Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Community Service Overseas

[Please pardon my departure from my usual topics of food and Mexico.  I wrote this post for The Hardship Homemaking blog, for which I am an occasional contributor and thought some of you might like to see it.]

Community Service seems to be a well-established expectation in the United States.  Many high schools now require a certain number of community service hours be completed each term, and many colleges are now looking for this sign of selflessness in their applicants.  But when we live overseas and aren't as familiar with the culture and its needs, how do we carry on that tradition of learning about the world around us and helping those in need?  It is a tall order. 

Here is a story from my friend Claire, who is living in Oman.  I want to share her ideas with you as she has inspired me to search for community service opportunities here in Mexico, in order to remind myself of and teach my kids values that I hold so dear.  Please share with all of us the way you've been able to give back to your community to inspire us all!

"When I first moved to Oman, I was slightly negative about the lifestyle here.  For instance, a lot of people don't pick up their trash after a picnic on the beach, there isn't a public library in the capital city, and drivers are reckless.  There are little to no recycling efforts here and that really bothered me because I'm so used to sorting out my trash back home in the States.  I would often find myself complaining to people, like a nagging Seinfeld-esque character, about how disturbing it was to dump out cans and paper everyday.  What I realized was that I kept on complaining and didn't do anything about it.  

So... I went online a few days ago and found ways to recycle paper and plastic bottles.  There are so many creative ideas and soon I'll be volunteering at a public Omani school, reading an English book to first graders, and making a recycled craft afterward (e.g. notepads, origami, papier-mâché, plastic bottle pencil cases).  I'll be borrowing the books from friends and using the recycled papers and bottles that I have collected.  During the craft lesson, I'll also speak to the kids about why we recycle and how we can be creative by saving paper and bottles.  There is value to these items and instead of buying new craft items, kids can "upcycle" what normally be thrown away."