By Syafira Annisa (YES 2019-2020, Indonesia, placed with World Link in Colorado Springs, CO)
Imagine living in a world where humanity is what matters most and helping others in need becomes everyone’s responsibility. One of my favorite activities during my exchange year was community service. From taking care of toddlers during Sunday class at church to working with foster kids with disabilities, community service taught me a lot of things, but one takeaway that I’ll always remember to this day was how life will only be meaningful if we can bring happiness to other people.
One day during my exchange, my host family and I, and others from our community, were helping a child with disabilities access his backyard garden with his wheelchair by creating a new path. It was a pretty intense job and it took us 10 hours to finish, but it was all paid off simply by just knowing this young man, who loves nature, will no longer struggle to visit his backyard garden. All the people that I met during community service inspired me so much to have a positive impact not only for myself and the people around me, but also for others in the USA and people from my home country, Indonesia.
So, during my exchange, I created a project called “Anis’s Project,” to help raise awareness about breast cancer and to help cancer patients in Indonesia. We held a bake sale to raise money that was donated to a cancer foundation in Indonesia, and I was planning to hold an informational/awareness-raising seminar with an oncologist. A lot of people from my school (including teachers!) went to our bake sale to help us! We raised almost $250 that day! Everything went well; we even had booked a venue for the info session and invited an oncologist to be the speaker, but sadly it ended up having to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
It was unfortunate, but it didn’t stop me from helping people and raising awareness about this issue. We successfully donated the funds and I changed the seminar to an online webinar. It might not have been as big and as significant as I thought, but I believe great things start in the simplest form. The whole process taught me so many things and, in the future, I want to create a platform to educate women about breast cancer, and to help those people in need. This is also a personal issue for me—I lost my mom to breast cancer and, at that time, we didn’t get enough information about this disease and it led us to something that we didn’t anticipate. By creating this platform as my future project, I hope I can save more lives. And I believe, once again, the greatest things can come from seemingly simple things. The community service I participated in during my YES exchange taught me this lesson and I’m so thankful to be a YES program alumna! I learned so many things during my exchange year, thank you!