By Mark Koepsell – Executive Director, Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values
Recently I purchased my plane ticket to El Salvador, San Salvador. In January of 2011 the Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values (for whom I work) is taking a group of fraternity and sorority students from across the country on an international service immersion trip. These Greeks will come together for a week of service, cultural immersion, and values exploration. The trip participants will work alongside the people of El Salvador on various construction projects. Participants will also have the opportunity to interact with local children at an orphanage, work with school children in the communities we visit, and learn more about the cultural and political history of El Salvador.
Now that I have the plane ticket in hand, suddenly this all feels more real. I am both excited and nervous about my international immersion experience. I’ve traveled through most of the United States and even abroad. But never have I visited a developing country (unless a short visit to Encinada, Mexico counts), and certainly never have I gone to do manual labor and support communities with so much need.
One of our desired strategic outcomes of the trip is to motivate those within the fraternal community to think differently about the impact we can make in the communities in which we live. Real differences to real people with real problems.
In my many years working with fraternity and sorority members, there seem to be so many philanthropic fundraisers. Sports tournaments, eating events, dance marathons, social events, and even week long competitions – all in the name of philanthropy. Now don’t get me wrong…many organizations can’t survive without financial support and that is important work. But really? How much of an impact are we having? In the end, chapters rarely raise more than $1000. Members don’t really understand the broader context of the issue they are supporting. And most of the time, the focus is more on what I would refer to as another social engagement opportunity as opposed to a true altruistic attitude of service.
My challenge to my Brothers in Phi Delta Theta is to identify meaningful ways to give back in your communities. Find a cause that you can be excited about and do more than get out your check book… actually get your hands dirty. Whether you participate as a chapter, an alumni group, or as an individual it doesn’t matter. Scott Mietchen talked about the Phi Delt Nation in a recent blog entry. Let us expand the positive influence of the Phi Delt Nation through positive impact in our communities!