By: Qiqi Wang, Winston Jarrett, and Trishell Brown
The idea of our project came to light after much discussion amongst ourselves and assessing how best we can impact our host community. We sought advice from people within the host community as well as our facilitators. After a lot of brainstorming, Trishell coined the name of our project – “Fill A Backpack“. Since we are all passionate about kids and education, we decided to collect school supplies for a local school for the beginning of their school year.
For the duration of a month, we asked for donations from other international students, our managers at our different employment sites, and staff at the international house. We created 3 boxes, which we later recycled, and covered with magazines. The boxes were placed in 3 different living areas for international students within Harrisburg. We also created and printed the logo of our project “Fill A Backpack” so the donation locations were easily identifiable. This, again, was done with recycled paper.
On August 20, we collected the donations which we had amalgamated the night before. Going to the school to deliver our donations, I must say we were a little nervous because we were not sure what to expect or even how the day would play out!
But the experience was exceptional. We were greeted by the very friendly and kind staff members at Foose Elementary School. They were very excited to hear that we were international students who were giving back to the community and many of them spoke about how much they wanted to travel to our countries. They were surprised by how creative our boxes were and the number of donations which we received (which I must say was a lot!) We even donated cases of chips to the school, which the teachers suggested they would use as rewards for students who displayed the three main character goals of the school. While at the school, we go to visit five different classrooms to deliver our donations. The teachers at the school helped us to separate the donations equally for each of the second-grade classrooms we were going to visit.
The highlight of Trishell’s day was definitely meeting the Superintendent for the School District who was present to see our project and who was very excited to see what we were doing! Qiqi’s favorite part was definitely asking the kids “who loves Chinese food?” and surprisingly, they all did! Winston was ecstatic to meeting Congresswoman-elect on education for the state, Patty Kim. Patty came to the event even though she is a very busy person. The principal was absolutely courteous and so cool. He gave to us lanyards and pens as souvenirs from Foose Elementary School.
However, the main focus of the day was giving back to our community. All three of us were proud and filled with joy to see the children at Foose Elementary School. Meeting the children really warmed our hearts. They were so grateful, all participated with us, and tolerated all our shenanigans enthusiastically. All 5 classes were visited and the children were well mannered.
Finally, they say you should make it a habit to tell people “thank you” because being told you’re appreciated is one of the simplest and most uplifting things someone can hear. With that said, this service project could not have been as successful as it was without the help and assistance of a few individuals and organizations. Gratitude is extended firstly to our employers for giving us the opportunity to come here and work, travel and give back and also for their many donations towards this project. Secondly to the international house staff Kevin, CJ, Simran, Verley and Ms. Agata a special thank you. Julia’s guidance as our advisor, mentor and friend is forever appreciated. And finally, to the principal and staff at Foose Elementary a special thank you is extended for hosting us so wonderfully.
We definitely had quite the time volunteering and giving back to our host community. Service is definitely above self for us as Ambassadors. We were reminded by this visit why each of us loves giving back to humanity so much.