I did something for my birthday a few years ago that is a common activity amongst some of our youth: throwing a party for the children at an orphanage. I went to this orphanage because I wanted to do something for them that was not a monetary donation (they were geographically located in an affluent place and hence charity knocked at their doors regularly because of their convenient location). They said what they needed more than anything was people to play with the children.
Imagine the exhaustion of 4 adults teaching and playing with about 40 children on a daily basis: they needed a rest and the children needed variation in the intellectual stimulus they received from their adult playmates.
My friends teased me playfully at the idea at the beginning, poking fun at my suddenly ‘generous turn of mind’ and the fact that it was ‘weird’ to do this... but when we got out of the orphanage at sunset, I had to tear one of my friends from the arms of one of the children.
They had listened to the stories of the children and why they had come to be there (told by the teachers) and had been struck with the realities that they hear of on the news and in columns like this but have never had to witness. They could not help but feel and respond to the emotional needs of the children. Like this one 3 year old boy, with bright black eyes that would give Puss in Boots a run for his money, who would walk up to each of us and make eye contact and hold his arms up expectantly.
My friends came out of this affected. I know one of them now makes semi-regular visits to an orphanage near her residence and we all still talk about my birthday ‘party’ sometimes when we get together.
‘Community service’ isn’t synonymous with monetary donation and long hours of manual labour under the sun. There are so many ways to help and they are easy and most importantly, they are hugely rewarding to everyone involved.
Think of simple ways that you can help our community effort: take some friends out to an orphanage or elder’s home; when you buy new school supplies, buy exactly double and donate that to a student in an underprivileged school; offer to sponsor a charitable group by paying for some cost they urgently need help with. There are plenty of ways to get involved.