Service-Learning and Community Service
1.) In May of this year, I had the tremendous opportunity of going to Cape Town, South Africa with Buck-I-SERV. There, we worked with a local organization called Sakhulwazi Womens’ Hub, whose mission is two-fold: nourishing their disenfranchised community with fresh, organic vegetables, and teaching their community skills in gardening, sewing, and even in speaking languages necessary for getting jobs like Afrikaans or English.
2.) The most transformative part of my trip was learning that even though I occupy a small space in the world, I still have the power to create and activate change globally. I had the privilege of travelling with the Vice President of Student Life, Dr. J, and this was a point she continuously worked to impress upon our group. It really made the work that we did and the experiences we shared that much more impactful.
I’ve always tried my best to be humble in service. In this age of selfies and social
media self-promotion, a trend of “selfish service” has broken out. It’s really easy to go into a service project, particularly abroad (in less-developed countries), and make insignificant change while shamelessly self-promoting and exploiting the people who you are meant to serve for your own gains on social media. I went into this trip knowing what boundaries to not overstep, but I also feel like even doing a service trip abroad for the first time taught me more than I could have known about how to make a sustainable impact.
3.) Having the tremendous opportunity to do service abroad was very humbling. I was very proud to take part in this trip, as I learned about how it was a sustainable project prior to going. The Hub we worked with was very resourceful, using compost techniques as opposed to fertilizers and other chemicals, producing organic veggies. The relationship between the organization and our university is also a sustainable one: 2017 will be the 6th year that an OSU group will travel to Cape Town with Dr. J. The heads of Sakhulwazi as well as the children of their township all look forward to our arrival each year.
As previously mentioned, Dr. J emphasized that we can be worldwide actors of change, and that even our small actions here in Columbus can carry global weight. It was really rewarding, as someone who tends focus so much on their future that I forget that I have to navigate through the present day to get there, working through the various stages of the STEP program. Dr. J’s point, coupled with the work that I put in researching, interviewing, going to meetings, and writing my proposal, really cemented the concept in my head that I have the power to make things happen in my life, even when they are far away, and even when they are intangible.
The structure of the entire STEP Program really helped to guide me in the ways of creating goals for myself and accomplishing them. Working with the wonderful people of the Sakhulwazi Hub and their entire township was the real fruit of my efforts. Also helpful in coming to the realization of my abilities to create change in my life and in the world was the fact that I was able to do service abroad versus at home. It put things into perspective (warning: this might get a bit philosophical), that in travelling from my typical, day-to-day microcosm here in Columbus, into another group of people’s microcosm in Cape Town, I was also able to create change on a macrocosmic level. It made the world seem a lot smaller and my perception of my place in it and the things that I am able to carry out significantly larger.
4.) Realizing my power to enact change in my life and in the lives of others is possibly one of the most meaningful life lessons I could ever learn. As stated prior, I tend to focus so much on my future goals that I neglect to focus on the steps in the present that I should take to get there. STEP and the Signature Project in Cape Town really helped me along the road to better understanding how and what kinds of steps to take (no pun intended) and how to recognize opportunities when they arise, in order to sculpt a future for myself. It was also tremendously rewarding to be able to give my services to people who do nothing but serve the people in their community. Serving and helping others is a pillar of my personality and even if my future career doesn’t involve that aspect of myself in some way, this trip has showed me ways that I can implement service in my life.