Been working on a service-learning extension of the original programme that I’ve started here with the village schools to better equip the staff and students of the school to engage with their local community. What I’m working on is a curriculum based service-learning unit that will fit into the current programmes in place both in the Middle and Senior school. What’s exciting is the fact that Manoj and I are given a relatively free rein in creating this programme that we hope will raise the profile of community service to something that is a necessity and not an extra thing that just has to be fulfilled.
In the process of working on activities that would get our students to see service in a more useful manner, it made me think about what service actually means to me. We all talk about community service and service-learning ad nauseum but sometimes don’t quite stop to think about what service is and why we do it. I mentioned sometime back about the reasons behind my coming here and how it’s far from altruistic. While I do want to come help the community here, the bigger reason behind my coming all the way here is to spend time trying to find what I’m to do with my life. The idea of ‘finding oneself’ might seem unnecessary to some but I do feel that working out here has given me the space to do some pretty good reflection about what’s really important and why.
Back to service – we often mistakenly associate service with doing or giving things to people. I don’t think that’s the most accurate way of looking at service. While the final act of service would include doing, I’d say that service is more of a mindset than anything else. One has to be ready to serve and to be available for whoever we’re setting out to help – it’s this willingness that lies at the heart of service and to me, is service itself. Anyone can do nice things and help others but what transforms this into service is the want to do so. That’s what I’m hoping to inculcate in the students here – to change their attitudes from ‘I need to do this’ to ‘I want to do this’ and in so doing, create a culture of service in this school.
So if serving is more than just doing and is about getting this mindset ready, then creating situations where people would want to render service onto others. While it’s pretty difficult to create a willingness to do anything in people, I’d say that bringing worthwhile experiences to others would help inculcate this willingness to do. The transforming of a person’s work anywhere into service seems to be as simple as that – making a person willing to perform an action that helps others – and possibly liking that work in the process. I think that’s what’s at the heart of us wanting to serve and helps when one tries to work on creating a service-learning programme anywhere. Perhaps.