|Mormons at a service project in Pasadena|
One of my favorite things that I get to do in my off time is help train online volunteers for my church. Once a year there's this huge statewide community service project called "Mormon Helping Hands", and for about three years I've been heading up the training and supervision of fellow Mormon volunteer "social media specialists" spread out across the various regional stakes (that's like a diocese, or group of local congregations) around California, who are helping promote their projects locally. I mainly conduct this training online, along with a small group, or committee, of other specialists who also lead up the training. Basically, once a month I get to jump on Google+ Hangouts and talk to a bunch of other Mormons about how to share and promote their stakes' service projects for Mormon Helping Hands day, which is coming up again in April, 2014. The idea is that these service projects aren't just for Mormons, but they're for everyone who wants to make a difference in their town, city, neighborhood, whichever. Many of the organizations that we partner with include mosques, synagogues, the Red Cross, Salvation Army and other Christian denominations. It's lots of fun, and I think that the volunteer social media specialists play a pivotal role because without them, it's possible that folks in their communities wouldn't hear about these projects, especially journalists and other influential members of the community who can help spread the word. It's pretty grassroots, actually, and I really have a lot of fun doing it. Something that I often share is that the digital world is an "analogue" for the real world, meaning that we have these digital spaces that reflect real life spaces, and just like in real life, if no one says anything, no one will hear anything - but one of the great things about digital is that it eliminates restrictions of geography and time, so we can basically talk with greater convenience.
There's also a Mormon Helping Hands day in Hawaii that I help supervise the online component for, but I've yet to travel out there just for this project. If I ever go, it will be a great way to connect in real life with more fellow volunteers, but that said, I think I'll save my pennies for now and stick to teleconferencing on Google+. So, the big question is, which is better: the convenience of talking face to face online, or being able to put your toes in the sand? Cost-benefit, cost-benefit... It's da kine.