Although I was unable to join a service organization at this time, my good friend Nick who lives in Brisbane was able to give me some insight to ways he actively helps the community. Nick has always been a huge fan of netball as a kid, and to this day, plays a few times a week. For those who don’t know, netball is a very popular sport in Australia which has many similar characteristics to basketball. Along with playing the sport regularly, Nick also volunteers at one of the city’s YMCA facilities, where he teaches children from ages 6 to 12 the fundamentals of netball. Nick explained to me that giving back to the community is very much the way of life in Australia. He said, “at a young age most of us are taught to be generous and charitable with our time.” Along with teaching children the fundamentals of the sport, Nick also used to coach a children’s team at the YMCA. He told me that the skills you learn from managing a team, as well as making friends with all of the great kids is reward enough to volunteer your time.
Moreover, while observing the surrounding community, it is clear that the facial expressions and body language used is actually quite similar to that used in the states. For instance, a normal greeting between two male friends is normally just a handshake (no European kissing on the cheek). The only time the body language and expressions differentiate from the American norm is if the two friends happen to be quite close. In this case, Australians are known to be much more rough and physical with each other. If you find yourself at a bar in the city, and two mates bump into each other, you better stand back, because things are going to get physical. This ranges from pushing, to punching, to picking each other up like newlyweds. As you can imagine, the entertainment factor is quite high for foreigners like myself. This is most likely one of the harder aspects of body language for my fellow Americans and I to get used to.
Living in a foreign country, there are many benefits to getting involved and volunteering time. While devoting time, one is able to see the core of the community, and how people from other cultures show gratuity. Also, generous acts solidify international bonds which create a strong global community. Although I only temporarily belong to this community, it is my duty as a globally aware citizen to do my part in making the world a better place, no matter where I am. If everyone had this mindset while abroad, I feel that the connections between countries would remain strong. Global responsibility is contagious – if a member of the global community makes an effort to make a positive impact, others are likely to follow suit. This is why it is crucial for somebody to take the first step.
One major point to take away from my talk with Nick is that devoting time to help others provides equal benefit to both you and the community. As the volunteer you develop a unique stet of skills that will prove to be beneficial in the future, as well amazing relationships with like-minded people who are also interested in improving the overall status of the global community. Hearing Nick’s story certainly made an impact on my time abroad. I now know that in any community throughout the world, there are always people who are willing to give back. It is such an amazing feeling to know that people around the world are all working towards a common goal to help their own communities, and furthermore, creating awareness to give back to the global community.
Below is a picture that Nick sent to me of some of the girls at his YMCA playing netball. The quote, “everyone can be great, because everyone can serve” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. connects quite perfectly with the picture I have chosen. The service that Nick has provided for these children, has highlighted his potential greatness, and has also caused him to become the amazing person he is today. Serving others is one of the greatest things one can do for their community. And although this may only be on a local scale, every small action is just another step in the right direction to achieve global unity.