Today I repaired a house.
Only five words. To put it out in letters and spaces is to oversimplify the power of the words so that it hurts.
Today I worked to build hope. I got to see the faces of three generations of individuals who all live under a roof that did not make them proud. I got to see how my labor was able to meld and join with the work of dozens of other volunteers, staff, and businesses to alleviate at least one tiny fragment of the stress that existed in this family’s life.
Today I worked to build a community. As the neighbors came out to complement, appreciate, and wonder at the color of the paint and the beauty of the windows, I got to see how this labor brought up not only the family living in the house, but the whole environment around it.
Today I worked to build a home. In the back of my mind, the only thought that could ever truly matter was that a family would get to come home each day to this place that they would find beautiful. The knowledge that at the end of the day another human being will get to live better than they did before,—that knowledge is what defines service.
Through my service internship I have gotten to briefly peak at the struggles of those in need, those who were put at a disadvantage; not through any action they ever took, but through a broken system that our society unintentionally created. In my short time of serving, I have come to recognize that true assistance to an individual must come not from a desire to simply help, but rather from a desire to become that person for a moment. To step into their shoes and imagine life from their eyes. Only then, once an individual works to empathize and exist as another, can true service happen.
written by Adam Resnick, ECC student working with Habitat for Humanity
Drake University has struggled with and continued to work toward breaking the “Drake bubble”. This concept is that there is mythical separation between the campus and the rest of the ‘real’ world. As part of its mission, Drake has made a claim to develop global citizens. In doing so, the community outside of Drake is drawn upon as part of the classroom. The Engaged Citizen Corps and Office of Service Learning have been created to help live out this mission.
ECC serves to foster positive relations between students and the greater Des Moines community. The students are supposed to get more out of the experience than logging just a couple of hours. Rather, the students learn from their experiences.
The two main demographics being represented through this project are Drake students, particularly those in the ECC, and the Drake nonprofit community. By extension, those who benefit from the community partners are also served as the work of the ECC students is supposed to benefit that organization’s audience.
From my understanding of the ECC program so far, many of the challenges that they are trying to work on come from being a new program. In keeping with that, much of the marketing is being adjusted to accurately and attractively portray what is being done. For instance, I have worked on the ECC web page. In looking it over, there are some choices that could benefit the website from a marketing standpoint. One such change I have worked on is using the opening paragraph as a way of drawing in those who are reading. This project was really about trying to be informative and engaging the readers.
Through working with the ECC and developing an accurate and appealing website, I have been able to see the active work that is being done to break the negative “Drake bubble”. These young individuals and those running the program are really dedicated to making changes within the community.
written by Maddie Miller, English student
Hunger is such a large, social issue. Through my research I have found that there are more articles/editorials talking about hunger and its “fixes” rather than its causes. This fact troubles me as I am having difficulty with the very issue that my agency does not address the cause, but rather provides an immediate fix. I have mentioned this issue a lot because it continues to bother me and inhibit my passion for the work I am doing.
Honestly, right now I am a little disappointed with my service opportunity. I feel selfish for feeling this way. Is it that I am too lazy to help and its getting old? Maybe but I think there is more to it. I continue to think about how different my experience could be if only I had been paired with the agency that I wanted. Selfish. Why do I keep thinking about this when there is no chance of that becoming reality? I am irritated with my work because it feels shallow right now. I am irritated that I am irritated because I had been so looking forward to this program and all it could offer me, and I, it.
Maybe things will change after I have been at the agency longer. Maybe I will all of a sudden be passionate about putting cans from a shelf into a cart. Who knows?
This is how I was feeling on Thursday, September 29.
Today, I am more optimistic. After speaking with my supervisor, I feel like the work I will be starting has more depth. I am encouraged by the project I will be doing for next week’s writing: a ride along with the mobile food pantry narrative (including photos) for the organization’s blog. I am intrigued by the opportunity for creative choices rather than the monotonous work of a volunteer, which had composed my first two weeks. Although it was not inspiring for me, it did provide me with some insight into the whole volunteerism vs. service learning conversation. I realize that I actually disliked the work of a volunteer. Acknowledging this lead me to give back a small amount of credit to being a “charitable volunteer.” So maybe my temporary work as a volunteer did serve a purpose, even if it was just for me to realize that I am grateful for the work I will be doing for the rest of the year.
writting by Bri Dressel, ECC student working with DMARC
I have personally never focused on community service or service learning as an important part of my life. I have always had “bigger” (and in my mind “better”) things to do with my time. I have, like most high school students in Missouri, volunteered with tutoring programs and other similar services. To me, however, it wasn’t about the service itself: it was about the scholarship I would get at the end. I have not volunteered since. Recently, through the experiences of several close friends, I have come to see the value service learning can add to an education. That is why I am so excited to volunteer with the Engaged Citizen Corps.
The ECC is a new program for first-year students at Drake that incorporates academic courses with service experiences. It is an opportunity for students who value service to work in the Des Moines community while also earning college credit. These students are partnered with an organization in Des Moines, who they work with for an entire academic year. This year, there are nine ECC students and eight community partners. The ECC students take four class together throughout the year, which are used to inform their service experiences. One of these classes is a Writing Seminar, which they take alongside other Drake students. The writing seminar challenges students to use their writing abilities in service of a community organization.
As a student in that writing seminar, I have volunteered my time to running a series of blog posts written by the students in the course about their service experiences throughout the semester. Each student in the class will be responsible for two posts throughout the semester, and there will be a total of three posts a week: one each on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. These posts will explore the situations that the students find themselves in throughout the week. They will share the accomplishments each student achieves with their respective community partners. Most importantly, they will serve as proof that participating in community service is not only beneficial to the community, but also to the individual.
I have never before focused on community service as an important part of my life. I am looking forward rectifying that situation throughout the course of the semester, and I hope my experiences and those of my peers adequately show how important service learning is.
written by Hannah Thomas, Sophomore, English Major
Community service, first and foremost, is intended to serve the community and provide a benefit to the community. Last week we discussed how community service is valuable to individuals. This week we will discuss how community service aids communities in need.
Volunteers are a great resource for non-profits. Often, a volunteer’s time can be very valuable in multiple ways. The work they are doing is often time-consuming labor, labor that the non-profit no longer has to supply staff for, therefore alleviating one stress. Volunteers are also not paid for this labor. The time they donate is free, therefore the non-profit can save its often limited budget for other economic needs.
Volunteers can help non-profits in other ways as well. By speaking about their experiences with a non-profit, they are spreading information not only about who that specific non-profit is and what they do, but also about the root mission that the non-profit is trying to accomplish. This kind of word-of-mouth transfer can be tremendously helpful to non-profits in that it can lead to a boost in volunteers, donations, and publicity for their organization.
Volunteers can advocate for their non-profit’s needs. This can be political advocacy in which they lobby for laws that aid non-profits or work to counter the issue the non-profit is addressing. This could also be raising awareness. Volunteers can spread awareness about the organization and the issue they are addressing so that others become aware of what is going on in that community.
Volunteers provide many benefits to non-profits but it’s easy to agree: there doesn’t need to be a reason to help out your community when it’s in need.
written by Gabrielle Miller
Time is often an individual’s most precious resource and is the most sought after commodity by those in need. Deciding where to put your time can be a difficult task, and many do not often consider community service as a top priority when dividing their time. However, community service provides many benefits to individuals and particularly to students.
Community service provides a psychological benefit. Not only do you feel better about yourself and the role you are playing in your community, but giving your time to a cause that is unrelated to your life can reduce stress.
Community service provides a social benefit. You are going out and interacting with members of your community. New relationships are formed and old friendships can be strengthened by volunteering together.
Community service provides an academic benefit. Individuals, and especially students, are able to go out into their communities and gain outside knowledge that relates to social justice issues, the workings of the government, and community specific education. Community service also allows for taking skills and knowledge gained in a classroom and applying them to real-world examples.
Lastly, community service allows individuals to make a difference. Though the difference is small, unity and working together makes a bigger impact than any one person could ever make on their own. Therefore, each individual contributing their time and effort toward community service helps to make a difference.
Follow these links for more reasons why community service is important and how it benefits individuals in a number of ways:
Next week we will focus on specific benefits community service provides to communities in need.
written by Gabrielle Miller
To get the ball rolling on our blog we’re going to start by discussing why community service is important. When you’re asked why community service matters, how do you answer? Of course there are immediate benefits that jump out to individuals based on where they are in life and their different backgrounds. A student might answer that it looks good on college applications or resumes. A life-long community member might answer that strengthening a community and giving back to a community provides a mutual benefit.
Community service at its core is intended to fulfill a need in a community. This need could be broad such as a problem with hunger. In this case some solutions might be to open a food bank, start a food rescue organization, or simply raise funds to donate to a hunger relief agency. Other times the need could be specific such as a low literacy rate at a local elementary. In this case the solution may be to organize a reading program or tutoring program in order to help raise literacy rates and promote reading to young children.
Whether a broad issue or a specific issue, community service is needed and valued in every community at some level. The best ways to become involved in your community are to look up local organizations and non-profits in your area. These organizations can either place you directly in their volunteer programs or they can connect you to other organizations or groups that may benefit from added volunteers.
Next week we will begin to look into the specifics of why community service matters and is something that everyone should be involved in.
written by Gabrielle Miller
Welcome to the blog of the office of Community Engagement and Service-Learning at Drake University. This blog is intended for any reader interested in or actively involved in community service. As this blog is run from the CESL office it will pertain especially to student-run service organizations but the information and skills featured on this blog can broadly be applied to any community service organization. Readers will find resources on service, skill-building articles that focus on both professional and organization-based skill development, and various features articles on communities and community service.
For more information about our office, visit our About Us page. To get the latest information on our organizations follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.