10,087: That’s how many hours Nebraska Wesleyan University students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends have collectively given in community service since August.
The goal — in honor of the university’s 125th anniversary — is 12,500 hours by next fall.
At this rate, it appears the university will reach well beyond its 12,500 Hour Service Challenge goal. Many activities are planned in the coming weeks: NWU’s annual Bowls for Backpacks fundraiser, spring break service trips, and volunteer projects that are being incorporated into classes.
Winter break, for example, provided students with extra time to give back. Members of Global Service Learning traveled to Chicago where they planted rooftop gardens, played bingo in Spanish, and crocheted waterproof mats for the homeless.
Each year GSL takes both international and national service trips.
“It is a major Midwest city that is home to great diversity but also is a city with great need,” junior Becca Brune said of their decision to travel to Chicago.
Students stayed at the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), an organization committed to environmental sustainability and community development projects. In turn, GSL spent time volunteering for the ICA.
“We learned a lot about sustainability, empathy, and innovative ways to address major issues,” junior Kelsey Arends said.
The group spent a day with ICA on a variety of environmental projects, such as separating worms from compost, building an aquaponic system, and refurbishing a rooftop garden.
Some students volunteered at Cornerstone Homeless Shelter, and witnessed a side of poverty they had never seen before. Arends said she was overwhelmed with the challenges faced by the homeless in Chicago.
“It was really difficult to face the despair involved in our service, and that was something new to me,” she said.
It was a long day spent sorting and distributing food – and preventing individuals from taking more than they were allotted.
“It was difficult to see the extreme poverty that so many individuals and families in Chicago are trapped in,” said Brune.
The students focused most of their service energies on Misericordia, a care community and service network for the developmentally disabled. They assisted residents in a variety of activities, such as art classes. Residents also have a variety of jobs at Misericordia including help in the kitchen, laundry room, coffee shop, and garden. An evening at the McCauly Center where the most severely disabled residents stay, proved to be particularly emotional.
To conclude their trip the group volunteered together at La Casa Central, a Hispanic social service agency. They interacted with preschoolers during classroom playtime, and played bingo and dominos with senior citizens.
The group spent their evenings together processing each day’s events, reflecting on lessons learned and remembering meaningful moments.
“It . . . can be incredibly intense and emotional, but that's often when the most insight can be uncovered,” said Arends. “Every night seemed to help us further process meanings of different trip experiences. Specifically because of the difficult issues both groups were experiencing in service, processing was integral to our service learning.”
“Service gives you insight into an issue or circumstance that you may otherwise be removed from in your own day-to-day life,” said Brune. “It allows you to learn more and appreciate other people.”
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