Tag Archives: “Hands On”

Music: Tying People Together

Guest post by youth volunteer Jenny Sai

Music is one of the most beautiful forms of art and communication we have. It is something that can be shared between friends, loved ones, or even teacher and student. The beautiful thing is that it can connect two very different types of people together. I have formed a unique and close bond to these children I teach at Salvation Army. They have brightened my Tuesday afternoons countless times, without even one dull moment!

Hume Fogg sophomore Jenny Sai at Salvation Army's after-school program.

It has been my goal for these kids to realize that they can express themselves in a whole new way. I always encourage the notion that there is no right way to say how you feel. One way I helped them do this was by analyzing how artists communicate with audiences through their lyrics. We listened to pop songs such as Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” They had so much fun discussing what they thought each artist was saying. We even had an impromptu game of “freeze dance” where I attempted to dance, but only managed to embarrass myself and have them laugh at me.

The kids with their rainmakers! (Check out the video below to see them in action.)

I also wanted them to experience all ends of the musical spectrum, so of course, they had to be exposed to classical music. We listened to excerpts from Glazunov’s Seasons: Autumn and En Bateau by Debussy. Both of these compositions contain grand imagery. I had them draw a picture of the scene they imagined in their head when I played these songs. I ended with themed music and showed them how music could make a movie scary. They had to draw a picture of that too. I saw many monsters and knives and blood. It was a great breakthrough for me seeing how integrated the kids could get with the music.

Other projects I have done with them have involved making homemade instruments. I hoped that with the actual making of the instrument, they would have a more intimate idea of where these instruments came from and how they were made. One lesson I did was musical instruments of antiquity where the kids made Greek panpipes. We also made rainmakers one day. By the end, my students all appreciated the materials we usually take for granted and had a bigger view of where instruments evolved. Not only were they exposed to a variety of cultures, they also learned that music tied people together even in the earliest of times.

Jenny Sai, a sophomore at Hume Fogg High School, is one of 12 HON Youth Volunteer Corps Interns, serving in the inaugural 2011-2012 class. Each month, she plans and leads an arts- and music-focused activity that engages the children served by the Salvation Army’s after-school program.

Exactly Where I’m Supposed To Be

Guest Post by Benjamin Hammond

It was a privilege to partner with Hands On Nashville in November and work alongside our motivational leader, Amy Maloney, Director of Corporate Relations for Hands On Nashville. Amy not only gave us a sense of urgency during the preparation leading up to the Extreme Nonprofit Makeover, but she also grounded every volunteer involved in the purpose of our mission. In crucial moments, she reminded us that all our efforts gave the East Nashville community hope in helping East Nashville Cooperative Ministry better able to supply emergency food, clothing, and cooking education to low-income families, at-risk youth and the homeless population.

Eric at ENCM
Eric enjoyed learning a bit more carpentry as he updated ENCM. Photo credit: Benjamin Hammond

The Extreme Makeover Day was amazing! The energy the Davita volunteers brought to the event was more than inspiring. They tackled the most tedious tasks with joy and determination. Without a doubt they accomplished skilled tasks with precision and left behind a fresh, bright, safe, functional facility and garden. It was a great feeling to be in the moment around such energy. The overwhelming feeling throughout the day was “I am exactly where I am supposed to be, today.”

Hands down the best memory of the week was working with a neighbor/client of the East Nashville Cooperative Ministry – Eric. On the first day Eric did not know how to use a measuring tape, had never seen a speed square and was  gun shy (to say the least!) when it came to our framing gun. By the end of the week, Eric not only was working with his own pencil and speed square, he was making his own measurements and cuts, and finished building the fence around the garden alone with a framing gun! What an accomplishment – He is a great guy, a hardworker, and someone that is a joy to get to know.

Eric in Action at ENCM
Eric constructs the entryway desk for ENCM. Photo credit: Benjamin Hammond

In mid-November, hundreds of corporate and community volunteers descended on East Nashville Cooperative Ministry, a nonprofit that helps the elderly, poor, disabled, unemployed, and disadvantaged with emergency food assistance and access to clothing. They painted, hammered, cleaned, and planted, and it resulted in an incredible makeover for the organization’s facility. This project would not have been possible without the help of several volunteers who shared their time and professional expertise. Benjamin Hammond, owner of Hammond Contracts, was one of the skilled volunteers who played a critical role in making this project a success. Benjamin served as an integral leader for the highly skilled projects, including demolition and trim work, custom shelving for the food pantry, interior and exterior tables, and a 154-foot fence around the garden. Thank you to Benjamin for his time and talent, and for sharing his experiences via this post.

ENCM finished room
ENCM is now completely remodeled, thanks to all the hard work of 200+ volunteers and several sponsors. Way to go!

Interested in learning how you can share your professional or trade skills with the community? Visit Hands On Nashville’s skills-based volunteering webpage to find out.

Need inspiration? Watch HON’s new video “Be the Change”

Check out Hands On Nashville’s new creative video, featuring incredible Middle Tennessee volunteers. If you are as inspired as we are, make plans to volunteer at a local nonprofit to start 2012 off right! Visit www.HON.org to view opportunities, including ways to serve  on MLK Day weekend Jan. 14-16.

Make your 2012 resolution to volunteer. Change your life (and your community) and see great benefits.

Volunteering is not just about doing good for others – it actually improves your health and overall well-being, too. Why not make a regular volunteering commitment this year? (HON.org makes this an easy resolution to keep! The HON Opportunity Calendar offers up more than 300 opportunities each month.) According to this article on the Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS) website, “those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.” Check out these 5 reasons why volunteering should be on your 2012 resolutions list:

starbucks employees at Second Harvest
Ready to volunteer this winter? Try helping out at a local food pantry.

Skill Development: Want to learn about your home and gain a better understanding about best practices to make it more energy efficient? Volunteer with Hands On Nashville’s Home Energy Savings program and get hands-on exposure to common issues while helping improve the energy efficiency of a low-income home in Nashville. You’ll really turn some heads as you mention the “.5 GPM dual-thread sink aerator” you now know how to install. Or… Interested in learning about vegetable gardening? Volunteer with HON’s Urban Gardening program. Or check out one of the many opportunities on the HON Opportunity Calendar.

Self-Confidence: The CNCS article says it best: “Volunteer activities can strengthen the social ties that protect individuals from isolation during difficult times, while the experience of helping others leads to a sense of greater self-worth and trust.” Just the simple step of signing up for an upcoming project can seem daunting, but accepting the challenge and making that commitment will build your confidence.

Boy Painting
Use your specific skill and help a cause you believe in. You'll see great improvements in your life, both physically and mentally.

Personal Health: Studies looking at the effects of volunteering (specifically Arnstein et al 2002) found improvements in both mental and physical heath. Patients who volunteered for six months showed decreased symptoms of depression. Arnstein attributed success to patients “finding a sense of purpose” and “making a connection.” Additional studies have found volunteering linked to lower mortality rates and other significant health benefits when individuals volunteered around 100 hours per year (or roughly two hours per week).

Relationship-building: Volunteering exposes you to all sorts of people with all different backgrounds – and you are allowed to dabble to find which opportunity is the best fit for you. Try sorting clothes at ThriftSmart or prepare hot delicious meals for the homeless in West Nashville. Different experiences will connect you and expose you to many different people. Check out the recent blog post written by youth volunteer Allyson Burgess about her experience volunteering at Edgehill Community Center.

Salvation Army
Another popular opportunity this winter: Try regularly serving at ThriftSmart.

Impact the Community: The most incredible reward about volunteering is the difference you make with your unique talents. Try to find ways to improve the issues you care most about and you’ll find your individual spin on how to solve problems. Regularly volunteer and you’ll see a clear picture of how you helped your fellow neighbor, family, environment, or friend. Consider lending your specialized skills to an organization that has a mission you really believe in.

Arnstein, P., Vidal, M., Well-Federman, C., Morgan, B., and Caudill M. (2002) “From Chronic Pain Patient to Peer: Benefits and Risks of Volunteering.” Pain Management Nurses, 3(3): 94-103.
Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development. The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research, Washington, DC 2007.

Teaching More Than Crafts at Edgehill Community Center

By Allyson Burgess

Lesson on Guacamole
Allyson and the kids learned how to make guacamole one evening. YUM.

My experience teaching the children at Edgehill Community Center has been beyond rewarding. As I pulled into the parking lot last Friday for my monthly lesson, the kids rushed to the window and started cheering at my arrival. I will keep that precious moment forever in my memory; it made me feel like I was having as big of an impact on their lives as they were on mine.

I entered the room to find past crafts of elephant masks and decorated aprons on the walls. I always start my lesson with a brief summary of everything I have taught them so far. After a quick quiz, I introduced the December lesson: Japanese culture. In just a short hour, the kids were immersed into The Land of the Rising Sun. They all tried sushi for the first time. Some of the kids made faces when they tried it, but some of them fell in love with it. When just a few kids are able to open their minds to try something new, I know my lesson is a success.

Elephant Masks
The Edgehill kids proudly displayed their newly-constructed Elephant Masks in a recent gathering.

I also taught them how to make an origami swan, penguin, and Christmas tree for them to put on their tree at home because it is very common in Japan to use origami as ornaments. After much trial and error, the kids created something very special that had significance to them. Then, the kids decorated karate headbands before a brief fitness lesson where Japanese numbers were incorporated into a game.

The kids most-recently learned about Japanese culture. They tried sushi for the first time and applied some new fitness skills.

By comparing cultural customs, the kids find all the different countries I teach fascinating. They are starting to recognize the origin of certain American customs, and I truly believe this will be a stepping stone towards furthering their ambitions and goals for their lives ahead.

Allyson Burgess, a senior at Davidson Academy, is one of 12 HON Youth Volunteer Corps Interns, serving in the inaugural 2011-2012 class. These remarkable leaders are currently working with local nonprofits to engage young Nashvillians in educational and skill-building experiences in the arts, fitness/nutrition, and gardening/food security. Allyson leads arts/health projects at Edgehill Community Center one Friday a month.

To volunteer with these youth-led projects, visit the VolunTEEN Opportunity Calendar (volunteers must be 11 to 18). Learn more about HON’s VolunTEEN Program here

Your gift of time is changing lives. Thank you.

One of the joys of our work here at Hands On Nashville is that we get to thank people for their caring hearts and their gift of time. As 2011 draws to a close, I want to share a very special “thank you” relayed to me by a flood survivor I met recently as volunteers completed work on her home.
When I arrived, I was met by an energetic woman in her 70’s. Fifteen volunteers busily completed finishing touches on her home. Looking for someone to hug, she found me and wrapped me in a heartfelt embrace.  After shedding a few tears, she told me her story.

This woman and her family, like so many others, were displaced during the flood in May 2010. The home had been her grandmother’s, and she lived there with one of her children and her two grandchildren. Not knowing what to do after the water receded, she packed up her family and began a journey that included living with friends, a rental home, a hotel, and finally ended back in the part of her home that had been unaffected. Then, she was able to identify help and begin the recovery process. Today was the day, however, that she thought would never come. The day, in her words, that “our house becomes a home again.”

She gave me a tour of the home and pointed out the new carpet volunteers had installed and the new paint and plumbing that had been finished. She also talked about the familiar noises the house makes, the spot you can sit in during the summer and feel the cool breeze blow through the kitchen window, and the places where memories of her grandmother still linger. Our tour ended, and as I walked to the front door some of the volunteers gathered to ask a few questions. As we talked, the homeowner quietly began to cry. She said through teary eyes, “I can’t believe that total strangers would come into my home to help. I just can’t believe how kind people are.” Those words have stayed with me: total strangers here to help. That is volunteerism. That is the spirit of service.

To the total stranger who shows up to help: Thank You. Rarely are volunteers put on a grand stage and thanked in the way they deserve. But still you show up to help your neighbors and your community with your gifts of time and your caring heart. Whether you help flood survivors, sort food, mentor a child, or work in a community garden, it is your individual effort and the combined efforts of this remarkable volunteer community that change lives every day.

Brian WilliamsBrian Williams
Executive Director, Hands On Nashville


Get connected to 300+ volunteer opportunities every month on our Opportunity Calendar at HON.org. Be the Change. Volunteer.