Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ripple Effect

This morning I gave a workshop on the nutritional needs of children  for 10 directors of after-school programs around New York City.

I am feeling pretty inspired from it and thought I would share.

Part of what made today so cool, was that it brought together several of  my passions.

I have worked in the social work field in NYC for the past ten years. I care deeply about helping others. Especially those who lack access to resources. I have met some pretty incredible kids in my day. Kids who have tremendous potential, but can often fail to reach this potential because they lack the necessary support.

In my work, I have done my best to support these kids, believing in them and encouraging them.

My interest in health and wellness has been a more recent development for me. It  first arose out of a need to take better care of myself. I discovered how good it made me feel, and I have become passionate about helping others to do the same. Up to this point, this new branch of my career has been largely focused on working with private clients. Those that could afford to pay me for my services. However, I am now working to also integrate this passion with my work with children and non-profits.

A few weeks ago I did a workshop for non-profit professionals, supporting them to take better care of themselves, or risk burnout.

In today's presentation to the after-school directors, I got a glimpse at how I  had the chance to impact change on a broad variety of levels, and it was one of those rare moments where I could really feel that happening.

I started the presentation with some nutrition basics that could be applied to both adults and children. It quickly became clear that the directors in the room were really hungry for this information. To pass it on to the kids they serve, but also for themselves and their own health.

Most of the after-school sites represented today were in the Bronx. The Bronx has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the country, with something close to 24% of kids having a BMI (body mass index) that qualifies them as obese. The directors present today shared heart breaking stories of children struggling with their weight, in some cases suffering from the first signs of heart disease, and families unsure of what to do and how to help.

The problem is complex and could not hoped to be solved in a 2.5 hour presentation. My goal was simply to educate the participants and share some tools and strategies to make simple changes within their program and begin to educate the families that they serve.

I need to say, that this was a great group of participants. And because of that we were able to get a lot done and the training went really well.  As we closed, I had each participant share a commitment that they were ready to make. What they shared left me astounded. I didn't have a tape recorder (obviously, since I don't tend to walk around with one of those) so I'll have to try and  paraphrase some of the comments and hope you can feel how significant these commitments are:

"We get super sugary lemonade delivered to our site every week. The kids drink gallons of it. I am going to ask them to stop delivering it and switch to water."

"I am going to start by improving my own diet and eating more vegetables!"

"I am going to put copies of the handout, How to Engage Kids in Healthy Eating, by the parent sign-out sheet every day this week for parents to take home with them!" (I created the handout and disseminated it at the training)

"I am going to implement a Healthy Party Guideline at my program and use some of these creative healthy snacks, instead of ice cream parties."

"I am going to lead a workshop for my staff on the benefits of healthy eating, using some of the visuals that we saw today." (I did an exercise with them that showed how much fat is in fast food and how much sugar is in soda - I'll explain and offer the visuals in an upcoming post. It's disturbing to say the least.)

How awesome is all that! So much momentum! Efforts towards personal change... efforts to put greater thought into the foods and beverages offered to kids... commitment to educating families and staff...

When I stop to really think of how many lives are going to be touched, I feel thoroughly humbled.

Plus, I had been paid decently for my time!

In the "about me" section of this site, I write, " I am continually struck by the ripple effect of one individual striving for growth.".

Today, I felt like I was able to watch this ripple effect build in slow motion, so that I was able to see how the swell rises and falls and creates yet another ripple.

It provided me with some much needed rejuvenation of spirit, and I hope some of that spreads out to you too.

Ok... can't resist:

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