Encouraging community service in our schools

I have visited and interviewed quite a lot of school leaders and realised that there is a need to create awareness about community services in our schools, hence this article.

There are quite a number of global, national and community issues, and a community service offers an opportunity for students to have projects that give back to society. It is a great way to help others and improve the community, and can also help the students gain skills and experience which may be included in their resumes and also used for college applications (for those who intend to study in elite colleges and universities in developed countries).

Community service is often done in the locality where the students live or where the school is situated, so that people in the nearby community can benefit from the project. And we must remember that in life, no act of kindness is ever wasted.

As educators and leaders, there is a need to instil a sense of service in our 21st century learners, and take some of their attention away from too much time in the virtual world; an engagement in a meaningful community service certainly affords us teachers, school leaders and students) this opportunity. It helps our students to emphasise and model empathy, compassion and service in the self-centred, social media-crazy and influenced society we have become. We need to teach children to start looking out for ways they can help others and enjoy doing so, to make deliberate efforts at improving their communities, and we need to show the way as educators and school leaders.

A school community service is simply a project the students engage in to render service to people or make the community better. It is borne out of a desire for selfless service and a yearning for a better society. It can be done at a local level, right in the community where you are, or taken to a national or global level depending on the intent, the funds available and the collaborative and networking skills of those involved with the project.

Benefits of Community Service

And now, you may want to know: what are the benefits of having our students participating in community service?

  • Participating in a community service gives the children and yourself an opportunity to help others, thereby curbing selfishness. We learn to live beyond us and look beyond our personal needs and reach out to others.
  • When students get involved in a community service, they do not only help themselves- they expand their world view. And it makes them realise how their actions can have a positive impact on the world. They actually develop a richer perspective as they get to interact with people who have vastly different backgrounds from them. They get to understand community challenges which make them develop empathy, compassion, patience and a willingness to help, as well as appreciating their privileged positions in life.
  • It helps the students to return to the classroom realising how what they’re learning in class applies to the real world, which reinvigorates their passion for learning. It brings classroom alive in real life!
  • It makes the students begin to take responsibility to make things happen, instead of waiting and complaining about everything that is wrong in our society. So their leadership potentials and skills are developed and harnessed in the process of carrying out the projects. It helps them take the reins and be the boss.
  • It helps to develop discipline and accountability in the students; some of the projects involve fundraising and the students are required to give account of every amount that is realised from such fund raising activities.
  • Volunteer experience gives the students an edge as admission into elite colleges and universities in the developed countries has become even more competitive. Apart from the academic qualifications, participating in community service forms a part of the requirements for scholarships that are designed to reward participation in community service.
  • Participation in community services can be used by the students on their resumes for vacation job purposes. Some of the skills developed in community service will be needed in their 9-5 jobs and as entrepreneurs.
  • It affords the students a chance to gain work experience and to learn more about certain jobs. It may ignite an interest in some students becoming social workers and advocates for some worthy causes.
  • Community services create an avenue for the students to meet new people in the neighbourhood, collaborate and make new friends. It expands their horizon!
  • Community services definitely help to improve the community and offers hope to some people in a dying world. Sometimes it takes just a project that affects someone’s life for them to understand that someone cares about them.
  • Participation in a community project always leads to personal growth of the students and for everyone involved.
  • It gives the students and everyone involved a sense of fulfilment to know that you’re making a change and contributing to a better society.
  • It helps the students to learn team work, networking and collaboration which are necessary skills in our ever evolving world in the 21st century.
  • The children also learn time management skills since the projects are time bound.

It helps our students to emphasise and model empathy, compassion and service in the self-centred, social media-crazy and influenced society we have become.

What are some Community Services to Engage in?

There are lots of community services you and your students can get involved with, and your choices would depend on your research about the needs in your community, your interest, the funds available to do this, and the willingness of your students to participate.

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Here are some ideas you may wish to consider;

  • Clean up the gutter on your street
  • Clean up the street where your school is located
  • Raise funds to fill up the pot holes on your street
  • Volunteer to wash cars on weekends to raise funds for various needs in the neighbourhood ranging from a dump site to an incinerator
  • Raise fund to provide street baskets
  • Organise a bake sale to raise money for the school fees of orphans
  • Read books to children at an orphanage
  • Organise a free dance class for parents in the neighbourhood. People are stressed and a place to relax may be a very welcome idea.
  • Organise free fitness sessions for the community on some weekends.
  • Donate Christmas trees to an orphanage or less privileged children
  • Raise funds to buy Christmas clothes for children whose parents cannot afford it.
  • Organise a jumble sale where you solicit for donations of various items (clothes, shoes, furniture, kitchen utensils, electrical appliances such as irons, televisions, video players, old cars, etc.) and sell them at ridiculously cheap prices to people who ordinarily would not afford these items. Then donate the proceeds to a worthy cause.
  • Organise a student-led campaign against Child Abuse and invite children who have been abused to speak to parents and others.
  • Organise a student-led campaign against Domestic Violence. You may bring in children to talk about the effect on them when there is domestic abuse in the home.
  • Volunteer to teach in a low income school on some weekends
  • Have a fund raiser. Then visit hospitals to deliver gifts to the patients and offer them moral support.
  • Donate toys to children in a children’s section of a hospital
  • Knit or crotchet baby blankets and other items and donate them to parents who are struggling financially.
  • Coach a youth sports team in the community
  • Put up performances at events in the neighbourhood to spice up the events, at no cost.
  • Have the students babysit for the parents at the next PTA meeting. Some parents do not attend PTA meetings because they do not know where to keep the children.
  • Have the students volunteer as ushers at an important event in the community
  • Organise a Reading Hour at your school, where you open up your library to children in the neighbourhood to come in and read for about two hours on some designated weekends.
  • Clean up and clear the grass for some elders in the community
  • Organise a free Spelling Bee for children in the community
  • Visit an elderly people’s home and spend the day with them to have them tell you stories about their lives, and how life was way back then compared to now.
  • Organise the students to teach an etiquette class to children a less privileged community.
  • Perform a free musical concert at your school for the community
  • Volunteer to clear out the refuse on your street
  • Have a bake sale to raise money for repainting some houses in a low income community
  • Sponsor a recycling contest where people display items made from recycled materials
  • Create an awareness about recycling among the low income communities
  • Organise a family picnic in areas where they have never had a picnic, and prepare snacks for the picnic (puff-puff, pancakes, cakes, samosa, chin-chin, samosa, sandwiches, etc., and drinks). This will create bonding time for some families.
  • Organise a free Pancake Day at your school and use the opportunity to speak to the youths about the dangers of Drug Abuse.
  • Organise a jumble sale and raise money to donate students desks to a public school
  • Raise money to paint a block of classrooms in a public school
  • Teach phonics to children in less privileged schools
  • Raise funds, and use it to create road signs for streets that have no road signs
  • Create a food bank in a less privileged community
  • Organise a fundraiser to donate art materials to a school in a slum
  • Organise an outing to a recreation park for children in an orphanage
  • Donate first aid kits to schools in the slums
  • Organise a Safety Awareness class for families in less privileged communities
  • Raise funds to repair a run down play ground
  • Plant flowers in your neighbourhood
  • Campaign for more lighting along poorly lit streets
  • Go ahead and do some research to see what projects you can do in your community.
  • Start volunteering, and let’s teach our students that it pays to serve selflessly!
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By the way, my boarding students will be washing cars this morning as a fund raising activity for a project. That’s what prompted this article.

Please share your community service experiences in your school.

News Reporter
Mrs Nancy Ekpezu is a seasoned school administrator and educator with over twenty years experience in the education sector. She has a passion for building structure in schools, and training staff for better productivity. She is a professional administrator and coach, and she mentors other educators and administrators. Nancy is the convener of the popular Facebook group the Educational Administration Network with over 7,000 members from various countries. She is known for a high level of ethics, professionalism and integrity. She may be contacted at nancyekpezu@gmail.com

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