“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Ghandi
Community service is defined as voluntary work intended to help people in a particular area. I believe that this definition misses the true meaning: that the volunteer expects no rewards from their work.
Students at almost all High Schools are required to complete a certain amount of community service before graduating. Our school requires 10 hours each year. Community service is not always a student’s favorite thing to do, which I think is a shame. It will be done in order to graduate, but the only way a student will love doing service is if they possess a passion in service and love how they feel afterwards. For me, community service has always been fun, especially since I started before Middle School. The sensation after I finish any project is wonderful and indescribable – I always know I helped make the world a little better! My role in community service began with Mission Trips in Middle School to Alabama, Maine, and Georgia, and is ongoing.
In 8th grade I went on a Mission Trip to Maine with my best friend. A few weeks later we both went on a local trip with her church. There, I watched a video from the NGO: Invisible Children. That touching video inspired me to take an individual role in service – I began to make jewelry along with my younger sister. We then sold this jewelry in various local art fairs and donated all the profits to Invisible Children to prevent Ugandan children from becoming child soldiers.
Then I moved to Abu Dhabi and was shocked to find out that here, community service is cool. At the American Community School, there is a Community Service class and even a coordinator who sends out different opportunities available to students! This was unlike my previous school where service was only required, never promoted and never spoken about.
In learning that the United Arab Emirates had the largest carbon footprint in the world and that recycling was very uncommon, I was perturbed. Especially after moving from a place where recycling was a quotidian task! My teacher, Ms. Russell, is an avid environmentalist and helped guide me in the creation of the Saturday Recycling program. The program seemed a reasonable effort to improve the school community’s environmental footprint. This program involved volunteers – both student and parent – coming to school on Saturday and recycling the materials which had been collected. It was successful, and in 2011 integrated into the Green Team – the High School’s environmental club – and continues to remain at the heart of the club.
Being more involved in the Green Team led to more knowledge about other clubs, and then I learned about the Global Issues Network (GIN). I was given the opportunity to plan a GIN conference, twice. I am lucky in that I was also able to participate in the New York University’s Global Issues Conference in January 2013 (Abu Dhabi campus). Through these experiences my passion for service cultivated and I acquired the tools to become a better service leader and volunteer. The speakers were inspiring and gave me new ideas and hope through sharing their stories.
Without the American Community School of Abu Dhabi and Ms. Russell, I would not be so passionate about service. I, along with the other students, have been given numerous opportunities to volunteer and make a difference in the local community and around the world.
After years of hard work and a growing passion for community service, I am honored to be recognized with my school’s Carol A. Shima Service Award. This Award is in loving memory of Carol A. Shima, who played a large role in volunteering at the school. In her honor, the recipient must be: empathetic, compassionate, positive, diligent, tireless, and dedicated.
Thank you to my mom and dad, who instilled the value of community service into my life from a young age. Without them and their ongoing support, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have!
I believe community service will always play a part in my life. At university I will be continuing my actions and take a larger role in creating events in order to have others realize the importance of community service and learn its true meaning.
“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”
― BOoker T. Washington
– Elise Shivamber