From Community Service: Service from the Other Side of Things
Nobles is engaged in a yearlong SWOT analysis of the entire service program, which has a committee asking what strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats confront us as we strive to carry out myriad projects of the program. We are learning a great deal, not only about how much it's believed we are doing (the numbers are quite astonishing!), but also about how we are perceived by those we serve. One quadrant of the analysis has been to parse out the kind of work we engage in and how successful that engagement has been, especially in local environments. We ask questions about how effective young people can be when providing direct service. These are students who may be volunteering at agencies for the first time or they are older students frantically trying to finish their service requirement hours before graduation. Our service efforts are of use to the world in several ways: they both educate the youngster performing the service and also genuinely help those who receive the service. So, how are we doing?
1. What do students see at these sites and what do they believe about themselves as they do work that helps others? Here is a recent journal entry from Alex Yu, Class IV:
“The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” —Mother Teresa
"I agree with this quote because our cooperation as a community can make more of a difference than a single person’s efforts. The outreach of a single human being is very limited. Only a few people in the entire world have some power to make a difference, but, even their jurisdiction must depend on the agreement of others. For example, the President of the United States cannot do much without the House or Senate’s cooperation. This shows that even at the highest scale of society, even the most powerful figures must have the collaboration of a majority to do something great. The same principle applies to our community here at Nobles. For instance, a lot of people helped make blankets for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Together, we made a great amount of blankets, and with the help of other people’s assets (transportation, communication, etc.), we are able to make a wonderful contribution to help society. The other part of the quote I want to discuss is the importance of doing,”...small things with great love.” Mother Teresa makes a superb point in stating that to do something wonderful, we must apply our love to it. She’s right because an act truly great can only come from a community’s utmost love and support. It’s our love that drives us to help others in need of aid. It’s our love that brings us together in times of despair. With the combination of a strong, collective community and true dedication, something truly wonderful happens; the expression of the caring human spirit."
2. What do sites we serve believe about our ability to do something worthwhile? (Is there "real work" done out there?) The following are from recent emails sent by our clients all over Boston:
"We have our big holiday delivery days scheduled for Nov. 17 and Dec. 22 and could use volunteers on those days. We also have weekdays leading up to them when we will be making hundreds of bags of food. Let me know if you have any particular dates this fall/winter or any dates in the school calendar that we could be reserving for Nobles. In His service and yours, Rev. David B. Wooster, Sanger Center for Compassion/Quincy Crisis Center"
"The Resident Coordinator suggests planning for 40 people for lunch on Monday. I hope that's not too large a number! We have some basic serving utensils, cutting boards and a few other items (hot pads, gloves), but no pots, pans, etc. So depending on your menu, you might need to bring some cooking supplies. We can't thank you enough for bringing your students here to Hearth!" —Jennifer Hartwell, Volunteer Coordinator, Hearth, Inc.
"You guys did an amazing job here yesterday, and we're so grateful for everything you and Nobles continue to do to support Epiphany. I am still operating my office from the room you did last year with the beautiful undersea scene. You are the best!" —Will Brown, Epiphany School
It just has to work both ways—young people need to learn about the joys and complex issues that surround the sites they work, and the agencies themselves have to be satisfied that their genuine needs are being met. That is the joy of going off-campus to learn—the real work of the world gets done, piece by piece, and we come home wiser and stronger ourselves.