Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

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  • Stephanie

    Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

    Hello all,

    Jundo has enlisted my involvement in putting together a human service project to incorporate into our practice as a sangha. This project would serve the Treeleaf community by bringing us together to work on a shared project and would serve the larger community by offering a service addressing an actual area of need.

    My first thought was to come up with something that would be able to utilize Treeleaf's Internet base as a strength rather than an obstacle. This got me thinking about how, as I have shared here before, Internet based communities like Treeleaf remove a lot of the social cues that create prejudice and obstacles in embodied interactions. People with physical disabilities, social difficulties, or other obstacles in embodied interactions can meet others on an even playing field on the Internet.

    If there is any malaise that defines our current age, it is increasing social fragmentation, isolation, and loneliness. And people who are home-bound, either by choice or by restrictions they cannot overcome, such as mobility challenges, extreme social anxiety, depression, or illness, can be particularly affected by loneliness.

    So my idea was to develop a project at Treeleaf where we connect and interact with socially isolated individuals who are seeking connection with others. Jundo wanted to incorporate a physical aspect of samu to this project, and what is great about this project is that it could be done both through the Internet and through face-to-face and foot-to-pavement action, by physically going out in one's community to spend time with socially isolated or home-bound individuals. This would allow us to reach both people who use the Internet and those who do not. For example, many elderly become home-bound, but many elderly do not use computers or the Internet, and this is where "on foot" community outreach would be important and effective.

    The easy thing about this project is that it is a very simple task, to have a conversation and/or to simply listen to someone. We could use any number of formats: face-to-face meeting, Skype, IM, e-mail, telephone.

    But there are two distinct challenges that would need to be met for the project to be successful:

    1) How do we locate and do outreach to our target population--socially isolated individuals with a desire to connect with others and share their stories? This is where the most creative thinking and groundwork is needed. This in many ways is a "hidden population," not easily reached by advertising or easily locatable through a database.

    2) How do we engage the people whom we would be serving through this project in a way that honors their dignity and worth? The last thing that someone suffering from loneliness needs is pity or condescension--these actually increase loneliness. This is the mind training aspect of this project, to work with our own resistances and tendencies to map people onto a social hierarchy, to see someone as weaker than us. How can we honor the strengths of those to whom we are reaching out, the journeys that have brought them to where they are and the wisdom they have gained along the way? How can we help people who may feel scorned or outcast feel respected and valued? Genuine respect and interest is required.

    Of course, none of us are perfect saints, and there are some people we may have difficulty respecting or being interested in. But this would be our practice--seeing where we are setting ourselves apart from someone and learning how to drop that mental tendency. This is a perfect avenue to bring together Buddhists in an act of service because our practice gives us a way to work on the tendencies of mind that get in the way of truly addressing the issue of loneliness. This project would allow the people we serve to become our teachers, and not just passive recipients of our good intentions.

    So I would like to ask others with interest to either PM me or post to this thread so we can put together a committee to refine this idea and get this project off the ground. Any ideas for how to address #1 above are especially needed and welcome. There will be more than one answer and the more ways we can come up with successful methods of outreach, the more tools we will have to make this work.

  • Tb
    • Jan 2008
    • 3186

    Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection


    Very well done stephanie!
    This sounds like a really good start.

    Many deep bows.

    Life is our temple and its all good practice


    • Shohei
      • Oct 2007
      • 2854

      Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

      Awesome, so a Sangha we work together to help those in our own back yards or abroad.

      Well done indeed Steph!



      • Saijun
        • Jul 2010
        • 667

        Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

        Hello Stephanie,

        A wonderful idea!

        I have recently begun volunteering at a hospice; I was very surprised at how many people at home and in nursing homes have no-one. May I suggest that we use projects like this for part of the footwork? The people in my hospice program are all very ill, and most are very lonely.

        Additionally, for those who meet the age criteria, the Prison Dharma Project is a wonderful organization; it would just be a little more difficult for "face time" with your pen pal, and one would need to be willing to invest in pens, paper, and stamps.

        Please keep me updated on this project; I would love to do what I can to help.

        Much metta,

        To give up yourself without regret is the greatest charity. --RBB


        • KellyRok
          • Jul 2008
          • 1374

          Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

          Hello all,

          Stephanie, I think this is a great idea and I would love to help. I'm headed for work, but will be thinking of ideas. Just a first thought, I think maybe contacting local meals on wheels or those type of services might be of benefit to helping identify shut-ins. I'll keep thinking.

          Wonderful idea!

          Perry-wonderful idea about Prison Dharma Project, I've been talking with my husband about starting something locally in the prison he works for.



          • Stephanie

            Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

            Great! I am glad others connect with the idea and intention for this project. Thanks for the positive feedback and ideas!

            I think hospice, homes for the elderly, and Meals on Wheels projects are great avenues to explore for ideas and outreach networks.

            I admire the Prison Dharma Project quite a bit--alternatives to incarceration are one of my passions as a social worker--but I think it is a somewhat different project than the Treeleaf Project. A similar spirit, I agree, but a different context and rationale. I think to keep this project feasible, we should not make it too broad, and define the "target population" of individuals we will be serving with some precision. Once we get the main project off the ground, that is when offshoot projects like prison outreach can come into play. In other words, let us build the roots and trunk before we start branching off!

            I think homebound elders are going to be a key population, especially in the "on foot" aspect of this project, as computer use and Internet access is probably not a part of the lives of people who became adults in generations where computer use was not widespread. So I think coordinating with projects like "Meals on Wheels" would be a good start for those of us who want to take up the project on foot, face-to-face, in our own communities.

            I do wonder, though, about the potential obstacles for using MoW as a database. That information is likely confidential, and even if it isn't (which would surprise me), we should consider how not to invade privacy or impose ourselves on people who may not be interested. I think we should find a way to get people to come to us--perhaps flyer distribution would be one way. I am thinking maybe someone with a background in advertising or marketing might make a valuable member of the team, in terms of coming up with ways to appeal to our population base and inspire them to reach out to us.

            There is also the matter of incorporating the Internet into this project. This is a very important part of the project for me for many reasons, not the least of which is that the Internet is, in many ways, the perfect tool. People who shy away from face-to-face social interactions, as well as people who cannot or choose not to leave their homes, are often drawn to the Internet. The Internet allows people to connect to other people across the world from the safety, comfort, and accessibility of home. Using the Internet will also allow busy Treeleafers who may find it difficult to make time to go out into the community to get involved in a way that is more accessible to them. It expands the time frame of contact times and the geographical scope.

            So a creative challenge is how to connect to people who may benefit through the Internet. What might people be looking for in terms of social contact that they are not getting from other Internet interactions they have, that we could provide? Again, how do we appeal to these individuals, and invite them to come to us?

            One thing I have thought of is some of the projects that have been done to listen to and record individuals' oral histories. Many people have lived amazing lives that may simply be forgotten. We all have a natural yearning for others to hear and know our stories and experiences. The main project I am thinking of is this one:

   ... 1594201404
   ... d=16088311

            I think incorporating some ideas and skills from StoryCorps and Active Listening organizations would be a nice way to network and learn from others engaged in similar work. Some active listening groups are based on the idea that active listening is a tool of nonviolence. I think the principle fits in with the receptive frame of mind nurtured by Soto practice.


            • chicanobudista
              • Mar 2008
              • 864

              Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

              Great idea. I am up for it!

              Flor de Nopal Sangha


              • Dosho
                • Jun 2008
                • 5784

                Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

                This is simply wonderful...count me In!



                • gakuse345
                  • Dec 2009
                  • 32

                  Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

                  A home bound elderly may be contacted through the local offices of The Counsel on Aging.
                  Those with mobility or vision challenges are found through the V.A., and hospital Patient Advocates!
                  Good Idea Stephanie.


                  • Rimon
                    • May 2010
                    • 309

                    Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

                    This is a very good idea Stephanie. I think that this idea of Active Listening offers a very good format to an Internet based project.
                    My five cents about possible "targets". I don't know how it is in the US, but here in Spain migrants are very internet savvy,as the use it on almost daily basis to keep in touch with the family and friends they left behind in their country of origin. I'm sure the have very moving and amazing stories to tell. Also we could become information sources about practical stuff on the country they are leaving in: from social security issues to free language courses.

                    Whatever we finally decide to do, count me in

                    Rimon Barcelona, Spain
                    "Practice and the goal of practice are identical." [i:auj57aui]John Daido Loori[/i:auj57aui]


                    • Keishin
                      • Jun 2007
                      • 471

                      Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

                      hellos to all considering such a project

                      perhaps thinking globally, acting locally?

                      That is, putting up in a local place (let's say a senior citizen center, or a food bank or library--bulletin board a notice or flyers giving the initial contact information). Rather than use the meals on wheels data base, request of meals on wheels that they include a flyer with meals given out the first day of the month or some such date, and those participating from Treeleaf can be the ones to provide those flyers to the local Meals on Wheels.

                      Am just tossing ideas out, please excuse the roughness about the edges, have not done any dwelling upon the thoughts being tossed.

                      I will not be able to participate in such an enterprise, too many projects and committments at hand at the moment.


                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39474

                        Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

                        Hi all,

                        I thank Stephanie for the wonderful idea, and all who are contributing and will be joining in. I think this is going to work!

                        We need to do some things carefully, very carefully, however. For example, I was a member of a prison Dharma project at a maximum security prison in Florida, and you cannot just rush in to that. The prisons are very restrictive on who can volunteer there and their activities (including exchanging letters and emails, which are highly censored and restricted), such that one would really need to volunteer through an established and experienced prison Dharma project. Perhaps some of our members who themselves (or family) are now working in Prison security can guide us there.

                        Also, if we are dealing with people we do not know well, visiting their homes or simply offering an ear over the internet, we need to provide some training and guidelines, I think. I was also a volunteer for another activity in which I had to visit the homes of people and assist them, and there need to be clear lines. For example, dealing with the elderly in Florida, whenever they misplace something in the house, it is very common for the older person to blame (accuse of taking) the nurse or volunteer who was there that day (never happened to me, although I saw my own grandmother do so with a nurse). We volunteers received training in how to avoid such situations.

                        Also, even though we may be in a position of "just listening" to people ... we need to have some general guidelines on, for example, offering advice and counseling that steps beyond "just listening", dealing with people who seem to need the advice of a lawyer or medical doctor and recommending that they seek that, confidentiality, requests to lend money, receiving gifts, talking with people of other religious faiths and "pushing Buddhism" to people of other religions (which I say we avoid completely), and many other topics.

                        I do not mean to be a bucket of cold water on everyone's head, but we need to have some structure here and take some care. Such are, unfortunately, the realities of a complex world.

                        Gassho, Jundo
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE


                        • Keishin
                          • Jun 2007
                          • 471

                          Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

                          Thank you for clarification, Jundo

                          I was under the impression this was already a plan in place and only needed 'clients.'

                          Problems and solutions, needs and actions which meet them.

                          Each of us right where we live, there are aplenty folks, and needs awaiting our action/assistance.

                          To my way of thinking, there is no need for great effort to get something off the ground; perhaps a need for me to get my big rear-end off the couch...but not even that so much either...


                          • Rich
                            • Apr 2009
                            • 2603

                            Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

                            Great effort, Stephanie!

                            Originally posted by Jundo
                            Hi all,

                            For example, dealing with the elderly in Florida, whenever they misplace something in the house, it is very common for the older person to blame (accuse of taking) the nurse or volunteer who was there that day (never happened to me, although I saw my own grandmother do so with a nurse). We volunteers received training in how to avoid such situations.

                            Gassho, Jundo
                            Reminds me of how I have to manage my mothers keys and make sure she doesn't leave things behind. There have been so many things lost in her home but they usually turn up somewhere.

                            My service project is committing more time to helping my mother.

                            無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...



                            • AlanLa
                              • Mar 2008
                              • 1405

                              Re: Treeleaf Service Project: Web of Interconnection

                              Very nice, Stephanie. I love the Story Corps project and would be glad to be part of that here.
                              AL (Jigen) in:

                              I sat today