[Student Essay] Service Action - Individual Growth and Community Building

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[Student Essay] Service Action - Individual Growth and Community Building

Donghee Kim
Grade 12 - Service Council Prefect, Branksome Hall Asia  
There are times when the worst experiences in our lives become the catalyst for a positive change.  That summarizes my three years at my boarding school, replete with emotional and psychological trauma.  As someone who has always struggled with body image issues, I was conscious of the overt stares, blatant comments and unconcealed whispers pertaining to my physical appearance. In the three years since addressing my two page list of fears, there have been innumerable setbacks and failures I refer to as growing pains. However, overcoming the fears step by step, now, my name is announced as a Service Prefect, or as a guest speaker at the Inter-Korea Association’s Forum, and I am no longer debilitated by the fear of public attention.
Having experienced a personal crisis in high school, I understand that counseling, expert advice or even a different perspective can be of great assistance to anyone struggling with personal challenges and difficulties in life. Motivated by this personal experience, I became interested in helping others in need.  
Helping North Korean Students: leader of K-Unification club
Initially, it was an individual effort to reach out to those around me. However, I soon recognized the strength in numbers and became involved in group volunteer activities, which led to the founding of the K-Unification Club whose purpose is to bring increased awareness of the dire situation in North Korea and its refugees. I started the club with the support of two other students and it now boasts 19 members and is recognized by the Inter-Korean Cultural Exchange Association through which support for the refugees is provided.  
Working with the North Korean refugees has provided insight into learning about the state of Korean non-profit organizations that are struggling from the lack of public interest and antiquated practices. While government funding exists, not enough actually reaches those in need. This led to my desire to pursue a career in social work. Through policy innovations and creative implementations, I believe we can make social work more effective and efficient in Korea.
Santa’s Secret Box: Service Council Prefect
Last year, I was honored to be elected to the position of Service Council Prefect by the whole school community. My aim as a prefect was to encourage students to see the benefits of Service not just to those for whom they are seeking to help but as a source of fun, community building, and holistic growth.
Santa’s Secret Box is a small example of how this balance can be achieved. It is a Christmas event in which the students send surprise boxes to an orphanage to share with them the joy of giving. We, the BHA students, were involved in all stages of the campaign, starting with the orphanage identification and correspondence, gifts organization, method for distribution and presentation. This involved the whole school through their home classes from Junior to Senior School. In total, we gathered almost 70 boxes after which our Service Council played the role of Santa’s elves, wrapping all the boxes and decorated them. This was a wonderful experience that helped the orphanage and provided the Branksome Hall Asia students with an opportunity to participate wholeheartedly, benefiting everyone. I was very impressed by how much people were engaged and enthusiastic about helping others, sharing happiness. This not only accomplished our goals successfully but also incentivized me to promote Service events even more.  
‘Asian Hate’ Protest
Late last academic year, we responded to a contrasting opportunity to engage students with an area of need, introducing a new campaign of awareness raising related to increased incidents of Asian Hate around the world. We planned a dramatic performance to raise awareness of what it is like to be the victim of discrimination. Each one of our members acted as victims of different types of discrimination, displaying placards in a tradition form of protest demonstration. We paraded the performance throughout the school campus, delivering speeches and gathered additional participants in the process. The demonstration became a topic of much interest and discussion both at school and in social media, through which we were fortunate enough to form affiliations with an American non-profit organization to expand our role to reach a greater audience outside of the school.
In the process of my journey in recent years, these engagements in Service Learning have provided me with opportunities for enormous personal growth not just by looking within but turning my eyes to ways in which I can engage and empathize with others.  
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