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A Life of Service

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Stephanie Hironaka

Last year, Stephanie Hironaka wrote a research paper on community-building strategies in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. Inspired by what she learnt, Stephanie spent this summer as a Spirituality, Service and Social Change Fellow at the Shinnyo-en Foundation. She views her fellowship at the Foundation as a chance to gain deeper insight into how non-profits work and what strategies they use to fulfill their mission. After graduating from Stanford, she plans to pursue a career in Teaching, the non-profit sector or international business.

Here is a sample of her writing:

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Prior to starting my fellowship with the Shinnyo-en Foundation, I had been told that there would be very “internship-like” duties, such as copying and making coffee.  Indeed this was true, as a portion of my time was spent taking care of short-term tasks such as folding t-shirts and sending packages.  Although I continued to remind myself that this was a known expectation, I was still challenged to see how I could direct my reflection and connect this work to “social change” as specified in the name of the fellowship, “Spirituality, Service, and Social Change.”

At times, I felt that I was not doing enough in context to this overarching idea of “social change.”  At one point, however, I realized that this attitude could lead to burnout in future situations and so I tried framing my work within the Six Billion Paths to Peace philosophy.  For example, I realized that I could find greater meaning in my tasks if I folded the t-shirts and sent them across the country with hope that the recipients would be happy to receive them.  It was also important for me to have faith that the recipients would be inspired to pass on the peace and positive energy I myself put into folding and packing the t-shirts, thus creating a ripple of peace, as articulated in the Six Billion Paths to Peace philosophy.  This shift in attitude helped me accept my responsibilities with positive energy and encouraged me to complete my tasks with my best effort.

Associate Program Director, Ineko Tsuchida, Executive Director, Henry Lozano, Stephanie Hironaka, Foundation Staff Member, Abigail Nathanson

Associate Program Director, Ineko Tsuchida, Executive Director, Henry Lozano, Stephanie Hironaka, Programer Associate, Abigail Nathanson

A little over half way through the summer, however, I still felt that I was not taking part in “social change” as we continued to discuss in the fellowship’s seminar.  However, as I was commuting to work one morning during the sixth week of my fellowship, I had a sudden revelation.  I realized that I was viewing my relationship as a fellow with the Shinnyo-en Foundation the same as relationships of other Haas Fellows and their community partners.  I realized though, that this fellow-Shinnyo-en Foundation relationship is actually very different.  I was not necessarily going into an organization and giving my time and my “direct” service, but rather I was actually receiving the gifts of nurture from the Shinnyo-en Foundation.  They were providing “the soil for me to grow,” as my supervisor articulated, so that I could eventually go out into the world with the tools to live with utmost integrity, pass my gifts of peace, and be fulfilled in return.  Following this realization, my perspective and understanding of this experience transformed and I was able to fully appreciate the gifts that the Foundation was offering me.  This whole experience of realization and transformation showed me the importance of reflection and my potential to readjust, even if it required thinking outside the box.

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Stephanie Hironaka with the 2009 Shinnyo Summer Fellows

We at the Shinnyo-en Foundation wish Stephanie all the best.