Category Archives: Make a Difference

FOCUS ON SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS: MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Aside from courses, lectures, seminars, and other activity, at BOLLI, we have an extensive menu of  Special Interest Groups that give us even more opportunities to get to know each other and dive more deeply into engaging pursuits.  Each month, we will focus on another BOLLI SIG and its activities–membership is always open!

In August, our BOLLI “Make a Difference” SIG was featured in the National Osher Newsletter.  That article is reprinted here.

OLLI at Brandeis University 

Make a Difference

Leaders Eleanor Jaffe and Elaine Dohan

“Make a Difference” is an affinity group that evolved naturally at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Brandeis University. It is led by two long-term members, Elaine Dohan and Eleanor Jaffe who have been participating for many years with classmates in discussion groups as well as in history and current event classes.  For example, Eleanor taught a course called “Resistance and Resilience in Politics and Life” in which current issues, as well as law and history, were discussed. In addition, every semester,  OLLI at Brandeis  hosts a variety of speakers who stimulate discourse from their unique positions.

Inviting colleagues to join with Elaine and Eleanor to form a group for civic action seemed an obvious next step.  As seniors, their particular experience and perspective gives them a unique vantage point from which to view today’s political climate and current events.  They also believe they have a responsibility to their grandchildren to set an example of the importance of citizen participation in civic discourse and action, both through voting and by speaking out.

Currently, the group is focusing their attention on issues concerning children. These include topics such as immigration, school shootings, voter registration and juvenile justice.  They meet regularly and reach consensus on current critical issues. Actions include writing postcards and calling editors of newspapers, members of Congress, and executives of corporations to urge action on behalf of these important issues.  They then follow up and write “thank you notes” to those individuals and groups who are providing positive leadership in these areas.

BOLLI’s “Make a Difference” SIG meets every other Friday morning from 10:30 to 12:00.  Watch the Bulletin for announcements of meetings and activities.

All of our SIGs are member-driven.  Don’t see your particular interest on our list?  Talk to a staff member about starting a new one!

BOLL Matters Co-editor Sue Wurster

Want to see your group highlighted here? Send updates on your SIG activities for future focus.  susanlwurster@gmail.com

 

 

 

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? RUTH BRAMSON ON “MAKING THE TIME”

MAKE THE TIME TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

By Ruth N. Bramson
Service is the rent we pay for living.  It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”  So says civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman.  And that message has never been more important than it is right now.

There is no doubt that we are all busy with families, friends, and, of course, our studies at BOLLI.  During these troubled times, we tend to look more inward and wonder what lies ahead for our children, grandchildren, and our country.  But in the midst of this chaos, the need for creative, energetic, and skilled volunteers in our nonprofit community is more immediate than ever.

Too often, we underestimate the power of sharing our time.  And yet, that investment of ourselves has the potential to turn a life around or even change the direction of the world we live in–close to home or far away.   We only have to read the papers or listen to the news reports to recognize and understand the needs of people, whether from natural disaster, armed conflict, or thoughtless and cruel political action.

Non-profits depend heavily on volunteers to help them serve their clients, sustain their missions, and raise funds for their programs and services. Because the current turmoil has increased the need for these services tenfold, volunteers may, in fact, be the key to survival for many community-based organizations.  Even larger brand-name non-profits like the Red Cross need the muscle and passion of volunteers to sustain their missions.  And we need only to look at the recent disasters caused by hurricanes, fires, and flooding to see the urgency.

Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy.  We vote in elections, but when we volunteer, we vote every day about the kind of communities we want to live in.  Help address climate change, teach a child to read, keep a teenager in school, or support a domestic violence victim–the needs are as wide as our minds and our energies can embrace.  The personal pride and satisfaction that are derived from these activities are incalculable and are recognized as a true measure of character and values.

No monetary value can equate to the value of a dedicated volunteer.  You are an extension of professional staff who are engaged in the fulfillment of the organization’s mission.  Your time and accomplishments must and will be recognized and applauded.

As Dr. Seuss so wisely said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, things aren’t going to get better–they simply are NOT.”

BOLLI member Ruth Bramson

Retired CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern MA, Ruth held prior executive positions at TJMaxx and Reebok and served as Undersecretary of Administration and Finance in the Romney Administration.  Ruth earned her B.A. at Columbia and her M.A. from B.U.   She lives in Boston with her husband.  They have  5 children and 9 grandchildren. 

 

BOLLI PRESENTS A NEW SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP: MAKE A DIFFERENCE

WHO SAYS WE’RE TOO OLD?

by Eleanor Jaffe

Eleanor and Husband Burt

Where political action is concerned, I’d say we are not too old.  I’d say we have strong ethics and opinions that are well informed by our personal lives and professional experiences,  and we have potentially strong voices.  BUT – we must use them!

We watch our beloved country overrun by scoundrels, those with no moral compass or sense of history.  Those who cannot (or will not) defend the rights of children separated from their parents at our borders.  Under this administration, we see  families that have trekked many hundreds of miles from their homes where they lived in danger from gangs and governments unable to protect them  to our borders seeking asylum.  (They are highly motivated;  wouldn’t they make ideal citizens?  Highly motivated, strong, ambitious people, sacrificing and striving for democracy and safety for themselves and their children.)  And we watch, dumbstruck by cruelties performed in our names by our government’s benighted policies:  these official asylum seekers, whose entry is not illegal,  are being separated from their traumatized children.

Thousands of children have been separated from their parents and are being “warehoused” in large detention centers, suffering the cruelties of fear and separation  that will shape their lives forever.  And our own government is the perpetrator of this policy!  And our tax dollars are supporting these arbitrary cruelties!

No matter what you think of our immigration policies…do you think they are inconsistent, have loopholes, need attention and correction?  Do you really believe this is the way to implement our current practices?  

Who says we are too old to do something about this heinous, cruel “immigration policy?”

Many of  us already make our voices heard by writing letters and making phone calls to our elected officials.   Others financially support organizations like the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, or other worthy organizations.  I hope that all of us might raise our  voices, write those postcards, support voter registration and candidates whose policies we admire so that our government represents the policies and programs that are synchronous with who we are as  moral persons   Ask yourself, does your government now reflect your ideals, experiences, and hopes?  If it does not, get active!  We are not too old!

One way to “get active” is to attend the meetings of our newly formed Make A Difference special interest group at BOLLI to see what we are doing.  We will be meeting on June 12 at 1 pm.  We will also meet once a month in July and August.  We will then set a regular meeting time come September.  You and your righteous anger and determination to “Make a Difference” will be heard.  We are not too old!

After serving as a delegate to Chicago’s 1968 Democratic Convention, Eleanor’s activism took a back seat to her other pursuits.  But today, she says, fear and loathing of the Trump administration has propelled her from “arm chair activism” (talking back to TV anchors) to small acts of resistance.  In the 2017 fall semester, she was sufficiently motivated to create a BOLLI course, “Resistance and Resilience in Politics and in Life.”  Now, she and Elaine Dohan are leading, “Make a Difference,” a new special interest group devoted to doing just that–through phoning, writing, and other acts of protest.  She invites others to join.