My service journey goes all the way back to the seventh grade. Every month, different advisory groups were responsible for putting together something meaningful for the class in response to that month’s Christ-like attitudes, and my advisory group was in charge of the Christ-like attitude ‘service’. We interviewed different people to ask what ‘service’ meant to them and even hosted a photo booth to fundraise for Dongdaewon, a tuberculosis clinic in North Korea. I was lucky to have an experience to understand what serving others meant so early on, as it now became one of the most integral parts of my character.
I have been sitting on the Seoul Foreign School Community Service Committee (CSC) since 2015. In eighth grade, I visited the Eastern Social Welfare Society Anyang and Pyeongtaek facilities in preparation for the first iteration of the SO GOOD project. It was my first time meeting the people I was going to serve, which made the experience much more meaningful. I came home after the visit, wondering how a little boy that I had met could live in such polar opposite circumstances despite being the same age as my brother. This experience made the SO GOOD project become something I am personally invested in. During the visit, I have noticed that there is often a disconnection between ourselves and the people we serve. For that, if the circumstances allow, I try to urge all students involved in community service to meet and interact with the people they serve.
Every year at Seoul Foreign High School, students have the opportunity to go on different trips for Discovery Week (a week without walls). I took on the opportunity to go on a service trip, and for the past three years, I have been to Thailand, Mongolia, and the Philippines. It was tempting to choose the courses that were less demanding, but all three service trips were meaningful and worthwhile. I enjoy these trips because they are hard; therefore they force me to reflect about the privileges I have at home. Not only do I learn more about myself during these trips, but I also develop a broader perspective about the world. I come back from these trips feeling overwhelmed at how much need is in the world beyond my local borders. I still struggle with the frustration of wanting to help everyone and everything to the fullest but restrained by the only so much I can give of myself.
|[Philippines Service Trip Construction Site. Photo Credit: Mr. Vincent Oliver]
I also lead the Seoul Foreign School - Angels’ Haven Partnership, one of our school’s local partner organizations. Angels’ Haven is a big organization, and our school works with the Eunpyeong Boy’s Rehabilitation Center and the Joyful House, housing males and females with disabilities respectfully. SFS HS students go on monthly ‘outings’ with the people with disabilities, and in these outings, we do a variety of normal, everyday activities like cooking and playing sports. The Angels’ Haven parent organization has a powerful philosophy of “putting yourself below the people you serve.” I often witnessed volunteers approaching service in a condescending manner, pitying those they serve as being ‘lesser’. Through these outings, we hope to build lasting friendships with those we serve. Despite the age, language, and physical barriers that differentiate us, our love for common activities makes us smile and look forward to the next time we meet. This approach to service, in my opinion, is the mindset people should approach serving others and is how people make a difference in someone else’s life. I have experienced that getting to know those we serve on a personal level allows us to recognize the challenges they face in life. We should do our best to accommodate where the actual need lies, not what we think the need is.
|[SFS Angels’ Haven Partnership Members. Photo Credit: Jiye Moon]
|[Picture from an Angels’ Haven Outing. Photo Credit: Mr. Paul Kim]
Service has had an extremely positive impact on me. Through my experiences, I have discovered that I am a servant-leader, a characteristic I could not have described myself to be five years prior. Despite a rigorous curriculum at school and all that I am involved in, I dedicate a large chunk of my time serving others. I am forever grateful to be a part of school community that supports and encourages my desire to serve others. Seoul Foreign School recognizes and values the importance of service-learning and is working to establish it as a school pillar. Anyone can serve others even by starting with the simplest opportunities that are given. Take ownership of the opportunity and approach service with an open mindset, and you will discover more about yourself and the world.
Seoul Foreign School
Jason Whang firstname.lastname@example.org
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