For my community service a few friends in Api (academic programs international) as well as myself go together to cleaned up a local plaza in Gracia that is known to be typically dirty as it is a big youth party/nightlife spot. Typically the youth in Barcelona sit in plazas and socialize and drink which ends up littering and trashing the plazas. This typically happens because most young adults live with their parents until they are about 30 years old, resulting in them not having houses or apartments for the youth to hangout at or socialize. The morning was spent clearing a plaza on a Sunday when the trash men do not typically come around to clean. I have noticed that abroad and in Barcelona especially the natives take more pride in their city and do not deface or litter as much as we do back in the states. The graffiti sprayed on shop doors is city approved and is quite cultured and considered art. Barcelona compared to New York city is immaculate, you will rarely find trash on the street and public property defaced. I was quite impressed by this and it increased my respect for the locals in Europe. In addition Barcelona invested in a weekly street cleaning where workers will drive through all the streets with hoses and wash down everything they can reach, it really helps improve the quality of the community. I am curious as to why no American cities have implemented this strategy as it is fairly cheap and preserves the cities investment in streets, parks, plazas etc.
Service relates to our classwork especially in immersing yourself in the global community. Becoming part of the community abroad and truly being a resident of Barcelona means caring about the community that you have been living in, typically citizens vote, protest, or do other activities to help shape and better their community. Perhaps the most we could do with our Visa’s and limited knowledge of the country was simply to volunteer and be directed on how to benefit the community in simple ways with our basic skills. I believe it helped me feel as if I am more part of the community and provided something rewarding I can do to the community besides travel, party, hang out at the beach and attend classes.
I believe public service in a country abroad is a unique and rewarding experience. In high school I was given the opportunity to serve in an orphanage in Jamaica. A group of students were flown down to a Mustard Seed community which is a organization that takes in children who have been neglected by their family or community because of birth defects or mental retardation which is looked down upon in their society. We spent the week sleeping in mosquito nets in a lean two and built a cabin for some new children to sleep in. This was perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and if I had had a program like this reflective 301 class it would have enhanced my experience even more.
“Everyone can be great, Because everyone can serve” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The simple act of picking up trash at a plaza is extremely rewarding and very simple. Almost anyone no matter what age can offer their physical service to them, if perhaps someone is physically impaired then they can offer their mental strength as a service. There were dozens of schools that could have used Americans to teach locals english and that in and of itself could have changed their lives. Anyone is capable of changing someone life it is just committing yourself to it.