Building Community is an Essential Part of Service

August 18, 2015

The idea of community service has always been important to me, but my understanding of it has changed recently.

I used to see community service as an act of giving, as something unidirectional. Much of that changed when I served at a special needs school in East Jerusalem about three years ago. I did not expect the experience to be so reciprocal; in fact, I feel that I received more than I gave.

The skills and techniques that I learned are not what I am referring to; I am talking about the valuable insight I gained that affects me every day. The children at the school taught me how personal connections and comfort come before learning. Simply, they taught me that community comes before effective service.

Despite the fact I did not see this clearly prior to my trip to Jerusalem, a sense of community has always been a large part of what gives me strength as an individual. Growing up as a “third culture kid” – in a culture different from that of my parents’ cultures – I saw priority in building bridges. The culture I was exposed to at home was not the same culture I was immersed in at school. Being able to identify with so many different kinds of people, I came to realize that there is always undiscovered commonality – and the divides are not as stark as some may think.

As I’ve continued to grow in complex ways, I have continued to give back in unexpected ways. I’ve been the translator, the mediator, the peacemaker. I’ve found that by properly absorbing the workings of those who are different, more potential can be actualized. By building these bridges, I’ve connected different realms and sparked ideas, encouraging those around me to do the same. The community part of community service was always central in my life – I just didn’t realize it was service.

I intend to combine my knowledge and values to create a positive and sustainable impact on various communities while serving Campus Compact this year, and I’m looking forward to sharing and learning as much as I can.

Rania Ezzo is part of the Americorps VISTA program with Massachusetts Campus Compact. A recent graduate of Boston University with majors in psychology and philosophy, she is providing a year of service to Campus Compact where she will be working to support goals in college readiness, student learning, and student success. She, along with other VISTAs from across the US, will be blogging frequently to share their work and experiences. Rania can be reached at rezzo@compact.org.

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