Idealist community (that’s you) steps up to help bring healing project to veterans

We love it when this happens.

In an Ideal to Real story this past May, we profiled Ellen Severino, a Brooklynite interested in alternative medicine who’s striving to bring the Japanese spiritual healing practice called Reiki to the military community. Since then, Ellen reports that the Idealist community (that’s you) has really stepped up to help her.

So far, she’s been blogged about by The Omega Institute and has made plans to attend their Veterans, Trauma & Treatment conference next month; has been collaborating with Military Musters to become their first practitioner in New York; and is looking into getting Reiki master training so she can teach others how to perform the treatment—especially people involved with the armed forces.

Plus, there was this potential game-changer:

Lori Nolen contacted me through Idealist several weeks ago. She has stepped up to the plate in a major way, providing an enormous amount of expertise and mentoring. It’s a great example of the benefits of community.
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 Ellen recently renamed her initiative the “Reiki Service Project” and adopted this snappy logo.

Lori is working through the final course of her master’s degree in nonprofit management at Regis University in Denver. For her final paper, she’s tasked with preparing a development (ie: fundraising) plan for the nonprofit of her choice. She’d researched well-established organizations for projects before, but never a startup, and Ellen’s project appealed to her.

She contacted Ellen through Idealist to ask if she could use the Reiki Service Project (RSP) as her case study.

“When I finish,” she wrote, “you’ll have a platform upon which to base your resource-building plan. You’ll have full rights to everything I write to use or change as you wish. And, perhaps others can replicate it after it is successful.”

Ellen gave Lori the green light, so for next six weeks, they’ll work together to build a viable development plan for the RSP. In the meantime, Ellen left us with these thoughts:

A month ago, it seemed like nothing was happening, everything was going at a snail’s pace. And then suddenly, there got to be a flow.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and think, “I should have had this done last week.” There’s nothing scarier than when you get that anxious, overwhelmed feeling, and you can get paralysis that way. So you just have to go one bite at a time. Just say, “Okay, what’s one email I can send right now? What’s one website I can read?”

You don’t need 15 hours to take a step toward making things happen; you need 15 minutes. Pick the very doable, small tasks, and feel the satisfaction of making progress. That moves you along.

Idealist has a very generous community. Even if they couldn’t help directly, many people reached out to say, “I think what you’re doing is great, and best of luck.” In this world, it’s so nice to have those pats on the back.

If you’d like to contact Ellen about the Reiki Service Project, send her a message through Idealist. Go community!

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Help Ellen help veterans with alternative medicine

Memorial Day reminds us to reflect on the meaning of the military in our lives and the experience of the military community. Read how one idealist is striving to lighten their burden, one person at a time, and how you can help.

Meet Ellen

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Ellen Severino

“I’ve always been drawn to complementary healing treatments,” says Ellen Severino, a Brooklyn resident who volunteers at the borough’s Fort Hamilton army base. “I was trained in reflexology many years ago and more recently was introduced to Reiki. I received several treatments and found them to be very powerful—like they shifted, or realigned, something inside me. I felt more balanced and at ease.”

Reiki is a hundred-year-old Japanese spiritual healing practice that uses light touch to bring balance and relaxation to the body and mind. Wanting to learn more about it after her own treatments, Ellen enrolled in Reiki classes at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, New York a few years ago.

“My dad was a World War II veteran who dealt with PTSD [posttraumatic stress disorder], although there was no such diagnosis back then. He had a full life, but PTSD did limit him. I have often wondered how different his life would have been if he had received appropriate treatment. PTSD remains an enormous issue in today’s military. Reiki is by no means a cure-all, but I’ve seen it really improve the quality of people’s lives. It can be an effective tool in creating a sense of well-being.”

The intention

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Ellen gives a soldier a Reiki treatment.

Ellen started volunteering to provide Reiki treatments at the base in August of last year, and has committed about eight hours a week since. “This is a community under a tremendous amount of stress, and their resources are limited—there are year-long backlogs of vets waiting for services, and in the meantime, they’ve more than picked up the tab,” she says.

Anyone in the military community is welcome to participate in what Ellen’s been calling “The Reiki Service Project,” including enlistees, their families, civilians who work on the base, and employees of the nearby VA hospital.

“I offer Reiki treatment in a very conventional, straightforward manner,” she says. “It is an elegant and simple practice.”

So far, she’s received enthusiastic feedback. “I have 6’2” Marines coming in skeptical,” she says. “I give them a brief explanation of what Reiki is and say, ‘Give it a try.’ They’re usually surprised by how much better they feel. I’ve done at least 400 20-minute sessions, and out of those, only one person said she didn’t feel any different afterward. The soldiers I see report feeling better, sleeping better, and being able to interact with their families with more patience and ease.”

Ellen would like to spend more time offering Reiki at the base, but can’t afford to be a full-time volunteer. She would also like to see Reiki treatments made more available to the military community at large, but isn’t sure how to take the next steps.

Obstacles

So far, Ellen has shared her idea with several people and knows at least four other Reiki practitioners who would volunteer their time. She was also recently invited by a colonel at Fort Hamilton to present about Reiki on a “resiliency training” panel for over 250 army recruiters. Despite this support, Ellen is still facing some challenges:

1. Organizing.

“I lack business savvy,” she says. “I’ve looked into creating a nonprofit to expand this work, but need someone with expertise to explain the pros and cons. Perhaps there is a better way to move forward.”

2. Funding.

Ellen feels strongly that military personnel shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for these services, but she needs ideas for alternative funding. “The good news is the overhead is very low: space is provided by the military base, Reiki doesn’t require special supplies, I don’t need to develop a product. But it still needs some money to keep it going. People tell me to look into applying for grants, but I don’t know how to single out the most likely funders, or much about the application process or writing grant proposals.”

3. Expanding.

“This is a national concern,” says Ellen. “Many military people are unsatisfied with the medical choices available to them—they want alternatives to the conventional treatments. Creating programs to educate them and offer treatments like Reiki would empower them to take charge of their healing.”

Ellen knows many practitioners successfully implementing Reiki programs in different settings, but hasn’t seen anyone near her doing it on a big scale. “There’s a program in Fort Bliss designed by the military that employs Reiki,” she says, “so they have publicly recognized its benefits. They’re also using it at Walter Reade and other veterans’ hospitals. But it should be out there more.”

How you can help

  • Are you a Reiki or other complimentary healing practitioner who has created a nonprofit and could offer advice?
  • Do you know about grants available for alternative medicine projects?
  • Are you a Reiki provider who would like to volunteer with Ellen, or start your own volunteer project in another area?
  • Are you a member of the military community who could introduce Ellen to useful contacts in your network?
  • Can you give Ellen advice about the pros and cons of starting a nonprofit versus a business to advance her work?

If you have ideas, please leave them in the comments below or send Ellen a message through Idealist. We’ll keep you up to date as The Reiki Service Project progresses.

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Hiring? Here's why veterans can be your greatest asset

“There are support services for vets, but a lot of vets don’t want to be helped,” says Joanne Dennis, Director of Program Development at Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans in disaster response, and also helps aid the transition back to civilian life. “Vets don’t want your pity, they don’t want your sorrow. They want to help others.” A recent Civic Enterprises report revealed that 92% of veterans want to continue serving their communities after their military service.

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Veterans dedicate their skills to disaster relief efforts. Could they also be a good fit for your organization? (Photo: Team Rubicon Flickr stream)

That desire to serve has drawn more than 500 veterans to apply to volunteer with Team Rubicon in disaster relief missions in places like Burma, Haiti, and Joplin, MO since it was founded in January 2010. But while Team Rubicon’s volunteer base is growing fast, it can’t help with job placement. “We have some firemen who volunteer with us on their days off, and a lot of college students. But a lot of the volunteers are in transition,” explains Joanne. “They’ve come home to an economic climate where they just can’t find jobs. And especially jobs that have meaning or purpose.”

In an uncertain economic climate, many nonprofit leaders and business owners are understandably unwilling to take risks – especially when hiring. When faced with a stack of resumes, why choose the person whose background you are uncertain of and whose experience on paper doesn’t directly translate to your organization’s needs?

That’s the reality most veterans are facing when applying for jobs today. They come home with countless “soft” skills, including management and supervision, team-building, and the ability to successfully lead diverse groups of people while staying calm under pressure. These skills often don’t translate to traditional workplaces where recruiters are looking for resumes with years of conventional experience. But they are often the trademarks of an irreplaceable colleague, especially in a mission-driven organization.

In August, President Obama challenged the private sector to hire 100,000 unemployed post-9/11 veterans or their spouses by 2013. This Veteran’s Day, we’re curious whether nonprofits and other agencies and organizations are heeding that call as well.

Have you hired folks with military experience? Are you a veteran currently looking for work? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

This post was written by Bernadette Matthews, a volunteer with Team Rubicon, and Idealist bloggers Celeste Hamilton and Julia Smith. (Full disclosure: Celeste Hamilton and Joanne Dennis are in-laws.)

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From The Service to nonprofit service: Career resources for vets

By Amy Potthast.

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U.S. Army 1st Lt. Anthony Buchanan gets a hug after reading to children on "Read with a Hero Day." (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Kilka, Creative Commons)

In 2010, Daniel Finan separated from the Navy. He told us recently, “I was sure I was going to get stuck doing some kind of intelligence work or defense contracting because of my military background. Not what I wanted to do, at all.”

For veterans, the task of searching for a rewarding job—something in the civilian world that is as satisfying and selfless as service-to-country—has its complications.

  • Military service is more than a job — it’s a mission, it’s a challenge, it’s an identity, and it involves caring for the people you serve with. You can’t leave that kind of high-stakes job and be satisfied with just anything that pays the bills.
  • Over a million vets are unemployed, and their spouses (who move around frequently) are facing unemployment rates of 25 percent.
  • As sector switchers, vets entering the nonprofit sector must learn to translate their experiences and skills so that civilian employers get it.

After four months of searching and applying for positions he found on Idealist, Daniel landed a job at the Institute of International Education, as program manager of the International Visitor Leadership Program sponsored by the Department of State’s Educational and Cultural Affairs Division.

If you are like Daniel, hoping to transition from military missions to nonprofit missions, you may benefit from these insights:

1) Network. Your path to a satisfying public service career at home is paved with relationships. Relationships will help you figure out your new career niche, learn where to look for jobs, and familiarize yourself with the lingo and philosophies of the sector.

Resources to check out:

2) Volunteer. A great way to build relationships in the nonprofit sector is to volunteer with organizations that mean something to you. You should list your volunteer position and job duties on your resume — in line with paid positions. Search volunteer listings here on Idealist or refer to these other resources.

Resources to check out:

  • Mission Serve, a program of ServiceNation, connects vets and civilians through volunteering — often an entry point to careers in the nonprofit sector. Its blog is filled with stories of vets who have found meaning in service here at home.
  • AmeriCorps isn’t technically volunteering, but it is full-time, stipended service here at home. Opportunities exist throughout the States and Territories and service comes with an education award of about $5,000 to put towards school.

3) Lead with issue. Many sector switchers wonder, “what employer needs my skill set?” Coming from military training and service, it’s clear you have a strong set of unique skills that a nonprofit will put to good use.

But in the nonprofit sector, more important questions to ask are, what am I passionate about? What change do I want to see in the world? Consider the social or environmental issues that you are most concerned with, and find ways to work on them professionally.

Resources to check out:

Your turn to weigh in! Are you transitioning out of the Service? What secrets or success stories can you share?

Amy Potthast served as Idealist’s Director of Service and Graduate Education Programs until 2011. Read more of her work at amypotthast.com.

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From Serving Your Country to Serving Your Community

Announcing our latest resource for career transitions: From Serving Your Country to Serving Your Community. This booklet is free for download, and is an introductory companion to The Idealist Guides to Nonprofit Careers.

One of our Career Corner columnists, Steven Joiner, created this resource for soldiers on active duty as well as veterans who are interested in transferring their talents from service in the armed forces into a social impact career in the nonprofit sector. Topics include setting yourself up for success during your service; making the switch from service to social impact work; and adjusting to your new work after your transition.

Also of note: today Service Nation launched Mission Serve, “a network of 36 initiatives partnering civilian and military service organizations to meet the critical needs of our nation, troops, military families, and veterans.” To learn how you can support military families, help veterans find meaningful employment, and otherwise get involved, visit the Mission Serve website.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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