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Reflections on 2013 Annual Retreat

2013 Annual Retreat Group Photo

2013 Annual Retreat Group Photo

This past August, the Foundation held its 14th Annual Retreat. The Retreat is intended to provide an opportunity for our grantees and Shinnyo-en community members to connect with like-minded individuals and think deeply about their own personal, cultural and spiritual roots of service. This year, a small group of about 50 professionals, Shinnyo-en temple youth, high school and college students attended, making it an intimate and safe space to have meaningful dialogues across different generations, backgrounds and faiths. The Foundation reached out to first-time participant, Libby Hollahan, for a reflection on her time at Retreat and we are grateful for her willingness to share it here. Libby is the Executive Director of the White Plains Library Foundation, a grantee of Shinnyo-en Foundation.

Libby H

Libby Hollahan, Executive Director of White Plains Library Foundation

Attending Shinnyo-en Foundation’s Annual Retreat at the beautiful Marconi Conference Center in Marshall, CA, was a meaningful and unique experience for me, both professionally and personally. The retreat was inspiring, provided wonderful new connections and ideas, and it was fun! I’m so grateful that Shinnyo-en Foundation (SEF) provides its grantees this time away from it all to be nurtured, share experiences with each other, reflect on our goals, and leave reinvigorated and rededicated to our work.

Unlike most of the retreat attendees, I am not directly involved in program planning or client service, so I found the Home Group (small groups that participants remain with throughout retreat) dialogues about exploring our roots of service very thought-provoking. As Executive Director of the White Plains Library Foundation, in White Plains, New York, I work on fundraising for building projects and Library programs that promote literacy, educational achievement and lifelong learning. While I know our Library staff’s work has a positive impact on many people in our community, I don’t often get to interact with our patrons to see the difference we are making. The retreat helped me gain a greater appreciation of the fact that my fundraising work is very connected to community service since it enables the Library to provide these programs.

SEF and the Shinnyo-en New York Temple have been active partners in supporting organizations in White Plains for many years, including the Library. The Library project that SEF is currently supporting is the addition of a new teen space wired with the latest technology. As I’ve gotten to know SEF’s staff more, I understand that they want their support to be truly transformative—not just a grant for construction and equipment. They really care about how our new teen space and programming will encourage local teens to become good global citizens engaged in finding solutions to problems affecting our world today. The retreat gave me some great ideas about how our new teen space could be used as a venue for community service and how to engage youth groups and foster student leaders.

High school participant from Youth Community Service

Shinnyo-en Youth Association member at Retreat

Shinnyo Fellows explaining their service projects

SEF’s focus on inspiring young people to get involved in meaningful service projects was clearly demonstrated at the retreat. I was awed by the commitment and creativity of the high school, college, and graduate student participants, who are involved in great work in their communities. I was also impressed by the ways in which SEF ensures the sustainability of this work by supporting organizations that mentor youth leaders and develop them as future non-profit professionals. The retreat gave these student leaders a chance to shine as Home Group facilitators who could lead group discussions and be comfortable working with adults. It was also a great opportunity for seasoned professionals to offer their suggestions and guidance to the Shinnyo Fellows when they presented their service project ideas.

The retreat was also a lot of fun! The ice-breaker activities, dancing, open mic, and workshop about play made us all let our guard down and laugh a lot. Too often, in the course of our daily work lives, we are so serious and busy that we forget to enjoy what we are doing and take time out for ourselves. I am a prime example of that! I especially enjoyed the activity where we had to quickly subdivide into groups by birth month, number of siblings, etc.; it was hilarious and helped everyone get to know a little about each other in a short time. The lovely meals prepared for us by the Marconi staff and the free time to explore Pt. Reyes Station and trails at Marconi added to the feeling of being nurtured.

I found the spiritual aspects of the retreat inspiring. I find my deepest spiritual connections in nature, and the stunning, peaceful setting at Marconi was very restorative. It was interesting to be among people who are active in faith communities and interfaith groups, and to learn how their faith motivates them to serve. The guided meditation and labyrinth were a wonderful way to end the retreat; I was able to block out my mental to-do list and left feeling relaxed, peaceful, energized and motivated.

Participants were led through guided meditation and given time for reflection while doing a walking meditation called the labyrinth.

Participants were led through guided meditation and given time for reflection while doing a walking meditation called the labyrinth.

Thank you, Libby, for sharing your thoughts and we hope you join us again in the future!