Service Hours From A Different Perspective

My Service Experience, From The Other Side Of The Mountain

My service experience in Appalachia as a high school senior humbled me beyond belief.

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Growing up in an environment where service hours were required in both elementary school and high school, I initially started out as a person who dreaded volunteering. Over time, however, I became someone who looked forward to forming relationships with those I served and felt humbled by my experiences. My initial attitude changed throughout the year as I began to recognize that the service I did actually had an impact on those I was serving for as well as their community. I finally came to this conclusion in the summer before my senior year of high school, where I encountered my favorite service experience thus far.

During the first week of July 2017, I, along with 20 other girls from my high school, drove to Auxier, Kentucky — also known as Appalachia — where we would volunteer to refurbish homes for four days through an organization called Hand in Hand Ministries. This organization provides necessary materials for those economically unstable and focuses on secure housing, education, and healthcare. Throughout my service experience there, I worked with one family, consisting of a single mother, her daughter, and the girl's grandfather. In my work group, we built a wooden porch, ramp, walkway, and stairs that would attach to the side of the family's trailer. The family we worked with was extremely grateful for our work and often offered us water and snacks throughout each seven-hour workday.

Though my time volunteering was an overall positive experience, there were some negative setbacks as well.

My four days in Appalachia consisted of cloudless and clear skies, but also heat and humidity, which caused each day to feel even longer than the one before. Our group would break for lunch at noon each day, but otherwise, the work never halted, creating sore muscles and a tired mentality and physique. Near the end of each workday, it was difficult to continue laboring without the relief of any shade, but it was through the motivation of my fellow volunteers that I was able to keep building.

After this experience, I also recognized how lucky I am to live in a city with wireless service, constantly running water, and two-lane streets.

What I liked the most about my service project was getting the privilege to develop a bond with the family I volunteered for. I got to hear their life stories, their hobbies, and their interests, which allowed me to open up to them as well. Though the service I did was important, I believe it was more important that I made connections with the people I met and served for.

It was through my high school service hours that I was given the opportunity to serve others beyond my own community. I hope to find another experience like this one where I can directly impact the lives of people in need, potentially in a developing country where my help is necessary. I believe volunteering and service work can enable individuals to form a more open-minded mentality towards the world and its misfortunes, which also allows for vulnerability when forming relationships with others. I aspire to spread this mentality throughout my community while volunteering.

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Volunteering Overseas Is Rewarding And I Want To Do It

There are so many organizations that allow you to travel the world and volunteer. This has always been a dream of mine, and I want to share why it should be for everyone else too.

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Before I am too old to help, I want to volunteer in Africa.

There are so many places in Africa that need help. It could be that they need help with healthcare, education, and environmental or wildlife conservation. The number one destination I want to volunteer at is in Madagascar. There are many more places to go in Africa like Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and others. And if I could go to each place, I would. But I will just be happy if I am able to visit one.

I'm sure when most people think of Madagascar they think of the family-friendly movie, but what they don't know is that it isn't all fun and games like the cartoon portrays. The poverty-stricken country is not just a tourist destination. It is a place that needs a lot of improvement. Although I haven't gone yet, by the time I'm 30 I want to have volunteered in Madagascar.

The literacy rate is not as high as it should be, and the people of Madagascar are suffering. Even though it is higher than in some countries, it still isn't a large percentage. In order to help them, they need more teachers or people to help them learn. Another spreading problem is disease and healthcare. There are not enough resources or people to help with the health problems around Madagascar. I think this is a great opportunity, for you are benefiting people who need it most.

Not only are there problems with education and healthcare throughout the country, but there are also major issues revolving around their wildlife and environment. Madagascar is home to some of the most exotic animals in the world. With hundreds of different plant and animal species, people would assume there can't be any problems. Yet, this is one of their major issues. Deforestation, hunting, fires, and erosion are just some of the leading issues. With some help, people can help rebuild their habitats and save everything.

Obviously, it can be hard to cover all of these problems, but by volunteering, a little act can go a long way. This is our world. We all are on the same side. If you put yourself in their shoes, you would know how it feels. Looking into this, you will see you have so much to appreciate. Volunteering in a place like Madagascar has always been a goal of mine. One day, when I am able to do it, I know I will be gracious for the opportunity. I have a feeling, they have a lot to teach us too.

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