STEP Signature Project

Name: Sydney Baldwin
Type of Project: Service Learning and Community Service

In January 2016, I went on a Buck-I-Serv trip to Biloxi, Mississippi. While there, we worked with an organization called Community Collaborations, which serves the surrounding areas with multiple different types of projects. Our trip involved volunteering at the Moore Community House, Sue’s Home, the Boys and Girls Club, Land Trust, and the Audubon Center.

The majority of the service we completed on my Buck-I-Serv trip was indirect service. Anytime I have volunteered in the past, which included volunteering at a nursing home, with the American Red Cross, and a few clubs within The Ohio State University, the service was direct, meaning that I could see the impact I was having on people’s lives. At times it was challenging to want to volunteer because I felt that I wasn’t helping anyone. However, during our reflection times, I realized that any type of service, whether direct or indirect, is equally important. You may not witness it, but your work truly is benefitting someone, somewhere. I would say that my view of what volunteering and service is has changed since returning from my Buck-I-Serv trip and completing my STEP Signature Project.

While we were in Biloxi we volunteered at multiple sites. My first day was spent at the Moore Community House, which is an early Headstart Program, and the Boys and Girls Club. I was able to help take care of one year olds and at the Boys and Girls Club, I helped watch children that ranged from kindergarteners to third graders. While this was more of a direct service project, I didn’t feel that I was very much help. That was the first time I thought I was not truly helping anyone. However, the teachers there greatly appreciated the help.

The next couple days, I worked at the Land Trust and the Audubon Center. While at the Land Trust, we helped make a trail for families to enjoy, and at the Audubon Center, we planted live oak trees to provide shade for their parking lot. Once again, I didn’t feel that I was directly benefitting anyone. On the bright side, it was interesting to learn how to properly plant an oak tree and everything that goes into creating a trail. I enjoyed being able to see our progress throughout the week and see the finished project once Thursday came.

My last day was spent at Sue’s Home, which is for women in transition from prison. This was honestly the least enjoyable site throughout the entire week. All of the work we did simply seemed like household chores that the women living there should have been doing and the woman in charge of us did not seem to be that appreciative of the work we were doing for her. Fortunately though, every day that a group was there, the women living there thanked us multiple times for volunteering at their home. Towards the end of the week, after discussing what we all learned on the trip and talking to the director of Community Collaborations, I realized that all of the work we completed was greatly valued by the people we worked with and that even though we can’t directly see our impact, we are benefitting people. It took talking about our experiences from each day to realize that indirect service is as important as direct service and that thinking about our work made me realize the impact I was having on people. At Sue’s, we were improving the home those women were living in. At Land Trust, we were creating a trail that families could enjoy for years to come. At the Audubon Center, we were planting live oak trees that would be enjoyed for hundreds of years. Finally, at the Moore Community House, we were helping the teachers teach these children the basic knowledge that they need to know, how to listen to people, and be responsible. This trip was very worthwhile once I finally realized it.

This change in realizing that indirect service is important too is significant for my life because I will be more willing to volunteer for projects that are not directly impacting people’s lives. It will open the door to many more volunteer opportunities. I now feel that I impacted people’s lives while performing indirect service, even though throughout the majority of the week I felt that I was not. I hope to encourage people to perform this type of service and help them learn the value of it.