Orthodox Community Action Network

Serv-X-treme! Youth Leaders

Leadership 100 has supported the creation by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) of a national Orthodox Community Action Network (Orthodox CAN!) to nurture and activate the Orthodox Christian value of philanthropy by promoting volunteerism across all age groups of Orthodox Christians in this country, including support of national Youth Service Leadership-Serve-X-treme!-development gatherings.

The grants included $178,941 over 2013 and 2014 for the formal creation of the network and $140,000 over 2015 and 2016 for the youth component. The purpose of the grants is to move faith into action to respond effectively to natural and man-made disasters in the United States, engage in Orthodox social action initiatives in their local communities, and prepare Orthodox Christian youth to serve.

Through two training conferences and material distributions, the IOCC’s existing Orthodox Emergency Response Network has been expanded, along with the scope of emergency response capability. While great strides have been made in recent years to increase the capacity of Orthodox Christians to respond to natural and man-made disasters in the United States, including the creation of an Emergency Response Network by IOCC, the creation of a Metropolis of Atlanta Disaster Response Committee and the development of Emergency Plans for Families and Emergency Centers by AHEPA, the emergency response efforts of Orthodox Christians in the United States have largely operated in parallel with one another and have not engaged Orthodox parishes in disaster preparedness at the local level.   The lack of coordination has sometimes resulted in a duplication of services to target communities and regions.

Through training 40 new Frontliners, and providing continuing education for the approximately
60 already trained, the Leadership 100 grant has helped IOCC complete a network strategically placed in all ten FEMA regions, helping people prepare for disasters and be ready to respond when disasters occur, thus expanding the Orthodox Christian Emergency Response Network (ERN) into a more comprehensive,   integrated   and   national   network   capable   of   coordinating Orthodox resources in order to respond more effectively to natural and man-made disasters in the United States.

The last step in fulfilling the objective of making ERN a functioning national network is to codify the credentials that the members have received so that they may be accepted in disaster response situations. Guidance on this has come from our active participation in several state and National VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters).  

Forty-six ERN members, including IOCC staff, attended the most recent training that occurred in Chicago, Illinois from April 23 – 25, 2015.  Tailored as a continuing education  workshop  two  trainers   presented  workshops  entitled:     Risk   and   Resilience Assessment  in  Crisis  Intervention and  its  Impact  on  the  Frontline; Understanding the Suicidal Mind;  Providing Help in Suicide’s Aftermath; Enhancing our Antibodies  Against Compassion Fatigue;  and, Stress Management Techniques for the Trauma Responder.

Both trainers, Kevin Ellers from Chicago, IL and Irene Hajisavas from New York City, are licensed therapists and credentialed trainers of the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation.  

Work also continues on an IOCC-specific Disaster Preparedness Handbook for Orthodox Parishes which will assist parishes to be prepared for disasters and help them ascertain how to respond in the event of such disasters, as well as the distribution to all Frontliners of a book titled Help and Hope: Disaster Preparedness and Response Tools for Congregations.   

The grant support for national Youth Service Leadership development gatherings—Serv- X-treme!- includes Serv-X-treme! gatherings that equip Orthodox Christian youth to serve those in need in their own communities.

Serv-X-treme! – Christ-centered service gatherings – build youth leaders by developing and strengthening their individual understanding of Christ-centered service and by gaining a greater awareness of Orthodox Christian philanthropy through participation in theoretical and practical hands-on service activities. The week-long Serv-X-treme! gatherings are designed with sensitivity to the current work being done in the US by the Orthodox Hierarchs, Dioceses or Metropolises, parishes, and faithful, and equip the participating youth  to  support,  and  even  help  lead,  these  current  efforts. The gatherings  also  expose  the  youth  to  new  collaborative  possibilities  that  might  be realized in their own Dioceses, Metropolises and parishes.

The inaugural “Serv-X-treme!”  Youth Leadership Conference convened in Minneapolis, MN in August 2014, with 25 youths participating from 23 dioceses of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA, including representation of 8 of the 9 Greek Orthodox Metropolises in the US.  This project builds upon the success of that pilot effort, and the backbone of Orthodox volunteerism in the United States, by creating and nurturing a culture of service/diakonia among Orthodox youth and providing opportunities for service among Orthodox Christian faithful.

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