Community service. Volunteering. Giving back. Charity work. These are all phrases that we are told to do, because we can help both ourselves and others. Many groups and organizations require x number of hours of such work a year, or a semester. And so many of us groan and complain and do the minimum because it’s not convenient. I was one such person for a long time – sure I liked volunteering with my high school crew team because I got to drive a boat and yell at people – but otherwise I was decidedly against any form of community service. That is, until I learned about Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) and the many programs they have through Philadelphia. BBBS matches a college student with an elementary school student of the same gender, thereby giving the young kids a Big Brother or Big Sister. To become a Big there is a fairly in-depth application and interview process because you work with young children, but it’s all worth it in the end. This semester I was paired with my first Little Brother, a third grader at a nearby elementary school!
My first meeting with my Little was extremely awkward. I mean, what do you say to someone in elementary school when you haven’t been in elementary school for over 10 years!? We spent some time staring at each other, and near the end of the meeting he claimed to not remember my name. But we decided what time I’d visit him weekly and we fist-bumped. Fast forward a few days and it’s the night before I’m supposed to visit again and I’m nervous as hell. ‘What if he doesn’t remember me (again)?’ I thought, or ‘what if I can’t find him?’ or ‘what if we have nothing to talk about or do again?’ I almost psyched myself out of going, but turns out, I had nothing to worry about. My Little was waiting for me right where I’d last seen him, and as soon as he saw me he jumped up and gave me another fist-bump. We spent that whole meeting talking, I told a few stories I could remember from when I was his age, and he told me story after story of his adventures with his friends and family. I learned about his siblings, his niece, his friends, and his plans for the impending snowstorm. I had a great time swapping stories with this energetic and intelligent eight year old, and I can’t wait for our next meeting.
As a student of public relations, volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters taught me the value of community service. I learned how just a little time each week was bringing two wildly different communities together, which is important because both occupy the same space. Public relations is all about connecting, communicating, and forming relationships with people. Volunteering to do some community service can be a great way to get some good PR work done.
Do you have any thoughts on community service? Tell us in the comments below!