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College of Human Ecology

New K-State course focuses on compassion, community action

Friday, August 4, 2006

MANHATTAN- Devastating events can prompt positive outcomes, said Charles A. "Chuck" Smith, Kansas State University Research and
Extension child development specialist and volunteer counselor with the American Red Cross.

Smith, who has counseled families displaced by Hurricane Katrina (in Atlanta) and flood victims (from New Hampshire) within the last year, said that such tragedies often spawn increased awareness of suffering and compassion in the community itself and larger world.

"The desire to help others is real, and nurturing such compassion is important," said Smith, who has developed a new skill-building, self-help course - "A Course on Helping" - to do just that.

His goal is help people learn how to translate their desire to help into efficient and effective responses that will facilitate what Smith calls the four stages in the rebuilding process.

Given that strong emotions typically are part of a life-changing experience, Smith describes the first stage of the response and recovery process - the Threshold - as meeting one or more people who are coping with intense feelings of sadness or loss.

The second stage - Stabilization - involves helping those who are experiencing loss to begin thinking beyond troubling events and emotional responses so they can begin to move toward the acceptance that is necessary to reach the third stage of the rebuilding process.

At this point - (Mobilization, which is the third stage of helping.), an individual who has experienced a life-changing event may decide to become an activist. Smith said an example might include parents whose child is killed in an alcohol-related accident who become active campaigners against teenage drinking and driving.

The fourth and final stage, which Smith calls Transformation, involves living through grief and disappointment and moving toward recovery in a positive way.

"A Course on Helping" is intended to help friends, neighbors, volunteers and others who come in contact with people who are experiencing pain and loss. The four-step, self-help course is intended as part of Smith´s "Dear Neighbors" community-based
education program. It is free and can be downloaded at http://www.dearneighbors.com.

Beginning in Jan. 2007, Smith will offer a three-credit college course based on the online course. For more information, contact Smith at 785-532-5773.

Story by:
Nancy Peterson
K-State Research and Extension

For more information:
Charles A. "Chuck" Smith is at 785-532-5773 or casmith@ksu.edu

This article was posted on Friday, August 4, 2006, and is filed under College News, Family Studies & Human Services.