Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year, New Energy, and New Focus for D&R

The entrance of a new year has long since been used by individuals as a way to reboot their lifestyles and goals and begin to live more consciously. Western culture traditionally has people compiling lists of resolutions that will help them prioritize and seek goals centered around their health, wellness, productivity, and overall happiness. People use this change in the calendar as a blank slate - as a way to revisit intentions and revitalize or repurpose them.

Just as individuals feel the need to evaluate themselves and reshape their objectives come January 1st, so do organizations. This is why we, the Dignity & Respect Campaign, are thrilled to announce our plans to relaunch this month and roll out exciting new ideas for the coming year and beyond.

The Dignity & Respect Campaign began as an internal initiative within a larger corporation and has since grown into a separate entity that is now recognized as a national campaign.

This campaign is based upon 30 Tips to inspire and promote dignity and respect. There are also 7 Pillars that help to reinforce these tips, as well as specialized initiatives and areas of focus that support the campaign. The D&R organization also delivers specialized programs, educational and training resources, as well as communication tools to advance our mission.    

What we are proud to showcase in the new year is our commitment to intersectionality and cultural awareness. We want to illustrate what dignity and respect represents at its core - which is the intersection between “I want dignity and respect” and “I treat others with dignity and respect.”

As Candi Castleberry Singleton, our Founder and Chair, will tell you: “We are laser-focused on making our world a better place for all to live, work, learn, and play with all of our differences.”

We hope that you will join our efforts and encourage others to join as well. Let’s create safe spaces to learn about and accept others. Let’s get involved. Let’s treat everyone with the dignity and respect we all want and deserve.  

As Candi says, “Let’s remember this: differences are only barriers when we allow them to be.”

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

3 Helpful Tips for How to Get Involved

Humans have lived within communities from the very beginning of our existence. Social interaction dates back to as early as hunter-gatherer societies - when people relied on one another for survival. Even today, communal living is very much linked to a person’s well-being and happiness, which is why we feel the need to belong to a community.

It’s probably no secret that communities thrive when its members contribute to building and maintaining them. When members focus on the collective success of the populace, there is a better chance that each individual will also prosper.

This is why one of the focuses of the Dignity & Respect Campaign is to Get Involved. When you are able to contribute to and give back to your community, not only will you feel a sense of reward, but you will also help to sustain that community. There are many options for ways to get involved in your area - no matter where you live. You could reach out to your local hospital or library, for instance, or to nearby youth organizations, rehabilitation centers, or retirement homes. The choices go on and on, which is why we’ve developed a few helpful pointers on where to start if you are looking to reach out and help:

  1. Determine what your passion is and what you can offer. If you are a person who adores reading, then it would make sense for you to check out volunteer options at your local library. If you love to be around children, then search for ways to work with the younger population. Whatever it is that generates energy and enthusiasm in yourself, start there. It doesn’t make sense to force yourself to partake in activities or responsibilities that don’t excite you - particularly since these efforts will most likely not be compensated. Once you’ve decided what your area of focus is, assess what skills you can bring to the table. Are you good with computers or bookkeeping? Can you provide physical labor? Accept and understand your capabilities before you start your researching opportunities.
  2. Research to find a good placement. If you’re looking to get involved, understand that it might take some time before you find the right opportunity. Depending on your skill sets, your interests, and your time commitment, it might be awhile before you find a good fit. This is perfectly okay. It’s better that you take time to find something suitable and interesting than if you were to take on a project you’re not committed to.
  3. Serve. When you find a good opportunity, commit to it. If you promise a certain amount of hours, uphold that commitment. There will likely be people counting on you to help; so if you say you’re going to do something, do it. Many of the organizations or facilities that will need your help tend to be understaffed as it is, so they could suffer if they have to deal with volunteers who bail out. Always make sure to communicate with your point of contact.

Remember, there are lots of options and good resources for choosing a good fit when it comes to getting involved. Even if you simply research a reputable and charitable organization to donate to, you will make a huge difference in the lives of others. Make sure you are doing your part and giving as much back to your community as you take from it.
Get involved

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Universal Human Rights Month

Human Rights

For some cultures, December marks the season for holidays. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and sometimes even Milad un Nabi are just a few of the celebrations that American citizens will commemorate this month - not to mention the closing of the calendar year.

But December is also observed for another, lesser known reason: it is the Universal Month for Human Rights.

So what does this mean exactly?

It’s important to first understand how the Universal Month for Human Rights started. It began in 1948, when the United Nations wrote up a document called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This happened after the Second World War, because the U.N. wanted to prevent the atrocities that had occurred. They created the document as a way to properly define what human rights would be protected universally.

The very first article of this declaration makes it clear what the purpose is. It states:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

The rest of the document lists out what these rights are. It emphasizes how important it is to work towards protecting freedom for all in order to keep peace.

How can you observe the Universal Month for Human Rights?

There is a lot of turmoil in the world. Open up any newspaper or look on any Facebook or Twitter feed and see the many challenges our planet is constantly facing.

One of the most important things you can do throughout the course of this month - and even beyond - is to find common ground with the people around you. We must remember that all human beings were born into the same world we were and that, despite our differences, we must learn to function here together. Human Rights Month is about acknowledging that people of different races, religions, cultures, and beliefs are still just that: people. We must be careful of differentiating ourselves from others so much that we forget this.

Take the time to learn about another culture that is different from yours - perhaps a culture that makes you nervous or uneasy. Research their history or perhaps make a new friend that is a member of that culture. You’ll start to see quickly how similar all people really are. You’ll start to see just how important it is that everyone be treated with dignity and respect.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Do Your Part: Help Us Fight Violence

Violence is a constant presence in the news. Scroll through most Facebook and Twitter feeds, or open up any newspaper and you will see the sheer volume of violent acts that happen across both the country and the world.

Community violence, in particular, is most commonly featured on these news platforms and is defined as an intentional attempt to hurt one or more people. In fact, every day in the U.S. over 85 gun deaths occur - which is around 3 deaths per hour. Last year, over 16,000 homicides were committed, and a U.S. Department of Justice study found that over 60% of children in America have been exposed to violence.

But violence doesn’t only occur on the outside in a physical way. Violence can also affect people both emotionally and psychologically. For simple proof of this, compare the 16,000 homicides last year to the 38,000 suicides that also occurred. Violence comes in many forms and is difficult to understand.

According to the CDC’s Principles of Prevention (POP) curriculum, violence as a whole is a complicated issue and there are multiple influences at various levels. “There’s no single reason why some people behave violently while others do not.”

So what can be done about the issue?

The Dignity & Respect Campaign takes all of these statistics very seriously - and when it comes to violence and destruction, enough is enough. Violence places a huge burden on the health of our country and we want your help in working to fight it.

We believe the first step towards violence prevention is education, which is why we’ve started our “I Will Do My Part” initiative. We also want to promote resources like POP training so that you can better understand violence, as well as programs like STRYVE that address more specific kinds of violence.

But beyond these helpful materials, we encourage you to remember that violence is a large issue that can be tackled a little bit at a time. You might not be capable of foreseeing and preventing a mass shooting, but you can speak out and help to demolish violent bigotry towards other cultures. You can look for ways you can get involved locally and report back to D&R on how you helped.

Small acts matter just as much as the large ones do. How will you play your part to stop violence?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful for Gratitude


The Thanksgiving holiday can mean lots of things to lots of people. To some, it means traveling home to be with family. It might mean breaking out old recipes to cook, or dredging up old stories to retell around the table. For others, it might mean joining a significant other’s family dinner - meeting new relatives and learning new traditions. For some, it might mean cooking with friends, or even scrapping the kitchen altogether and dining out.  

Whatever your holiday means this year, it is bound to revolve around the notion of thankfulness. If someone were to ask you over a plate of turkey and gravy what you are thankful for, you could probably muster up a response - and many of us do. But what does being thankful mean to you year-round?

Recent studies show that feeling sincere gratitude is actually good for us. It might be pretty obvious that gratefulness can improve one’s mental health, but it can also lead to better overall health. According to research led by Paul Mills, people who are grateful also show significant improvement in heart wellness - including reduced risk for heart disease.

Some experts say that people are not born with the ability to be grateful though - it takes practice. The key to this practice comes in three stages: recognizing what you’re grateful for, acknowledging it, and appreciating it. So aside from a carefully crafted Turkey Day response, how can you practice these steps the other 364 days of the year?

Here are a few helpful ideas to get you started:

Keep a gratitude journal. Even if you only write down one or two things a day, this habit can greatly reduce any stress levels you may have. It can also help to reverse any bad days you might have, and keep things in perspective for you.

Distract yourself. If you find yourself focusing your attention on something negative that upsets you, find something around you that pleases you. Whether it’s a painting on the wall, the perfect blend of cream and sugar in your coffee at the moment, or a song playing through the speakers, force your mind to concentrate on it.   

Pass it on. Try to give at least one compliment a day. Answer the phone with genuine enthusiasm. Smile when you greet family or coworkers in the morning. By exhibiting an outward appearance of gratitude, it will help you remind yourself to feel grateful.  

Keeping gratitude and thankfulness present in your life will not only improve your physical and emotional health, but it can strengthen your relationships. But gratitude doesn’t always come naturally so start making it a habit now. Instead of naming one thing you’re thankful for this holiday, list three. Then list three more the next day. See how far you can get, and see how living a life of gratitude and appreciation can be transformative.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ways to Communicate with Respect


Communication is an extremely important aspect of our everyday lives that is so easy to overlook. Whether you are in conversation with coworkers, with friends and acquaintances, or with your family members, practicing strong and honest communication is a key player in fostering good relationships.

Lately, it seems there are a slew of issues in the news that create divides between peers and loved ones. Politics and topical issues have a tendency of polarizing people who discuss them - and even sparking animosity and irritation.

At the Dignity & Respect Campaign, we know how important certain issues might be to you. We believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions and feelings, but we also believe in acceptance - which means respecting others’ opinions and feelings, even if they differ from yours. This concept corresponds directly with the Fourth pillar of our 7 Pillars: Finding Common Ground. This model for behavior focuses on the ability to work through differences and gain agreement, while maintaining dignity and respect. To help you better understand this concept, and maybe even work through some ways to foster it, we’ve created a list of helpful tips for you:

Practice active listening. When you are in conversation with someone, regardless of whether the topic is a heated one or not, it’s a good habit to practice active listening. This means to be intentional about listening and make sure you are giving your full attention to the speaker. Also be sure to listen without interruption, and provide feedback to the speaker. Let him/her know what you heard so you can clear up any misunderstandings right away before you contribute to the conversation.

Be self aware. Understand how your culture and background shape you. Understand the differences between you and the person you are communicating with. For the most part, misunderstandings between people of different cultures, generations, or backgrounds occur not because of what was said, but because of how one party said it. The best way to stop these mishaps from happening is to not assume sameness, and not assume that the other party immediately understands what you mean. Take the time to get on the same page.

Disagree. Conversations are not a game that you play. The point in a discussion is not to win - there is no right or wrong when it comes to opinions. It is very important to remember this, and especially important to remember that it is not your job to make someone agree with you. This is a key component in respect. It is okay to disagree. The purpose of conversing is to learn from someone else - not to sway them to believe what you believe. Hopefully, they can also learn from you.

These helpful tips can go a long way in creating healthy and respectful conversations. The more we effectively communicate with one another - even on sensitive issues - the more we can acknowledge our differences and promote acceptance of those differences.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Honoring Native American Heritage Month

 Photo courtesy of Pixabay

November brings with it a kaleidoscope of fall foliage, cooler temperatures, and our national Thanksgiving holiday, which usually calls to mind the image of golden turkeys, simmering casseroles, and loved ones around a table. November is also recognized as Native American Heritage Month. Because one of the goals of the Dignity & Respect Campaign is to model our 7 Pillars of behaviors, we’d like to focus on one of these principles in conjunction with this holiday: building cultural awareness.

The history of this month of remembrance actually began way back in May of 1916, when the governor of New York approved an American Indian Day. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush took this a step further and declared November “National American Indian Heritage Month” which has been ongoing since 1994.

The purpose of this month-long dedication is to recognize the historical contributions that Native Americans have made to the growth of the United States, and also to raise awareness about the tribes that still exist today. According to the 2010 census, there are over 5.2 million citizens who identified as American Indian and/or Alaska Native. Even though this number might seem small (around 9.7% of total American residents), it’s actually very significant because these citizens represent a rich community of culture and history that is woven into the tapestry of the United States.

What can you do?
Cultural awareness is founded in knowledge and education. In order to treat people the way they deserve to be treated, we need to educate ourselves about populations and cultures that are different from ours. So make this month all about learning! Read about the history of the Native Americans that inhabited our country long before it was ever the United States. Learn the differences between the various tribes and how many of them still honor the traditions of their ancestors.     

The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. - as well as the National Archives and the Smithsonian - is hosting a range of events throughout November. If you don’t live close to the D.C. area, you can read up on other ways to participate: trying new recipes, for instance, or watching an educational film. The Smithsonian Education group has also compiled a list of resources for teachers interested in educating their students on the history and heritage of Native Americans.

Dignity & Respect
The Dignity & Respect Campaign as a whole believes in working towards creating a better world for all of us to live in together. Regardless of whether or not you take an active stance in Native American Heritage Month, we hope that you will both appreciate and respect this special holiday. Your awareness will help to create a stronger and more compassionate America.  

To echo the sentiments of the United States Department of the Interior: “Many voices-- one journey-- join us!”