This Service Leadership Spotlight features the reflections of Dennis Osafo on his Service Day experience at the Christian Activity Center.
As Barack Obama once said, “the best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do
something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some
good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with
hope”. So I proceeded to do something, I stood up and did something with my life without
letting societal negativity or my tendency to sleep-in derail me. Most importantly,
my commitment to service day wasn’t just to increase my service hours, which usually
characterizes a personal reward I think we all try to achieve, but it gave me a new
a perspective on what community service, unity and helping others in their respective
environment truly is.
Service Day is an annual event that is hosted by Saint Louis University's Chaifetz School of Business, where faculty, students and affiliates are more than welcome to participate and gain some exposure to the advantages of serving and improving the St. Louis community by engaging in activities that contribute to helping others. This year, we served at the Christian Activity Center located in East St. Louis. Their mission is to prepare youth for successful futures, spiritually, academically and physically and to provide a safe haven for children to grow in a community together after school. Thus, our contribution was to help further that mission.
Specifically, my team was assigned the task of landscaping the playgrounds and recreational areas. Every team had a respective team leader who was dedicated to fulfilling their duties - to make sure we were putting in effort to uphold our responsibilities associated with the tasks assigned. Sarah Knapp and Jack Schneider, wonderful people I might add, were my team leaders, and they represented what we call in the program service leaders. They put in the necessary effort in landscaping, which entailed moving, distributing and spreading the mulch on the playground. I appreciated that they contributed as much as the rest of the team did or possibly even more.
Periodically, the children would make an appearance on the playgrounds and help us landscape and engage in conversation with us, which was delightful to see how cheerful the CAC made them. It may seem like it is normal to feel that way especially when you are graced with the presence of happiness and joy, but this feeling was unique; specifically, it was a feeling that there is light at the end of the tunnel irrespective of the hardship, struggle and pain that one experiences throughout the course of life. Moreover, it was a feeling that my efforts are not going to waste and that I am doing this for the good of others and not just for myself- the feeling that someday these children would have a future as bright as the sun on the day of Saturday, April 7, 2018.
It was at that very moment I realized that I could never give up on helping others or never stop giving hope and putting the smiles on people’s faces; I realized that I can never give up on my personal ambitions because failure should not define who I am, but should be a stepping stone to success. I could never control what anyone says or thinks, but just trust that I am doing the right thing and treating people the right way and then, only then, do I know I am filling the world with hope. Seeing the children smile while we landscaped was motivation to continue working. The Service Day teams definitely filled the children with hope that was evidently shown on their faces.
I don’t think anyone one of us, as Sarah pointed out, had prior experience in landscaping. Despite our inexperience in landscaping, we were all committed in improving the playground by spreading and distributing as much mulch as possible to make the recreational areas look presentable. It was especially fun when other students from other teams participated in landscaping the larger playground since we required more man labor and two truckloads of mulch. It was pleasant to see the kids ride on the swings and utilize the slides on the playground, and it was even more enjoyable when the children would talk with us and occasionally engage in physical activities with the team members, which made our job more bearable. It was surprising how much energy these kids had as I thought to myself, and it was evident whenever we took our lunch break and ate with them or whenever we were working. But, yet again they were kids, so it was actually not that surprising they were filled with so much energy. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable and a pleasure to see the kids so excited that our contribution instilled a sense of gladness in them, putting a smile on their faces and giving them a better perspective on life.
Overall, Service Day is an experience worth sharing. The weather was suitable to work indoors and outdoors, the children were delighted and happy to see all of us, and most importantly, we were able to engage in activities that contributed to community development, establishing a place of growth and enhancing the mission of the Christian Activity Center (CAC).