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This essay basically covers a positive psychology in action project. The aim of the project was to bring altruism to life by influencing the society to be involved in altruistic action, in this case seeking the welfare of the homeless by assisting in voluntary activities that cater for them. The essay introduces the basic principal of altruism and the project is centered in this context. The planning and the steps taken towards implementing the plan are explained in the essay.
Positive psychology focuses on positive traits, positive emotions and positive institutions. The focus of this project and its implementation was to create a positive mentality about the situation of the homeless and to bring out positive emotion in them through positive action and traits. The goals of positive psychology basically are creating an environment where members of the community flourish, justice is administered and members practice tolerance and good will (Snyder, 2011).
However, the homeless are often not included in these communities, partly because they have no home and therefore it is difficult for them to be part of a community and partly because they are often ignored. In light of the intrinsic value in every individual’s life, they deserve to be accorded the same respect as everyone else.
The project for the most part was successful. The members of the volunteer group were committed to being of help and they brought friends and family along whenever they could which helped in creating awareness. The success of the project indicated a positive trait inherent in individuals which is compassion. Most of the individuals who volunteered at the shelters were moved by the conditions these people lived in.
Introduction to Altruism
Altruism is most basically defined as selflessly seeking the welfare of other people (altruists.org, 2011). Over the years this definition has been redefined to include other traits such as the act of the altruist undergoing some personal sacrifice. Other definitions include the different types of altruism such as reciprocal altruism, where the altruist acts selflessly for the benefit of another expecting future compensation. The following essay however will deal with altruism in its most basic form; acting selflessly to benefit others without seeking a reward or compensation.
Human altruism is diverse in nature. It may or may not result in some benefits to the altruist. However the principle behind it is the act of seeking the welfare of others as an end in itself instead of a means to self satisfaction or compensation. Benefits that the altruist may gain as a result of altruistic behavior are not the objective. An altruist will act in a manner that serves other people’s interests whether or not they benefit.
Altruism is often but not always motivated by compassion. It is possible for one to exist without the other, that is, one can feel compassion and fail to act or act altruistically without necessarily feeling compassion. Similarly, altruism may be a result of compassion and compassion a result of altruism.
This project involved putting altruism in action with the aim of benefiting others and hoping that the beneficiaries will be motivated to seek the welfare of other people.
Planning the project took a while. This is because before implementation, there was need to gauge people’s reception of the idea. Positive psychology in action is a process that takes a lot of research especially on the effects of the action on the beneficiary as well as on other people. In my case, I decided to volunteer to help at the homeless shelters and to assist the homeless in any way I could whenever I could. Usually people would rather help if there is something in it for them. Politicians will help if it favors their campaigns and increases their chances of getting votes, most companies give to charity in order to be recognized or admired, and the government offers these people help almost begrudgingly whenever they are confronted or when asked to, and even then their help is not guaranteed.
As a result, the homeless still suffer and often only receive help when it is in their helpers’ interests to do so which is not often and which of course means their problems are never fully addressed. My psychology in action project involved mobilizing a couple of friends and hopefully a couple of clubs in school to volunteer at the homeless shelters in the evenings and on weekends for the benefit of the many homeless people and to assist their care takers who run these homes and are often swamped with so much work and very little manpower.
My decision stemmed from a documentary I watched that covered the day to day life of a homeless person. It was more of a reaction triggered by compassion. I realized that there are altruists among us, many of them the people who run these shelters and the many who volunteer to help serve the homeless. There are also many who offer food, clothing and medical care to these people for free and without expecting any compensation.
Implementation of the Project Plan
My first step was identifying what I needed to do to help when I did volunteer as well as outside of my voluntary services. The first thing I did was familiarize myself with the homeless situation. I researched on homelessness and the different reasons for homelessness and found out that every case was unique and genuine. This only served to increase my resolve and increased my compassion. It would have been difficult to reach out to the homeless if I did not know what they went through. It was also important for me to get the facts in order to present them as they were to the people I planned on mobilizing.
This therefore meant obtaining more information from documentaries, newspapers, journals and moist importantly the people who ran these shelters who were most familiar with the situation of the homeless and were more than willing to share about the dire need these people were in. I understood firsthand the perils of living in a world where people did not make an intentional effort to look out for each other. The research I did on the homeless implied ignorance on the part of people who were not homeless and selfishness on the part of people who were aware and able to help but for whatever reason did not help. Hopefully, altruistic action by a number of people would prompt other people to be more considerate and offer help for the benefit of the homeless.
The second step was to come with ways, both small and big, of improving these people’s welfare. One seemingly small way to help was to acknowledge and respond to homeless people. This would go a long way in preventing them from resulting to desperate and potentially harmful measures such as crime and drugs. The homeless need to be treated with the same respect and courtesy accorded to other people. Kind words and encouragement go a long way in relieving stress. These people suffer enough without people adding to their suffering through unkind acts and discrimination.
Another way to help the homeless would be to collect people’s unused clothing, toys and books and provide them to the homeless. Homeless children could use books and toys donated to them since they cannot afford them. Clothing especially during the winter would come in really handy. Donations of non perishable foods and money to homeless shelters would also go a long way.
The major part of the project, however, involved volunteering at homeless shelters and soup kitchens and helping prepare food, clean up afterwards and basically offer whatever help was required in the day to day chores at the shelters and soup kitchens. It also involved tutoring homeless children and playing with them. The plan included telling other people about the homeless and the conditions they lived in with the aim of creating awareness seeing as many people really do not know the dire situation the homeless are in. Hopefully then, they would be compassionate enough to offer whatever help they could and to petition for assistance from the government rightfully deserved by the homeless. This was in view of the huge amount of work required concerning the homeless and the fact that as significant as the help my friends and I would offer was, it would not be enough and there would still be a lot of manpower required.
I recognized the possibility of starting off quite enthusiastic but falling off as the enthusiasm wore off. I therefore strategized on how to keep each other on our toes. One of them was to make a habit out of improving the welfare of every homeless person encountered in whatever way, small or big. It could be by offering them a kind word or a few bucks to buying them a meal. Another way of motivating the members eventually was keeping each other accountable to ensure that no one strayed from their objectives, extending help and kindness to the homeless. These strategies were not really required later as members of the volunteer group were committed to the cause.
Once the plan was in place implementation ran rather smoothly. Some of my friends declined for different reasons but I had some on board along with a couple of others I did not expect. The Red Cross and journalism club also joined me and their enthusiasm was amazing to say the least. I began by explaining and showing them as best as I knew the situation of the homeless and they did a lot of research on their own. It was important that they all understood the task at hand. The group was open to anyone who was willing to volunteer help at whatever time and of whatever kind to the homeless.
The rationale behind getting as many people on board as possible was that it would then be easier to spread the word and create awareness that would get more people on board. In addition to that, the more help volunteered to the homeless and to the homeless shelters the better off the beneficiaries would be. The objective was to help improve the living conditions of the homeless. This was a step towards offering a solution to their problems by doing what was in our power to assist and leaving the rest up to the government.
The situation of the homeless may seem hopeless due to its magnitude. While we realize that it is impossible to reach each and every homeless person and to help improve every homeless person’s welfare on our own, we cannot sit back and do nothing. The help offered to the homeless by volunteers may not necessarily cover the entire homeless group and neither does it offer a lasting solution, but compared to its lack thereof, it makes a world of difference. It helps the homeless get by and provides basic needs for survival; food, shelter and clothing. It will take joint effort and quite a while to offer a lasting solution to the homeless problem in our societies. Every human being is intrinsically valuable; therefore every life that is touched is important. Helping one needy person is better than helping no one.
Confidence in the success of this project stemmed from the fact that human beings are capable and actually in search of love and compassion. A society thrives when there is love and concern for each other among its members. People are moved by inhuman situations and at the moment of such emotion they are usually willing to go to lengths to offer help. This is an indication that most people are compassionate even if the levels of compassion and the reactions evoked as a result differ from one individual to another. However, their busy schedules and lives in addition to the notion they have that they have nothing to offer distracts them easily and they get back to their lives forgetting the persons in need. This project was meant to show people the different ways they can be of help to homeless people and how they can make a difference and improve the lives of the homeless.
While the government is mostly responsible for these people, it is important to realize that they cannot get personal with every individual in need like we can. The immediate society can offer support on a more personal level, such as volunteering in homeless shelters, offering professional services such as medical care that these people cannot afford for free, encouraging them and giving them jobs to help them sustain themselves.