Building Community with Project Ubuntu
Today’s guest post comes Daniel Becton, creator of Project Ubuntu and is currently on the road with the project. He volunteered with City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley and spent two years with City Year London as Civic Engagement Team Leader and Recruitment Officer while planning the year-long journey.
After graduating from the University of North Carolina (BA Philosophy and Music 2008) I attended the London School of Economics where I earned a master’s degree in Gender Studies. Although it was an intellectually stimulating environment, however, we tended to fall into the trap of talking a lot about the world’s problems without really doing much about them.
While complaining one day about how academics always complain, I was directed to the exciting prospect of City Year. I served a year as a civic engagement corps member at City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley before joining the team in the UK when City Year London launched in 2010.
Over the past two years I helped City Year London grow to more than 100 full-time volunteers, adding to the immense City Year network of young leaders on three continents. Through the cultivation of my passion for service, I found myself happier and feeling I was making a real impact on the problems I had studied in the classroom. Rather than becoming inundated with the weight of what was, I began to get excited about what could be.
And so I developed an independent project that would celebrate organizations across the U.S. that are dedicated to effecting change through human efforts – giving their time, energy and skills in an effort to better society. I called the effort Project Ubuntu, a journey to one community in every state and Washington, D.C., that will spend a week with 51 groups devoted to humanity and service – 15 are City Year sites, and the other 36 are unique non-profits or communities of faith.
With a dedicated team supporting, I launched Project Ubuntu by raising $16,500 from more than 200 individual donors, generating 51 organizational partnerships and designing endless logistics for my year-long journey around the United States. So far I have spent a week in 11 states, including inspiring visits to the City Year sites in New Hampshire, Boston, Rhode Island, New York and Philadelphia.
In each community, I am supporting organizations in a variety of ways – delivering workshops on leadership, identity and professional development; helping promote their work by consulting with departments or arranging benefit events; and supplying an extra pair of hands in areas where I can be useful.
I also spend time with the people of each partner organization to learn their stories, and I write about my experience by exploring the paradox, “How do we build ‘us’ without building ‘them?’” Additionally, I generate a steady stream of photos and videos to a growing international audience via social media.
The ultimate goal of Project Ubuntu is to inspire increased kindness and community engagement by demonstrating that service is fun, feasible and meaningful. I want to carry Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy forward by challenging Americans and other identity groups to harness pride but to be humble and inclusive, to define themselves through service to others, and to become a place as Dr. King dreamed, “where all our goods and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity.”