empathy and respect.

We chose to start with Contentment because it is common for older people to feel regret about things they would have liked to accomplish in their life, or things they would have liked to have done differently. So we felt that using the re-framing tool with this guideline would help them focus on the things that they felt they did well and were happy about, shifting their perspective.  

The second visit:
During the second visit, a month later, we were very positively received by the residents who were even more open and willing to engage in the activities with a mix of sensitivity and joy.
We started with a longer mindfulness session in which we introduced concepts like observing the body, thoughts and emotions. Their response was very positive as they actively engaged in developing a calm mind, listening to the guidance.

The session was then interrupted by the local priest who came in to deliver a short mass and we were invited to join. We all sat together listening to the Bible and reflecting on the words and how it might link to the guideline we had introduced: humility.

The women shared with us that humility is something they are very much aware of in their everyday life. For example, the fact that they depend on others for basic tasks, including walking, for which they need to ask for help. One of them shared that the guidelines she is most in touch with is patience! We then guided them through a visualization exercise where they explored one positive attribute they each had. They then drew it and hung it on a paper tree we had stuck to the wall. In that way it will remain as a visual memory of how, together, they form a unit.
Overall we were full of joy to observe how they help each other out in little ways, showing affection for one another. We left them with a big offering of fruit that was received with gratitude.

Over these two sessions we have learnt a lot and very much look forward to our next visit. Doing the Building on the Basics course has been an enriching experience with lots of personal learning. It has been an honour to be able to coordinate this programme and we want to extend our thanks to all of the people who  have made it possible. Thank you, you have done great work!"


Ontario, Canada – serving at a food bank
By Katie Keenleyside

I'm writing to share our group's experience doing our Community Project. We investigated a number of possibilities when choosing our project, but in the final analysis had much more difficulty in arriving at dates that were available to all of us. Ultimately, as a group, we had decided that we'd like to get involved in a "Day of Caring", as it's known, at the Good Shepherd Centre here in downtown Hamilton.  

We arrived at Good Shepherd on Friday September 13th at 12:30pm, and the Volunteer Coordinator took us over to the Food Bank, introduced us to the other volunteers who explained the various tasks.  We sorted the bulk food that came in down into smaller family size packets (e.g. - instead of a huge box of tea bags, we filled baggies with 18 tea bags); we refilled shelves that needed replenishing; but the majority of our time was spent filling orders.

People come into the Good Shepherd waiting room and fill out a pre-printed order with quantities dependent on their family size. These are brought into our area, and we set to work finding what they'd requested on the shelves and bagging the food.  Then we brought it out to a room and called their name in the waiting room, and the people came to collect the food.

We were there from 12:30pm to 4:00 pm last Friday. Don McFadyen, Jane Ohberg and I ended our afternoon by debriefing our experience back at my house.

Here are some comments our group made when I asked them, “What did you learn?”

"I learned there's much more I can do when I volunteer than I originally thought."  

"This experience taught me humility as I saw people I didn't really expect to see."

"Thank goodness for Food Banks!  Imagine all the work it took originally to set up all these arrangements with local organizations to donate food on a regular basis, or the Food Bank wouldn't be able to help nearly as many people."

I also asked, “How do you feel now that we've done this work?"

The unanimous feeling was that it felt good to be of service... but I was concerned, as we all were, that the help given these people seemed like a tiny drop in a very large bucket of need. We learned the other volunteers are people who volunteer EVERY Friday, and some of them asked us if we were coming back to do this again next week. I felt a little guilty saying “no, I can't because I don't have that much time available to come every week." Afterwards I thought to myself.... well, if we all said no, then who will do this important work?

Finally, I asked the group, “What guidelines came up for them as they were working?”, and these are the collective replies:

* humility - a sense of relief/feeling lucky and an awareness that the same unfortunate circumstances could have happened to any of us
* gratitude - for what we have. . .and often don't think twice about
* kindness - we were thanked repeatedly and could feel these people appreciated the kindness being shown to them
* respect - to extend respect to each of the people we served
* honesty - I felt the people I served had long since dropped their 'social masks' and were just behaving in a real, authentic manner  
* generosity - seeing people in need reminded us to be generous
* courage - awareness that people receiving this food had to swallow their pride to accept this help - particularly if they had children
* service - the most prominent guideline we experienced and how good it felt to be of service… even in this small way

Don also made the interesting comment that he went into the day "pre-framing" the work he'd be doing to remind himself he was going there to perform a service. . . and this thought helped all of us forget about our own fatigue but instead concentrate on those we were trying to help.

Knowing that we were going home to a lovely hot meal and a warm home with 'plenty' all around us, we all felt how lucky we are! I believe it gave us all more to think about than we could express in the moment, and I felt the wish to re-examine the ways in which I use my time in a week. Some had seen volunteering as something that could primarily be accomplished only when we put in a big time commitment, in leading a group for example, or working at a hospice preparing food weekly, for which a police check may be expected and there is also the time/expense of doing this, and so it was a revelation to experience the opposite, namely, the opportunity to just show up and do something useful.

I led a closing meditation to end the afternoon and bring closure to our experience of doing the BoB program together.