By Syed Asad Ali (YES 2013-2014, Pakistan, hosted by ACES in Redding, CA)
I believe the act of helping others was always there in me. As a Pakistani we are always told to help and care for others but we are not shown how. The enthusiasm and intentions of community service is always inside of us but with no sense of direction. Being a part of YES gave me the inspiration and the proper direction to help others and organize community service events, which could help my society and the betterment of our community as a whole.
I still remember the first time when I volunteered for the service of my society, we were young naive teenagers with no experience whatsoever. At that time, all we had was enthusiasm and the will to help others with YES guiding us, paving our path of new learning, leadership and teamwork. I was placed in Redding, California where new experiences were fluttering around me in all directions. There were so many places and events to volunteer at, and learn about how to volunteer and help others effectively. I have volunteered at a church, mosque and synagogue as well. These hands have served people of all ages at the soup kitchen, rang bells to collect donations for the Christmas fund for Red Cross. I was the first and only exchange student in Central Valley High School to become a part of the student council. Being part of that class not only made me help organize major events at the school but also brought out the true project (of any kind) organizer out of me. During my Civic Education Week, I gave 50 presentations about my culture and country to people of all ages in diverse places and at the end of my exchange year I completed 450 hours of community service.
Recently, the YES Alumni from Pakistan organized a full scale project to help the pediatric patients at the Pakistan Institute of Cardiology. We all know that hospitals can be a very uncomfortable place for anyone especially children. Being a government facility the place didn't have many resources to entertain and engage the pediatric patients to distract them from their problems. This activity was needed to make them relax and engage in some sort of entertainment. Art therapy has been useful with many kids in order to help them and guide them towards positivity.
The execution of the project involved various activities in which the children were provided with coloring books, water colors, markers, and other art supplies so that they could engage themselves in a creative and positive way. The art and crafts surely helped them ease their minds. The YES Alumni spent quality time with the kids. The refreshments were distributed to cheer them up even more. Our goals were to 1) to spend a morning and quality time with the pediatric patients. 2) To bring smiles and cheer to the lives of children. 3) To make them feel safe, cared for and happy. 4) To encourage the children to fight their disease with a positive attitude.
Three alumni attended the event and we interacted with a total of 25 children. Our favorite activity was to make art and put art materials to good use. The hands-on experiences, making art and working with the interactive tools, gave the children a feeling of happiness and they forgot about their problems for the rest of the day. In fact, one kid was encouraged enough to put his fears aside and went for his check up without any hesitation. The whole project was focused to help these kids with art therapy in order to give them a psychological relief from the harsh treatments and hospital environment. Conclusively we achieved much more than what we anticipated at the beginning.
What I learnt from this experience is that pediatric patients are more sensitive and they also give better response in activities despite the condition of their health. I learned that they need activities like these to engage them and put their minds away from their problems for a time at rest. Yes, it is in my vision to do more activities like these in the future as well, One of the ways to achieve and improve my vision is that I do one community project every month. This not only helps my community but also helps me to make my vision clearer as well.
" The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others".