As I look back on my high school experience, what I remember most is the service-learning I participated in throughout the years. I was fortunate enough to do service-learning both here and abroad. I came to realize that I have a love for traveling and helping kids.
I started doing community service in 7th grade and I am still doing it now. I started with the National Charity League which is a mother-daughter service-learning organization. After my Bat Mitzvah, I started working with kids in my temple. My favorite grade to work with is Kindergarten. Since they are so young, I feel I can make an impact and help them develop as people. Not many highschoolers would like to get up at 9 am on Sundays to help with 5-year-olds, but I love it.
I also had the opportunity to do service-learning abroad. I have traveled to Costa Rica, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic. First, I went to Costa Rica where our group planned and led a week-long summer camp. I knew a little Spanish and I would try to communicate with the kids, but it’s not easy to go to a country where they speak a different language. The kids would hear me trying to communicate and they knew how much I cared. I even used google translate to try and talk with them. At the end of the camp, one of the kids told me he knew how much I was trying to speak Spanish and said that I wasn’t that bad. It felt so good to hear.
The following year I went to Thailand. We had the opportunity to help both the community and the children there. We made and served meals to family members at a hospital, and those in need in the community. We also helped build many things such as a woman’s home, swing sets for a preschool, and a greenhouse for a school, so the kids could sell the fruit and vegetables. I learned a few Thai words, but the language barrier was hard to overcome. It is not easy to teach a classroom of kids who don’t speak any English. For the kids we taught English to, we also taught them how to swim. Even though I could barely communicate, they warmed my heart and the Thai culture still stands out to me to this day. A lot of them are Buddist, so I also learned about a new religion and a new way of life.
My last trip was to the Dominican Republic. This was my favorite trip. Just like in Costa Rica, I ran a week-long camp. I was working with Haitian refugees who live in small houses with their extended family members. Most of the parents work in the sugarcane fields. They don’t even have hot water, yet they appreciate every drop they get. They found such joy in the simplest activities like having water balloon fights. Before camp one day, we went into the community to paint a house. They could have just sat back and watched, but they helped us paint instead. The people had a desire to help in their community, even if it didn’t directly benefit them.
One thing that stood out most to me throughout my service-learning was that one can still connect with someone even if they don’t speak their language. I am communicating with these kids still after 3 months. They send me texts, but they speak Haitian Creole, so it isn’t easy for me to translate what they are saying. When I receive these texts, it not only makes me smile but reminds me of the impact that was left on the children. My service-learning experiences have fueled my interest in becoming a teacher. I advise you to take advantage of the travel opportunities you are given because they can help you develop your passions and even your future career.