Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog
- Posted byon January 3, 2012 at 4:02 PM EDT
Last December, after a disappointing vote on the DREAM Act, President Obama stated, “I am persistent. If I believe in something strongly, I stay on it. And I believe strongly in this.” A year later, his commitment to the DREAM Act still stands. For this reason, our Administration continues to work with faith and community leaders, students, and advocacy groups to spread awareness on the importance of the DREAM Act and continue the conversation on fixing our broken immigration system.
One of the many groups working to advance immigration reform has been the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. Through an initiative titled the DREAM Sabbath, interfaith groups held events all over the country, highlighting stories of DREAM students and facilitating conversations between communities on the importance of the DREAM Act.
In their DREAM Sabbath Scrapbook, a report highlighting all the DREAM Sabbath events, media clips, and pictures, the initiative is described as, “a time when faith and action came together…”
The DREAM Act would allow young people who were brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own and grew up as Americans an opportunity to earn a legal status if they meet numerous requirements, including attending college or serving in the military. As the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported, the DREAM Act would cut the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years, and in these economic times, this is more meaningful than ever before.
- Posted byon January 3, 2012 at 3:12 PM EDT
Over the past year, faith-based and community organizations have been on the move ramping up their efforts to make their communities healthier through First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Faith and Communities challenges issued in November 2010. Over the year they hosted an additional 1,100 summer food service sites, where they served meals to low-income kids who otherwise wouldn’t have received those meals once school let out. Their communities collectively walked 2.85 million miles. They brought produce close to home, contributing to more than 8,500 gardens, farmers markets, and food pantries, where folks could access fresh fruits and vegetables. And they joined communities across the country in earning 1.7 million Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards (PALA) through the PALA Challenge.
To celebrate the year’s accomplishments and look ahead to 2012, the Office of the First Lady and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships hosted a group of faith and community leaders for a Let’s Move Faith and Communities consultation in December. We wanted to learn from each other’s experiences and brainstorm how we can work together in the coming year to build wellness into communities for the long term.
And learn we did! Elder Ted Wilson of the Seventh Day Adventists told us how his denomination is integrating nutrition and physical activity into everyday life through Adventists InStep for Life. He said, “We need to make physical activity a basic part of a healthy lifestyle. Physical and spiritual health are tied together in a very dynamic way.” Steve Becker from the Jewish Community Centers Association shared his organization’s plan to use the CATCH curriculum in their early childhood education to ensure children build a holistic foundation for a healthy life. Denise Hunter, First Lady of First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles and President of FAME’s corporate ministries, shared the success of Let’s Move LA in inspiring her community: “One of the hallmarks of a good leader is that you build good leaders from the people around you. Collectively we can do so much together. We don’t need to be superman; we need to empower people.”
2011 Connecting Communities for the Common Good Tour Concludes in Chicago with 700 Faith and Community LeadersPosted byon December 20, 2011 at 6:47 PM EDT
Last week, faith and community leaders from Chicago and across the region participated in the final 2011 stop on the White House Connecting Communities for the Common Good regional tour. The interactive conference was co-hosted by the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnershipsand the Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and numerous Agency Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership Centers.
Faith and community gathered at the University of Illinois at Chicago-UIC Forum and were welcomed by Joshua DuBois, Director of the White House Office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Congressman Danny Davis, Congressman Bobby Rush, and Deputy Governor Cristal Thomas.
“This notion of change through faith and community partnerships is rooted in President Obama’s DNA, and rooted in the DNA of this city,” noted Joshua DuBois as he opened the conference. “As many of you know and in fact saw firsthand, this President began his career in public life working with churches on the South Side to help families who were struggling. So he knows full well that in order to serve the least, the last, and the lost in our country and our world, we have to partner with faith and community organizations…and that is what President Obama’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships is all about.”
Mayor Emanuel noted that “so much of this city’s and country’s strength comes from the strength of its faiths. More than that, it comes from our ability to work together for the common good.” He continued, “by working together, by deepening our understanding of our common values and common destination, we can make this country a better place.”
- Posted byon December 12, 2011 at 5:05 PM EDT
On the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service this January, President Obama will recognize unsung heroes around the country who have answered the call to service. Inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech on the Drum Major Instinct, the MLK Drum Majors for Service program—facilitated by the White House and the Corporation for National and Community Service—welcomes the nomination of people in organizations and businesses who are serving their communities, often without recognition.
This program is very simple and an exciting way for you to honor individuals within your organization – whether a business, congregation, nonprofit or community group – who are doing great work serving others, often without recognition. Here’s how it works: identify “Drum Majors for Service” who are making a difference in your organization. Then, visit our website and order them a Drum Major award, pin, and letter from the President (paying a nominal fee for printing and shipping). Finally, honor them with the Drum Major for Service award on Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday (January 16th), or other days throughout the year. Remember to tell us about your award recipients by emailing stories and pictures to MLKDay@cns.gov. We look forward to hearing about all the amazing work going on across the country that live out each and every day Dr. King’s vision of service.
Recently, President Obama helped to dedicate the new memorial on the National Mall honoring the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King urged all of us to live our lives in a just, moral, loving and generous fashion. He asked us to harness human nature for good. In this season of giving, it is Dr. King’s admonition of being “first in generosity” that I want to highlight.
In Los Angeles, CA, Wallace Ussery, who has a lifelong history of service to his church and the community at-large, has been first in generosity. Now in his 70s, Mr. Ussery continues to give generously of his time and talent. One of his most notable activities has been the mentoring and care of a young homeless man. Providing shelter and clothes and assisting him with finding and receiving medical care and social services, Mr. Ussery has made a tremendous impact on this young man’s life. Many other young men in the community tell stories of how Mr. Ussery has assisted them in times of need. Consistently providing support for those who are less fortunate than himself, Mr. Ussery is a constant inspiration to those around him, and he’s certainly a “Drum Major for Service.”
- Posted byon December 2, 2011 at 6:46 PM EDT
Fall semester marks the beginning of the academic year with new professors, courses, and textbooks. This year, fall semester brought a new addition to campuses around the country: The President’s Interfaith & Community Service Campus Challenge.
This spring, over 270 public and private colleges and universities as well as community colleges and theological schools signed up to participate in the Challenge, which is sponsored by the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in collaboration with the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Participating schools committed to engage students of diverse set of religious and non-religious backgrounds in interfaith service initiatives to impact their communities and build relationships across differences.
Four students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham are carrying sheetrock in their effort to rebuild tornado-ravaged Birmingham
The participants of this Challenge are already stepping up to the President’s call for service in inspiring ways. In the aftermath of a devastating tornado, Alabamians have been focusing on disaster relief efforts in Birmingham. Contributing to that common cause, students from different faith traditions in the University of Alabama at Birmingham are lending their hearts and hands through their official partnership with some of the metropolitan service organizations. Additionally, students from Soka Shining Spirits, Campus Crusade for Christ, and the Muslim Student Association with other groups in the campus are leading yearlong training seminars alongside monthly service projects. Some of these projects include organizing a Hunger Banquet, cross-city day of service, and joint collaboration with the Alabama Poverty Project. The students are also participating in an interfaith dialogue series called “Free Food for Thought” to promote interfaith cooperation.
- Posted byon December 1, 2011 at 6:26 PM EDT
On Monday, November 28, The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships held an event to observe and celebrate National Adoption Month. This event featured senior Administration officials, Members of Congress and outside experts. You can read more about the event here. Also, you can view the President’s National Adoption Month proclamation here.
Supporting international adoption was the theme of our first panel during Monday’s National Adoption Month event at the White House. International adoption has touched the lives of thousands of American families. In 2010 alone, the adoptions of over 9,300 children from more than 100 countries were finalized. Appropriately, this panel was rooted in the understanding that while there were big issues to discuss, at the end of the day international adoption is deeply personal and profound for many Americans, including those who served as panelists.
Kathleen Strottman, Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, was the first expert to speak. Kathleen discussed an exciting initiative called The Way Forward Project, a yearlong convening of government officials and civil society experts to study adoption in six African countries. Supported by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the CCAI initiative produced several adoption lessons applicable to other countries as well. Among these, child welfare systems should evaluate the full range of adoptive family options, including kinship and international adoption. Kathleen also suggested that efforts should be made to cultivate societal responsibility for all children, gather data on the number of children in foster care, and broaden children’s legal eligibility for adoption.
The Obama Administration is making its own concerted effort to address children’s needs abroad. Under PL 109-95, Robert Clay, Deputy Assistant Administrator at the USAID Bureau for Global Health, coordinates the work of seven agencies—State, Labor, Agriculture, Defense, Health and Human Services, USAID, and Peace Corps—which each play a role in protecting orphans and vulnerable children around the world. During our panel, Robert spoke about the evidence-based summit on December 12-13 which will better inform U.S. Government efforts to protect children outside family care. Among summit organizers is the State Department Office of Children’s Issues, under the leadership of Ambassador Susan Jacobs. As Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, Ambassador Jacobs discussed her efforts to promote common standards for intercountry adoption by implementing the Hague Adoption Convention.
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