by Unfortunately, do to university and organizational policies, I was unable to participate in community service for a day. I was hoping to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House charities here in Florence because that this a organization close to my heart. However, you have to be able to commit to semester long volunteering and the schedule did not work with my academic schedule. However, I was able to shadow a friend one afternoon during her volunteering experience.
My friend Grace gives guided tours at the Santa Croce church in Florence, pictured above.. Twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday, Grace volunteers for two hours, giving an average of 3-4 tours a day. On these tours, guides tell visitors about the background of the church. Visitors will learn how it is a Franciscan church with a Gothic style. Also, they learn about the different famous works of art, such as Cimabue’s crucifix and works of Giotto’s, and famous chapels that are within the church. These tours are small, typically 15 people max, which gives the tour a unique feel. I have been on many guided tours throughout my time here in Florence, however the feel of this one was much different. The size of the group made the tour feel more quaint and it helped encourages visitors to ask questions and interact which their guide, in this case my friend Grace.
I was intrigued by how the process of getting the tour groups together worked so afterwards I asked Grace. She said that people do not need to sign up for the tours prior to the guided tour. People just show up and she shows them the highlights of the church. I saw it first hand when I shadowed one of her tours, but Grace said that she likes this because she has the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Also, because the groups are so small, she gets a chance to know a little bit about her group and her group gets to know her. Grace said it is not uncommon for her groups to have different discussions about religion and culture. I found this fascinating because she gets to see and hear the perspective of people from all over the world. Learning new perspectives is a great benefit to volunteering, but it is not the only one. In this particular case, Grace gets to use the knowledge she has gained in the classroom to help people fully experience all that the Santa Croce church has to offer. With there being little, to no, signs throughout the church, having a someone who actually wants to volunteer to make sure people know the history of such a beautiful and historically rich place is awesome.
After talking with and shadowing Grace on her tour, I wish I could turn back time and find a way to be able to participate in this volunteer experience. As Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” By serving we not only have the opportunity to teach and help other, but also learn more about ourselves. Although I did not get the opportunity to complete service myself, by shadowing my friend during her service, I learned much more than I thought I would about myself and about the perspectives of others. I strongly urge fellow students to either participate or somehow be involved in any type of community service while abroad. It helps you gain a whole new perspective of your host city, it’s guest, and yourself that you never thought possible.