Volunteerism provides the energy that makes many organizations, social causes, and grass-roots movements possible. Volunteers plant trees, care for hungry children, answer phones, and perform a long list of additional tasks, all from the spirit of goodwill. In return they find purpose, satisfaction, and valuable insight. Supporting student volunteers is something that the Ambassadors Scholarship Foundation—the nonprofit charitable arm of Ambassadors Group—has taken strides to do better. In 2012 the Foundation launched the People to People World Ambassador Scholarships to aid students committed to service and volunteerism. The first two recipients are Kailun Hensley of Mesa, Arizona, and Michaela Fredrickson of Seaside, California. Both of these high school students are headed to Tanzania this summer to work with children of native tribes and help build primary schools. The scholarships will help pay for their travel expenses.
While many of their peers will be enjoying an iced coffee at Starbucks, taking in a movie at a local cinema, or shopping at the mall, these two will be spending their summer days painting, hauling building supplies, cleaning, and doing whatever they can to improve the lives of Tanzanians. When I asked why they’re willing to give up traditional summer activities for such hard work, I received the following responses:
Kailun: “I know the experience and knowledge I’ll gain from helping others will make a drastic impact on me. I believe in loving your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31).”
Michaela: “Volunteering is important to me because it means change. Change for the people I volunteer with and change to myself. It helps me be grateful for what I have and less selfish. It teaches me compassion for others and assists me in developing leadership skills. It allows me to be something bigger than myself.”
I appreciate both responses and believe volunteering should be an important component of every student’s education. Students and society at large take many things for granted. By lending a helping hand, volunteering, and stepping into someone else’s shoes, we gain perspective and understanding of how much we have and our role in the world. By serving food to someone who has none, we appreciate the McDonald’s hamburger we had for lunch that much more. By spending a day helping to build a house for a family without a roof over their heads, we become keenly aware of how lucky we are to be able to sink into a warm, comfortable couch in front of the TV.
When asked what they were looking forward to the most about their service trip, they responded:
Kailun: “I’m so excited to learn about the Maasai culture. This is a culture entirely different from my own. The experiences will give me the chance to experience firsthand another part of the world and the different needs there instead of just seeing them in a movie.”
Michaela: “I’m most excited about affecting the lives of others and my own. I know that after this trip I will look at everything with a new perspective.”
Volunteering definitely provides a new, healthy, and energized perspective. Service helps scrub clean our social lenses, so we can more accurately see and interact with the world around us. After donating our time and energy for the betterment of our world and communities, we feel greater ownership and a stronger connection.
Thanks to the generous support of Ambassadors Group, the Ambassadors Foundation will continue to offer the People to People World Ambassador Scholarships to students like Kailun and Michaela. These scholarships will provide other students not only the opportunity to support important organizations through service but also life-changing experience and insight that translate to greater compassion, confidence, and appreciation for life.