Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Social Service - Part 1

These words, social service, were alien to me until I started working at Park University. At my university, service was part of the professional development portfolio, which means one of the criteria by which my promotion etc. would be determined.  So I had to ask my mentor about what is “service”, and he said to me, it’s when you volunteer and work in the community. So of course I had no idea what I was going to do.  My first logical choice was to look in my professional society, American Chemical Society.  They had a local chapter in Kansas City and so I started getting involved in its activities. It was perfect for me as I am a chemist and an educator, so the activities I was participating in fit right in with my profession.

Within a year or two I caught on this bug of service. I started enjoying it. It was a great way to meet new people, see new places and all the while contribute to the community in some way. I did a lot of volunteering with science mentoring of young scientists as well as being a mentor to “women in science” – both very rewarding for me. I volunteered at events where they needed people to monitor activities. I was active in my professional society and also other women’s groups.  Eventually I started taking leadership roles and wrote grants and organized events. I learned a lot about team work during this time.

I had vowed to myself that I would never give money for charity. I would give my time and services, but not money. I could never be sure how this money was being used, and my money is not lottery money – it’s my hard earned money that I had frugally saved. It was not going to support administrative staff of any association. I wanted my money to be used to help people who really needed it.

My first service trip abroad was in Brazil. Here I saw how a lady had created a safe haven for kids to come after school and learn crafts or hang out in a clean, safe environment. The organization I went with took 10-12 people and built an open air classroom for the kids – all in one week.  It was really quite amazing for me to see how quickly a dream can be realized. (Of course the procuring and transporting of the materials for building the classroom was about a year long process and all this was done by one person who was dedicated to helping this community).

My next service trip was Hawaii. One would why Hawaii, such a tourist destination, would need help, but help is needed everywhere, even in the richest of the societies.  I saw a part of Hawaii that tourists don’t see. The problems there were many but we could do very little in the ten days we were there.

And then I thought I should go to India, my own country and see what I can do there. That was my motivation of going to Shanti Kunj. But now I realize that maybe it will not be a good fit for me as their activities are not done the way I am accustomed to. They also don’t advertise the activities in advance, so timing is an issue. So I just ended up going to DSVV and giving my time there. I feel like my talents were not completely utilized there the first time, but maybe it was because they did not know me. But even during my 2nd and 3rd trip, I felt a little under-utilized.  I will not presume to say why my services were not used to the max, but I know that I could have done a lot more.

I continue to do service as much as I can – locally. I believe in the saying “Think globally, act locally”. I have my limitations on what I can do, but I do what I can to know that I am making some difference.

And then someone asked me for money......(see Monetary Service)

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