Laura Tan

Comfort vs. Action: The Internal Debate

posted by
Laura E. Tan
,
Community Engagement Manager
ASU Next Generation Service Corps

A close friend of mine and I were having a conversation about his future job prospects when he mentioned that the offer he was most interested in didn’t include health insurance. Surprised, I asked him how he could consider taking the job.

He responded, “If I had health insurance, I’d be much less likely to agitate for change so that everyone can get it, too.”

“But you can be in a better position to help others if you’re not at-risk yourself,” I argued.

He shrugged. “If I’m comfortable, I feel much less urgency to try to change things.”

My friend is deeply committed to issues of social justice, which includes equal access to affordable health care for all. His stance raises the question: Does being committed to social change require making one less comfortable or resisting being “too comfortable?"

The cockroach under the refrigerator: scandal and malpractice in philanthropy

posted by
Travis Butterfield,
Project Coordinator
ASU Lodestar Center

Ever since I worked with Laura Tan on editing her recent blog post, I have been thinking about the unintended effects that volunteer service can have. So, I was immediately interested when a link to an article titled "Good Intentions vs. Good Results" popped up on my Twitter feed. The article is actually a blog post published last week on Sean Stannard-Stockton's Tactical Philanthropy Blog. It's a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it.

Stannard-Stockton referenced a video produced by "Good Intentions Are Not Enough," an online service of The Charity Rater, LLC. It is a provocative piece that really made me re-evaluate how I view disaster and humanitarian giving. I am including it here, because I felt that it was a great springboard for this post.

I don't think it's possible to watch this video without feeling a strong mixture of emotions. One can't help asking whether the charitable gifts one has given are fundamentally flawed, and are actually having little or no positive impact. It's horrifying to think that something so well-intentioned as charitable shoe/clothing donations could actually cause more harm than good.

"If you have to leave, why did you bother coming in the first place?"

posted by
Laura E. Tan
,
Public Allies Arizona
Program Manager
ASU Lodestar Center

As I've done every March for the past four years, I participated as a Team Leader in United Way's Alternative Spring Break (ASB) in the metro Washington D.C. area. ASB is a great opportunity for college students who choose to spend their spring breaks volunteering in communities across the country. Since 2006, nearly 2,000 students have participated in ASB, volunteering over 64,000 hours of service.

For part of this year's ASB service, my group got to work at an after-school program for at-risk kids, ages 5-11, to help them with their homework. Our team noticed that many of the older kids struggled with basic reading and math concepts, even though they are at an age when fundamentals should be well established. We were only at Beacon House for four short days, but after working hard with the kids, many of us got attached to our new friends.

One of the participants in my group, Shelina, formed a particularly close bond with an 11-year-old girl who, for privacy reasons, I will call Zee. At the beginning of the week, Zee told Shelina that she wanted to be a hairdresser when she grows up. After observing the girl's clear talent at math and science throughout the week, Shelina encouraged her to think about other careers that would make use of her skills. By the end of the week, inspired by Shelina's support, Zee began to consider the possibilities of being a math teacher or a fashion designer.

On Thursday, as they hugged goodbye, Zee had a particularly hard time letting go of Shelina, both figuratively and literally. As Shelina detangled herself from her, Zee wailed, "Why do you have to leave?"

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