Essay Service Above Self

Giving your self to service is life's true fulfillment. There is no better feeling than helping the less fortunate. I myself have had hands on experience with community service and it has changed me in miraculous ways. Last summer I started volunteering at Joe DiMaggio's Children's Hospital. Eager to help I went in with my eyes closed and learned lessons I thought I would never learn.

At the beginning of my journey I saw this hospital like any other one, one that is designed to cure the ill. But this hospital is in a league all its own; putting smiles on the patients faces regardless of how sick they really are. This is a place in which sick children can be themselves regardless of prejudice and stereotyping. The world is a cruel place and these poor innocence beings just need a place to forget their worries and Joe DiMaggio is a place to let loose.

Many of my tasks at the hospital where hands on. Reading, playing, arts and crafts, or just simply offering moral support is a volunteer's top priority. Just after a couple of weeks at the hospital, I became a regular. Patients were beginning to ask about me and were inquiring when I would come and play. The feeling of being helpful encouraged me and I began spending more and more time at the hospital. I would visit patients on my days off and became quite close to many of them through the weeks.

On an ordinary day at the hospital, I met a boy around my age named Steven. Steven was very shy and kept to himself and for some reason he decided to confide in me. We became great friends and I saw him every time I went to the hospital. One day he decided to come clean...

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Surrounding Yourself with Good People Can Bring You Joy Every Day

In a grown up world you have good days and bad days at work.  While my work day yesterday with an unpleasant online encounter, I  consider myself to be one of those truly fortunate individuals whose good days outweigh the bad by an incredibly large margin.  Each morning I look forward to tackling the tasks ahead of me as the Director of Every Child By Two (ECBT), knowing that today could be the day we save a life.  While we work on many different initiatives, our priorities are steadfast and my terrific staff members share in my commitment to our goals.  Our organization has the very specific focus of ensuring that every child completes their primary series of vaccines by age two.  As our readers know, ECBT recently became a partner of the Shot@Life campaign to expand this assurance to children throughout the globe; children who deserve the same chance at reaching precious milestones as children in the U.S.

The Shot@Life campaign, although new in its efforts, has already made an impact on the way that I view the world and it has jump started my community service efforts.  It has made me appreciate all the little things we are able to provide to our two children this summer, like sandcastles and sailing, fishing and snorkeling, and best of all, time with family and friends.

When I was a little girl, I remember laying on the front yard for what seemed like hours, watching the fireflies and stars in the great big sky.  Each of us cherishes the memories of our childhood, and as parents we strive to create those wonderful memories for our own children.  We also want to raise them to be good friends and caring citizens of the future.   That is why I was so excited to learn that the Rotary Foundation, which I only recently joined, had also committed to partnering with the Shot@Life campaign.  It seemed like the best of both worlds had entered my small town.  Now I could pinpoint a community service project through my local Rotary club that I could involve my own kids in.  A project that has the specific and attainable goal of bringing life-saving vaccines to children around the world.

This weekend my son, niece and I joined my fellow Mystic, Connecticut Rotarians at the Mystic Outdoor Arts Festival serving Dells Frozen Lemonade to raise funds for our club’s initiatives.

Antonio Pisani and cousin Sarah Hansen scooped hundreds of frozen lemon ices at our Rotary fundraising booth. Satisfied customer, Nicholas Pisani soothes his sore throat

Over the course of the day it surprised me how few people knew what the Rotary was about and how they contribute to our local community and the world.  During my travels to Africa, Rotary seemed as popular as Coca Cola; everyone was so grateful for the polio eradication efforts organized by Rotary.

The main objective of Rotary is service — in the community, in the workplace, and throughout the world. Rotarians develop community service projects that address many of today’s most critical issues, such as children at risk; poverty and hunger; the environment; illiteracy; and violence.

They also support educational opportunities and international exchanges for students, teachers and other professionals along with vocational and career development programs.

The Rotary motto is “Service Above Self”.  Although Rotary clubs develop autonomous service programs, all Rotarians worldwide are united in a campaign for the global eradication of polio. Rotary has provided an army of volunteers to promote and assist at national immunization days in polio-endemic countries around the world and has provided over $500 million towards this goal.

Families from Zimbabwe greeting us and our colleagues from Rotary during National Immunization Days

That’s why, last spring when I was inducted into the Rotary, it literally brought tears to my eyes knowing that in some small way I might help close the door on polio.  And that’s what it’s all about – making a difference, whether small or large.  Doing something, even if it’s just selling lemonade alongside my family at an art festival in a small New England town, is better than doing nothing at all.

At the end of the long hot afternoon (which included far too many sour lemonades to ward off the heat), my son, niece and I handed over an enormous pile of cash and it made all of us feel great because we knew that it could mean the difference between a child living or dying on the other side of the globe.

Around the world there are over 1.2 million men and women serving in Rotary.  Student volunteers also do much to support local Rotary efforts.  Find out how you can join your local club where you will share in fellowship with wonderful neighbors while serving your community.  Two things I’ve learned since joining Rotary – there is always a project on the horizon and Rotarians are welcome at a meeting anywhere in the world – what a lovely thought.

Volunteers from Stonington High School’s InteractClub Serve Up The Cheer

(Heather Jackson, Rachyl Jackson, and Libby Hall)

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Tags: international health, Rotary, service, Shot@Life, vaccines, Volunteer

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