Service Has Made Me A Better Person

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Service Has Made Me A Better Person

Alyssa Donnelly, Staff Writer and Photographer

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AWOL (Alternative Week of Off-site Learning) is a service organization on the Buena Vista University campus that allows students the opportunity to travel either domestically or internationally each year, offering an experience to fulfill their time and commitment to giving to another place that isn’t home. For the past three years I have had the amazing opportunity to participate in AWOL.  

Traveling to New Orleans, Louisiana to work with social injustice only increased my desire to continue service for the following years. Following Louisiana was Managua, Nicaragua, where we aided economic development by planting coffee trees with a community called Los Ferros and helped them start their very first honey business.  

The experiences from these trips educated me on how many opportunities are out there to offer time and dedication for others who don’t need help, but instead just need a hand. Once you give service, you develop a relationship with those communities and it almost creates a love that you don’t want to separate towards the end of the trip.  

For March of 2019, I got to spend my spring break in Monte Cristi of the Dominican Republic teaching children English. Not being an education major really make me nervous prior to the trip. Before being adopted as a kid, my father’s sister and my cousins always spoke Spanish around my brother and me. So, I had a passion for learning the language, and rather than majoring in Spanish, this AWOL trip was a push to improve my skills in speaking Spanish.  

I was really uncomfortable and not very confident in trying to speak Spanish, but I could always listen and pick up on a lot of conversations. It wasn’t until a good friend of mine from Costa Rica encouraged me to push myself to be confident in speaking and learning. Her mother has continuously worked with me in learning Spanish. Aside from this, giving service in a place that wasn’t my home was something I wanted to participate in. I was challenged by a language barrier, but I didn’t let that stop me from giving my full commitment to the time I was there for. 

Every day we spent about a total of four hours at the schools teaching. I had the opportunity to work with PreK-1st grade. While there were times that were challenging, my group and I got creative on how we would help the kids learn each vocabulary word for the day, using methods like singing the baby shark song or even the days of the week. These were moments that reminded me of the time when I was a kid. The excitement that came from these kids with the drive to want to learn just warmed my heart.  

There are resources that we have that kids in Monte Cristi don’t, and it was important that each moment we had with them we were improving and making it successful. During this week, I reminded myself that giving service is not about what you like or what you want. It’s a time to give no matter how uncomfortable you are. After three years of doing service, I have learned that if you are comfortable you are not doing it right. My trip to the Dominican Republic showed the excitement that children have to learn which also reminds me to be thankful to be in college and taking advantage of the opportunities that allow me to succeed.