Humans of phide

National Volunteer Week - Presence.jpg

NATIONAL

VOLUNTEER WEEK-PRESENCE

Ben Tam

During spring break of 2016, I had the pleasure of serving the community of Vienna, Virginia, a poverty stricken neighborhood with a group of passionate individuals who are motivated to change the world. The trip was special in many ways but mostly because of how it put my life into perspective. As college students, the majority of us live in an isolated bubble in which we are not exposed to many of the social justice issues that affect millions of people across the globe. It can be easy to fall into the trap of solely serving yourself through academic success and resume builders even when the world is starving for the manpower and talents of college students. The painful realization that I was guilty of this occurred when I met Jose, a counselor at the teen center I volunteered at. He has been volunteering at the center for 10 years and remembers every single teen he has worked with. What makes him special is his passion for the teens, whom he affectionately refers to as “my children.” Jose not only has a college education, he also has a Masters in Agricultural Science, yet he chooses to work as a construction worker during the day and volunteer at the teen center when he gets off of work at 4pm. I’m not knowledgeable about either the agricultural science or construction fields but I can only imagine he makes a financial sacrifice everyday so that he can make an impact on his community and serve Vienna’s youth. He has dedicated much of his life to providing mentorship and support to kids who are otherwise surrounded by bad influences. Vienna was a hotspot for gang activity as recently as 5 years ago but that only provides Jose with more motivation to stay at the teen center. He taught me that service doesn’t have to be something tangible like a pint of your blood or a house you helped build, it can simply be the presence of someone who genuinely cares about your future. I can’t honestly say for sure if I made a huge impact on the teens I spent a short time with in Vienna, but I do know that I feel empowered to serve the underprivileged youth of my community because everyone deserves to have someone who cares.

 

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