By Wendy Auxillou Sunday, June 11, 2006
In Cuba, teenagers attending high school are required to put in several months of social work as part of their professional training. This can range anywhere from serving food to the sick, to being assistants to professionals in the field under which they are training, to learning how to grow food in rural and urban gardens to any other positive experience that can only help that teenager grow so much more. Social work is mandatory under the school system there.
In Belize, we are now into graduation season. Within a week or two, a large percentage of our teenagers will soon find themselves idle at home without supervision. Their parents will have their jobs cut out for them, wondering how to cope for three months with this hotbed of bored and unsupervised high energy. While we read in the newspapers of equestrian resorts offering summer camps and the like, these are usually for a fee. What about the teenagers whose parents cannot afford the cost of summer camps?
I silently debated this dilemma to myself this week when I realized my girls would soon be out of school. The girls and I have already agreed on a special two-week summer family trip, but what if rather than just handing a summer trip to them on a silver platter, I instead asked of them that they EARN it? What if I first asked of them to volunteer a week of their time and energy to an institution that needed help? And what if that week’s worth of social work would humble them some and make them a better and a better exposed person in the long run? And what if through social work they uncovered a professional field they would prefer to pursue in life? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?
Great idea in hand, I called up my friend, KHMH CEO Dr. Alvaro Rosado, to inquire if the KHMH could use some voluntary help. His response was immediate and emphatic. The hospital has a container of medicines it needs to unload and catalog and could surely use the help.
Institution needing help now identified, I then broached the idea of volunteering to the girls who immediately agreed to participate. They, in turn, broached the idea to two cousins who are also willing volunteers and now we are up to four willing sets of hands. We invited this group of four to each invite one friend along to bring the complement up to eight sets of hands. I have not gotten further updates as to whether that has been accomplished but I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be. My girls are great girls and their cousins are great guys and surely there are four more great teenagers they know who are equally as wonderful and that would be willing to help. I can think of one in particular. Ashton, we’ll be coming for you too!
Having teenagers of the iPod age be exposed to how others often live, or even the suffering of others, is humbling and an important lesson in itself. One cannot help but feel moved by the suffering of others. It helps to put your own life into perspective many times over.
In this age in Belize’s history where daily life is rampant with consumerism and materialism — where the emphasis is much higher on what someone else can do for you (taking) and not necessarily what we as a community can do for each other (giving) — it is time that we begin to temper the influences of a summer of commercialization with some real world giving. Community service can easily fill that void. Social service is a heartwarming activity parents should be proud to have their sons and daughters participate in. Most of all, it is a good, solid, fulfilling character-building activity that costs nothing and is great for everyone involved.
I feel much better knowing that my kids will be working to earn their summer vacations and not just taking the generosities life has offered them for granted.
Stop for a minute and just think of the many other institutions that do so much good for our community that could also use some help. Wondeful institutions such as the Children’s Home, the Rest House, the Salvation Army, etc. need all the help they can get.
What if there was one designated NGO that volunteered to compile two lists: a list of institutions seeking voluntary summer help and a list of teenagers willing to do summer volunteer work? This would certainly help to bridge the gap between fretful parents and idle teenagers on the one hand and the staffing needs of the important community social institutions on the other hand. To me, it seems like a win, win situation for all. Volunteer Summer Camp is the way to go! Do we hear a “yay” from a volunteer NGO?
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Thanks for reading!