Participating in the fellowship for the 2009-10 year deeply enhanced my skills as a social worker, a participant in the healthcare community, and solidified my commitment to service. I met weekly with two groups of court-involved young men teaching meditation. In the end, I found my students teaching me what they believed meditation to be. Instead of a practice of stillness, they developed a practice of meditation that wasn't about the "ohm" and sitting in the lotus position--but one of valuing time for reflection. We explored different ways to build a space for reflection. Through monthly meetings with my Schweitzer fellows, we learned about health disparities and delivering culturally competent solutions that were built collaboratively with our clients. The monthly speakers were a catalyst for our discussions and growth. The other fellows come from very diverse backgrounds--working towards master's in music, veterinary/medical/psychiatric nursing degrees, dental students, occupational therapists, public health candidates, and so much more. Meeting in fellowship with my colleagues was inspiring when you saw the challenges they came against and the insightful and innovative ways they implemented their projects within communities--and how they figured out how to make them sustainable. I found my project to be so enriching and focusing in my development as a clinical and macro social worker. The guiding mission set forth by Albert Schweitzer for "Reverence for life" through a life of service becomes strong within the fellows in their project year, but for myself, and, as for many fellows, it becomes a way of life.
My experience with the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) was a life enhancing experience. As a fellow in 2009-10, I developed and led a support group for formerly chronically homeless adults in the Boston area. The experience afforded extensive opportunities to develop leadership skills by connecting scholars and leaders in the service community with the fellows in the program. Through monthly meetings with community leaders, volunteer opportunities, and project assistance with professional mentors and trained ASF staff, the fellowship offers structured leadership development through the spirit of service. One particular example of this connectedness with my own project occurred through a physician with the Healthcare for the Homeless team in Boston who presented on Housing First programs to address homelessness in the Boston area. Her research and efforts inspired me to pursue work on a fellowship project (outlined in brief above) supporting these efforts in a neighboring community. The support of mentors, both academic and project skill specific affords fellows in this program tools to take initiative in addressing health disparaties in creative ways. Encouragement and expertise of the ASF staff further enhanced the experience. Health disparities are areas where the heart and head often collide to create frustration. However, the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship approaches this liminal state as fertile ground for grass roots change and leadership development.