Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog
- Posted byon August 4, 2011 at 6:58 PM EDT
What do you get when you combine 200+ colleges, universities and seminaries; individuals from different religious backgrounds and beliefs; and an abiding passion for serving communities?
You get a tremendous day at the White House…and the beginnings of a movement.
Yesterday, the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships hosted hundreds of folks from colleges, universities, community colleges and theological schools around the country for the school-year kick off of the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.
The idea behind the Challenge is simple: religious and secular student groups on a campus coming together, across religious lines, to conduct year-long service projects together. From this simple notion, over 240 campuses have submitted detailed plans for advancing pluralism and interfaith understanding on their campuses.
- Posted byon August 1, 2011 at 1:30 PM EDT
There has been some talk lately about the Administration’s commitment to the separation of church and state. President Obama strongly believes that while faith-based organizations play an integral role in providing social services, their interactions with government must be grounded in sound law and policy, and must respect the Constitution. In the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, we embrace that foundational belief and work to implement it every day.
The President’s commitment in this regard has been unwavering. When he launched the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the White House noted:
As the priorities of this Office are carried out, it will be done in a way that upholds the Constitution – by ensuring that both existing programs and new proposals are consistent with American laws and values. The separation of church and state is a principle President Obama supports firmly – not only because it protects our democracy, but also because it protects the plurality of America’s religious and civic life.
The President and our Office put these words into action. We established an Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and charged a taskforce of church/state experts with addressing key issues related to faith-based partnerships with government. The Council issued recommendations, which President Obama incorporated in a groundbreaking Executive Order. These recommendations are now informing a working group of senior officials from across government that are implementing thePresident’s Executive Order. Trainings are also being scheduled for federal agency staff on the principles included in the President’s Executive Order.
The bottom line is this: while critical issues remain, President Obama and we in the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships are committed to ensuring that we lead with our values: of constitutional separation of church and state, respect for faith-based and secular service providers alike, and commitment to doing the most good for individuals and families in need.
Joshua DuBois serves as Special Assistant to President Obama and Executive Director of The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
- Posted byon July 28, 2011 at 10:28 AM EDT
Earlier this month, I joined some colleagues at the Department of Labor’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships on a visit to the Career Network Ministry (CNM) at McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia. The visit was made in conjunction with the Center’s efforts to identify job clubs across the country and connect them to one another and to the workforce investment system. CNM is one of the most successful and celebrated job clubs in the country, so there was much anticipation for our visit.
With an active roster of 1,300 members and an average of 75 to 100 participants per meeting, running the group’s Tuesday evening sessions is no easy feat. However, thanks to a corps of more than 150 dedicated volunteers, many of whom found their own jobs through CNM, the ministry has grown over the past three years to provide a variety of employment and support services. During the first part of the weekly meetings, job seekers engage in a range of small-group and one-on-one activities, including resume critique and interview training, consultations with human resources executives and other employer representatives, and prayer groups that offer faith and moral support. New members are given the CNM Handbook, a valuable resource that addresses topics such as marketing plans, traditional and non-traditional job search and networking techniques, and managing depression and disappointment while unemployed.
I was able to observe many of these various sessions, all of which are available and free to people from the broader community, not just congregation members. Following the smaller, break-out sessions, we participated in a gathering of the full group in attendance that evening, about 125 members. We heard "victory lap" speeches from members who had recently landed new jobs. Additionally, a guest speaker, social media guru Rob Mendez, shared tips and strategies for getting the most out of LinkedIn and other tools. Rob revealed some tricks of the trade for landing at the top of a search for job candidates on LinkedIn. Finally, DOL Center’s Deputy Director Ben Seigel shared remarkswith the group on the Center’s new project and praised CNM’s work. “This ministry is a testament to the power of community and volunteers to come together and help out your neighbors, and achieve real results in getting people back to work,” said Ben.
During my visit, I was very impressed with the positive, go-getter attitude that the group exuded, as well as the variety of training it offered. The tremendous amount of support provided by CNM’s volunteers has also proved to be invaluable to its job seeking members. For that reason, I was not surprised to learn that despite the fact that CNM advertises only through word of mouth, the group continues to gain about 25 new members each week, evidence of its success and impact on its members.
Cindy Huynh is a summer intern in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor. She is a rising junior at Cornell University.
- Posted byon July 27, 2011 at 6:00 PM EDT
The role of faith-based and community organizations in times of disasters is invaluable. Whether it is providing shelter to those in need, removing debris to help communities start on the road to recovery or helping families rebuild their homes, faith-based and community organizations have always played a pivotal rolein meeting the needs of the whole community.
The DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships is partnering with the Ready Campaign and FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division to build a culture of preparedness across the nation.
We know that communities best able to recover from a disaster are the ones that prepare in advance with their local emergency management partners. To help strengthen the whole community approach to preparedness, we are encouraging everyone to sign up and participate in September’s National Preparedness Month (NPM) by going to www.ready.gov/community and becoming a NPM Coalition Member.
NPM is an annual campaign to encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, schools, organizations, businesses and communities. This year’s theme is “A Time to Remember. A Time to Prepare.” Events will occur across the country that strengthen a whole community approach to emergency preparedness.
Our goal for this NPM 2011 is to have 500 faith-based and 1000 community organizations join us as NPM Coalition Partners. Signing up to be a coalition partner is easy just go to www.ready.gov/community and follow the instructions on the website. As a coalition partner you will gain access to tools and resources that will help you find creative and fun ways to help build a culture of preparedness in your community. We are encouraging faith-based and community organizations to consider one of three things to increase a culture of preparedness for NPM:
- Have your organization complete a Ready Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness Planand encourage individuals to complete a Ready Family Emergency Plan.
- Host or participate in an Interfaith Week of Remembrance and Service (September 11-18). For potential ideas click here.
- Honor the first responders in your community by helping spread the message of preparedness.
We hope you will join us in making this National Preparedness Month the largest in history. More importantly we hope you will use this as an opportunity to help make preparedness a part of your community year round.
Rev. David L. Myers serves as the Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Homeland Security, and Marcus Coleman serves as Program Specialist, FEMA, Individual & Community Preparedness Division.
- Posted byon July 27, 2011 at 2:52 PM EDT
As part of Let’s Move!, First Lady Michelle Obama has challenged community and faith leaders to combat hunger. One of her goals for Let’s Move Faith and Communities is to encourage these trusted leaders to start 1,000 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites where kids can gather for a healthy meal when school is out. As faith and community leaders know, however, getting meals to hungry children is much easier said than done. That’s why the Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) joined Let’s Move Faith and Communities: to help folks serve meals to the one in four children in Texas who don’t get enough to eat every summer.
THI, a Baylor University project that organizes communities to end hunger, rose to the First Lady’s challenge to start SFSP sites. And the communities in Texas need THI’s help; Texas has the second highest food insecurity rate in the country. Through their partnership with the Texas Department of Agriculture, USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and local leaders, THI has increased meals served statewide by 2 million since last summer, the single largest increase in the US. Because of this partnership, Texas now serves more summer meals than any other state in the country.
- Posted byon July 11, 2011 at 3:46 PM EDT
Since the inception of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, President Obama has asked us to find ways to encourage inter-religious engagement and cooperation both at home and abroad, and examine the federal government’s engagement of religious institutions and actors in our foreign policy. Recognizing the positive impact partnerships and cooperation with religious leaders can have on our diplomatic and development goals, our Office has been very active at the intersection of religion and global affairs.
We asked the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to make specific recommendations on religion and global affairs, as well as partnerships for development. You can read their reports here; we’re excited that many of the recommendations have already been implemented.
Partly in response to the Council’s recommendations, our office launched the first-ever Interagency Working Group on Religion and Global Affairs (RGA), co-chaired by the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the White House National Security Staff. This groundbreaking working developed a comprehensive map of how our government currently engages religious actors in foreign affairs through USAID Missions, Embassies, and Departments across government from the Department of Defense to the Department of Health and Human Services. As a result of this work, we’ve seen new courses in religious engagement at the Foreign Service Institute, new efforts on religion and global affairs at the State Department, and a renewed focus on the intersection of religion and foreign policy across the United States Government.
We also work closely with the National Security Staff to make sure that the administration is supporting the protection of religious minorities. We formed a first-ever interagency working group towards this end, and meet regularly to ensure that federal agencies are working with one another towards a comprehensive approach to religious minority protection.
You will hear more about this topic from us in the coming weeks. The engagement of religious leaders and organizations in our work abroad is something of deep importance to the President and central to the mission of our Office. So stay tuned!
Joshua DuBois serves as Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
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