There is just one week until Giving Tuesday, which was held last year for the first time by the 92nd Street YMCA in New York City as a way to create an annual day of giving following Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Other groups and major partners soon signed on, including the United Nations Foundation. Last year, $10 million in online donations were made to charitable organizations as a result. Just as retailers participate and promote Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in 2013, many charitable organizations and nonprofits, including The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF), are participating in Giving Tuesday, which takes place December 3.
ASF is named after physician-humanitarian Albert Schweitzer. By age 29, Dr. Schweitzer had authored three books and made landmark scholarly contributions in the fields of music, religion, and philosophy. He was an acclaimed organist, a world authority on Bach, a church pastor, a principal of a theological seminary, and a university professor with two doctoral degrees. At the age of 30, aware of the desperate medical needs of Africans, he became a doctor and devoted the rest of his life to direct service in Africa. In 1913, at the age of 37, Dr. Schweitzer and his wife, Hélène, opened a hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon, which was then a province of French Equatorial Africa.
In 1915, tormented by the carnage of World War I, and troubled daily by the vast numbers of suffering patients coming to his hospital, he experienced as a revelation the idea of “Reverence for Life” as the elementary and universal principle of ethics that he had been seeking for so long. By stressing the interdependence and unity of all life, he was a forerunner of the environmental and animal welfare movements. Dr. Schweitzer won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.
ASF was founded in 1940 to support Dr. Schweitzer’s work in Africa as well as other projects and programs that advance the philosophy of Reverence for Life. With 12 program sites around the country and in Lambaréné, nearly 3,000 Schweitzer Fellows have delivered approximately 500,000 hours of service to nearly 300,000 people in need. Additionally, more than 100 Fellows have provided care at the Schweitzer Hospital, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Through partnerships with more than 100 schools, ASF supplements traditional education with programs explicitly focused on kindling and supporting emerging professionals’ desire to serve populations in need. Schweitzer Fellows’ service projects are not “band-aid” approaches to today’s most pressing health issues; they’re designed to have a long-term impact on the health of the underserved. And in carrying those projects from concept to completion, Schweitzer Fellows come away with a hard-earned blueprint for how to consistently integrate service into their lives. They leave their community agencies with programs that can be sustained.
The initial Fellowship year is a gateway rather than an endpoint. That’s why we call Schweitzer Fellows who have successfully completed their year-long service project “Fellows for Life” (FFL). The majority of our FFL continue to serve under-resourced communities, including at the agencies they served during their entry-year. Many have built on their Fellowship experience to spearhead new health initiatives that address unmet needs of specific populations.
Ultimately, the greatest effect of the Fellows is through the example they set for others. Fellows bring inspiring stories and the power of personal example back to the institutions where they are training, often involving colleagues in their service activities. The Fellows’ work reminds their peers that good intentions are not enough—that idealism in action is both an extraordinary force for good and a profound source of personal satisfaction. Through their action, Schweitzer Fellows become change agents and social entrepreneurs working in communities and health and human service agencies.
In the past year, our Fellows have used their passion to launch projects focusing on early education, art therapy, community mobilization, and more. We’re excited to be participating in Giving Tuesday this year and hope you’ll think of us this giving season.