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Reflections on Voluntarism

The thing about voluntarism is that it is addictive, so even as I entered my junior year at university and felt the weight of 400-level political science classes on my shoulders, I really wanted to keep volunteering. Fortunately, Towson University has phenomenal opportunities for students to get involved, including an Alternative Breaks Connections program. It was through this program that I was able to travel to Nassau, New Providence in the Bahamas with 17 other individuals for eight days of community based service over my spring break. 

We served in a variety of places over our stay. We visited several local preschools to engage with local children. Though I had volunteered before, and even traveled to do so before, I had never worked with young children a day in my life. Walking into our first school, St Michael’s, I had no idea how impactful such an experience could be. We split into small groups to help teachers with regular classroom activities, like teaching children to count. My group helped three- and four-year-olds learn their numbers with coloring activities and then played Simon Says and Duck, Duck, Goose with the class. We then got the opportunity to talk with the teachers and a school administrator about education in the Bahamas, as well as the whole Caribbean. She was full of insight into the value of testing students and the proper application of test scores. 

My favorite experience in a local school was at Naomi Blatch, a local public preschool. Again we split up into groups to observe daily classroom activities. The teacher in my classroom was outstanding, her classroom was decorated perfectly with engaging informational posters. She was teaching her students a lesson by having them measure ingredients to make a dish called Johnnycake. It was such a valuable experience to watch good pedagogical strategies interwoven with local culture. 

We also volunteered in a home for the elderly and the children’s ward of a public hospital. These service sites presented emotional challenges that strengthened our group dynamic and our sense of purpose in making a positive impact with our time there. We got firsthand experience with how another culture deals with issues of aging and illness and now we get to carry that knowledge with us. 

Ultimately, this trip served as fuel for many of us to keep pushing forward in our goal to make a positive impact on the world. Voluntarism isn’t just giving up some time for a cause, it is also becoming an active citizen who is willing to engage with society on a deeper level to try to create positive change. 

Kayleigh Harper was the marketing and communications intern with the Standards for Excellence Institute in spring 2016. She is a junior at Towson University where she is completing a bachelor of science in Law & American Civilization. She is active in the campus community, especially in areas involving community service and volunteering.

By Kayleigh Harper | June 28, 2016 | Volunteering
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About the Author: Kayleigh Harper

Kayleigh Harper was the marketing and communications intern with the Standards for Excellence Institute in the spring of 2016. She is a junior at Towson University where she is completing a bachelor of science in Law & American Civilization. She is active in the campus community, especially in areas involving community service and volunteering.