Community Service Program Essays

Roderick in Senegal, 2011

Roderick traveled with us on our high school summer community service program in Senegal in 2011. A current senior at Camden High School in Camden, South Carolina, he will be attending Wofford College in the fall. The essay below, about building bricks during his volunteer experience in Africa, was part of the stellar application. Congratulations, Roderick!



Two summers ago, I found myself a continent away making a brick. This is not a very
complicated process, but it is a process where the efforts of many reaped tremendous rewards. Driving to a hardware store to buy a brick was not an option, but to create just one brick took a considerable amount of time. I soon discovered that laying a foundation for a home was more than just a repetitive and laborious process… it was a catalyst for my future.

I was in another world– one without running water or electricity. One without plumbing. One without a bed. One where speaking my native language was not the norm and accomplishing the most simple daily tasks often took hours. I arrived in Mbissel, a small village in Senegal, West Africa– four thousand miles from my comfort zone and not a soul I knew. I soon discovered that living in this foreign world was far less complicated than living in my world. In fact, it was much simpler: less hectic and full of meaningful experiences. Making bricks step by step, one by one may be mundane, but the friendships I made, the smiles I received, and the relationships I built while creating thousands of bricks were more fulfilling than anything I had experienced in my 16 years.

I traveled to Senegal to learn and explore. My classroom became the building site where I
worked with the villagers. They were my teachers, and as I worked alongside them, they became my friends. My daily lesson was simple but time consuming: hauling sand and concrete, walking the 30 minute roundtrip hike to the well for water, mixing the water and the concrete, pouring the mixture into a mold, carrying the mold to a field to dry, walking back, and starting again. It was a process so simple, yet so painstakingly slow. How could such a tedious job yield such gratifying emotions?

Enjoying the ripened fruit of the mango tree was the perfect ending to my day; this setting became another classroom where I taught and was taught in return. The children of the village flocked to any “toubab” that they spotted, so I was obviously never alone under the mango tree. As I reflected on the day’s work, the children constantly begged for attention, which I freely gave. They attempted broken English while I mutilated the beautiful French language. It didn’t matter what we were trying to say, for hand gestures and laughter were the result of our efforts. My attempts to count in French made the Senegalese children laugh as I could only count to 40, and they would continue on to 100. Out of curiosity, we taught each other.

My experience in Senegal was the beginning of my foundation. I believe that learning takes place not only in a classroom, but along the paths I have chosen to take. The lessons I learned while making bricks and sitting around the mango tree continue to resonate within me. Respect for citizens of the world, other cultures and an appreciation for values taught and learned in new environments will be my foundation. I built bricks for the Senegalese, but they have built so much more for me. I look forward to pursuing the journey, brick by brick.

Written by: Joi Henry, Campbell High School sophomore, 2013-2014 Youth Leadership Council

Community service involvement is important because volunteering teaches people of all ages and backgrounds compassion and understanding. One thing I like about community service is that there are opportunities to improve and leave your mark on your global and local community. volunteering  and putting on service events can be used as a way to advocate for causes that you are personally passionate about.

Community service volunteering can also be the avenue to explore areas that you express interest. Volunteering is something that has no time limit; you can volunteer as much or as little as you’d like or have time for and still feel some type of fulfillment from it. Not only is community service fun and rewarding, but volunteering looks great on a resume or college application. Sometimes community service is even required for high school graduation.

Campbell High Youth Action Center members on site for a service project.

Many of my teachers often talk about how having community service makes a difference. As I move through life I think I will always be involved in community service because I know it is important and I enjoy and look forward to it. I love giving back through community service because it is extremely rewarding.


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