On Tuesday, February 9th LEAP students jumped (or even leapt) at the opportunity to attend a program on volunteerism hosted by an internationally recognized nonprofit entrepreneur in public policy and engagement, Bud Philbrook. In 1984 he co-founded Global Volunteers, which he later admitted that he started it accidentally! Being the President and CEO of Global Volunteers is only one of Bud Philbrook’s many accomplishments. He practiced business and governmental law, served in President Obama’s first administration as deputy under secretary at the United States Department of Agriculture, is a former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and former assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Philbrook is also the principal architect of The St. Lucia Project which is a demonstration that short-term volunteers can help parents and community organizations deliver essential services to ensure that at-risk children can reach their full potential.
Prior to the event, we attended a brief reception, where we enjoyed some snacks and the company of like-minded others.
But we soon settled in to hear Mr. Philbrook speak. He began the event at Texas A&M by explaining that short-term volunteers are vital and can “forever change the future of our planet”. He focused on his St. Lucia project during his presentation, where we learned that there are 800 million people around the world that are suffering from hunger, and that 1,000 children will die from preventable causes during the time of the event, which was a real eye opener for the audience.
During his presentation he emphasized the importance for children all over the world to be able to learn, saying that “if you cannot learn, you cannot earn”. Bud Philbrook assessed some of the challenges that are associated with gaining volunteers and said that for most of us, “our brains sometimes give up due to the magnitude of the challenge and we don’t think that we can change such a huge issue”, but he believes that the power of volunteers can change everything. He gave solutions to some of the problems that his project is centered on which seemed attainable. All children can reach their potential if only 2% of the developed world volunteered for only two weeks a year in the span of 25 years. One of his solutions that stood out to me amongst the others was the Earth Box. I had never heard of it before and it is a great way for volunteers to help those in third world countries be able to eat. The Earth Box costs about $150 and can grow 3-4 crops a year which can feed an adult for an up to 30 years and volunteers can help plant them.
While volunteering in a different community, Mr. Philbrook outlined 6 principles to follow which are: to only go where you are invited, work under local leaders, work towards long term development, work hand in hand with locals, only do what you are asked to do and return to each community year after year. While going through these 6 principles he made sure to share some of his favorite anecdotes that filled the audience with laughter.
He ended his presentation with a quote from Anne Frank, “ How Wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before they start improving the world” and sat down to answer questions from the audience.
He discussed the challenges for attaining volunteers to go and travel to places where they are surrounded by a hostile environment. He went more in depth in explaining major changes that he has seen during the St. Lucia Project, like the values of volunteers going home to home to support the mothers in need for 45 minutes a day twice a week and how he has seen that make a huge impact. Mr. Philbrook emphasized the impact that he has seen volunteers make in lives and left the audience with hope that they can change the world a little bit at a time by volunteering.
After the event people surrounded him to ask more questions, but that didn’t stop him from taking a picture with us!
Once we snapped a picture with Mr. Philbrook, we headed out with a renewed spirit of volunteerism…
…but equally ready to celebrate national pizza day at Antonio’s Pizza for dinner.
LEAP Ambassadors participate in more than 120 events a year, many of which involve volunteerism.