Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lewis & Clark's Presidents Award for Outstanding Community Engagement

Yes, that is the award which I received tonight from 3CE, Lewis & Clark College's Community and Civic Engagement Center for my community service work both on campus and in Ghana. Although I do not participate in service to receive awards such as this one, it is nice to be recognized every once in awhile for the hard work and dedication that I have put in to the various clubs, organizations, and projects that I have been a part of. Here is part of the speech that I read upon receiving this prestigious award which is only awarded to one junior or senior each year:

As this is my senior year here at Lewis & Clark, I have recently spent a lot of time reflecting on these past four years and my experiences here. Yes, Lewis & Clark has shaped the person I am today. Yes, Lewis & Clark has provided me with opportunities to make new friends and connect with amazing faculty and staff members. And yes, Lewis & Clark has helped me become a brighter, more intelligent individual. All of these things are essential, but in my eyes, the most important thing that Lewis & Clark has provided me with has been the encouragement and support to follow my passion and continue to give back to the community that I fell in love with in Ghana, West Africa. 
It’s amazing how much that first trip to Ghana, during the summer of 2008, changed my life. I left Los Angeles simply wanting to volunteer in Africa. I was told that I would be working at an orphanage that was made up of a classroom and shaded courtroom and served 150 children between 2 and 10 years old. I had absolutely no idea how much these children would impact me and change my life.
On my first day volunteering at Christ Orphanage, I arrived to 150 children running towards me, giving me hugs, begging to be picked up, and asking my name. Approximately 30 of these children were orphans, while the remaining 120 children came from underprivileged homes. Christ Orphanage served as a school for these children and ensured that they received education, food, and health care.
During my two-month stay in Ghana, I realized that although many of the people I was interacting with were not financially rich, they were extremely rich in other ways. I was in awe of the strong community and family bonds that I witnessed, the dedication to cultural practices and traditions, and the genuine happiness that I saw on a daily basis, despite the fact that these people lacked many basic things such as running water and electricity.
Although I admired the way that these people lived, I also realized that material items can be an essential contributor to children’s education. The orphanage lacked basic educational materials such as pencils, paper, and crayons so I donated all of the educational supplies that I brought from home as well as items that I purchased in the country to the orphanage. Hard to miss was the fact that the class that I was to teach, a class of twenty five kindergartners contained nothing besides a few wooden benches, a dusty chalkboard, four brick walls, and of course, the children. I realized that the supplies I purchased for the children to use would only last a few months at the most. I wanted to do something to continuously assist the orphanage. With the help of my friends and family, we were able to provide Christ Orphanage with four computers and a printer before I even left the country.

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