Northwest NEWS

June 4, 2001


Guest Editorial:Volunteerism the complete answer is a little more complicated

by Liesl Bohan
   What would inspire 20-some adults who barely know each other, to join together on a Saturday for a long day of yard working, painting, and minor construction? The short answer would be that the day of service is an integral part of the curriculum of a Seattle University Master's in Business Administration (MBA) class the students were required to be there. The full answer is more complicated.
   Leadership and Team Development is a required course of Seattle University's MBA program. The course utilizes outdoors experimental-based training activities to help individuals develop their leadership and team-building skills.
   The initial part of the course includes a three-day retreat, focused on trust building and cohesive team development. "Service learning," or learning through community service, is a major component of this course.
   Service learning allows the group, as a newly bonded "team," an opportunity to directly apply and reinforce the leadership skills they are learning. During the quarter, the students plan and organize a community service project they all participate in. Past projects have included assisting at housing organizations, shelters and food banks, and cleanup of parks and trails, etc.
   After assessing various options, the group elected to donate their efforts towards the Camelot Society at their Bedford/Brookhaven residences. These two homes located in Woodinville provide a community living option for developmentally challenged individuals.
   The project satisfied the criteria of helping people locally, and was able to accommodate the efforts of a large number of volunteers. Additionally, the enthusiasm displayed by the staff and the board members of the home made the project an easy choice.
   Many went into this service project with reservations. Why would a person choose to spend an entire Saturday working to clean up a home they had never been to, and had no prior affiliation with? And they were paying Seattle University tuition to do this? For many, this was their first time participating in a community service project.
   At the end of the day, all walked away physically tired. At the same time, an overwhelming sense of accomplishment encircled and energized the team.
   Sharing later, many were surprised how nice it felt to be able to do something good for someone else.
   For many, it was an unique way to give back to the community more gratifying than just writing a check.
   The project was successful in many ways. The residences received an entire landscaping makeover; the interiors a fresh paint coat of paint; and the garden, a covered bench. The residents were able to enjoy a renewed sense of pride in their homes. The service group experienced the elation of coming together as a unified team to successfully complete a challenging project.
   The Camelot Society, which operates the Bedford/Brookhaven homes, is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to providing community living options for developmentally disabled individuals with a specific set of needs. There are five Seattle area homes supported by this foundation.
   The goal of this society is to provide a living situation for individuals to achieve their maximum potential and improve their quality of life, while promoting dignity, self-esteem, and individual choice. The Bedford/Brookhaven homes serve people with Prader-Willi Syndrome, a genetically based developmental disability.
   For more information on Camelot Society, or Prader-Willi Syndrome, please contact the Camelot Society at (206) 364-6680.
   Liesl Bohan is a student at Seattle University working for her master's degree in business administration.