Helping social activists dig in for the long haul
Cal Corps director is a contributing author of Spirit in Action, a guidebook for changemakers
| 21 April 2005
How do progressive social movements keep hope alive through difficult times? And how might spirituality, broadly defined, provide support over the long haul to those with an active commitment to social change?
(Cathy Cockrell photo)
According to Voorhees, the curriculum guide grew out of a "listening project" in which 5,000 activists from across the country were asked to reflect on their work and what they needed to sustain themselves.
The research also suggested that activists' stated goals (being "anti-war," for example) are often "shortsighted" and set them up for failure. "If you say you're working against the war and you don't succeed, then you often end up depressed," Voorhees says. "But if you're working for a larger goal, say a world we can pass onto our great grandchildren . that's a great vision that brings more people to the table and sustains them during the hard times."
Voorhees says that, in her experience, Berkeley students involved in social-service projects share some of the signs of burnout that Spirit in Action addresses, and that many seem open to, even hungry for, "grounding practices" - be they secular or religious - to sustain themselves. In that, they're in good company, she thinks.
"Most of our great heroes - your Gandhis, MLKs, and community folks who have been doing social activism their whole lives and are still smiling about it - are either deeply religious or talk about having a regular spiritual practice..We've been doing more training for student leaders around how to sustain themselves. Maybe in order to be healthy leaders of organizations, we all have to do that work."