Students share experience volunteering

Holding hands, coloring pictures and keeping up with the excited chatter of a room full of 4 year olds, this is what childcare at Grace Church consists of.

While some students view summer as a break from the busyness of school, seniors Juliana Swartz and Deandra Horner see summer as an opportunity to serve those inside their community and out.

“Most every single weekend I help out with childcare at Grace Church,” Swartz said. “I love doing that because I love the kids. It really gives me more perspective on issues that are really important and sometimes it kind of humbles me.”

In addition to volunteering for Grace Church, Swartz also attends a weekly trip to the Antioch Crossing apartment complex.

“Every Wednesday a group of people through our church goes down and helps a lot of kids, most of the time they’re underprivileged, and we help them with school and provide them with snacks and games,” Swartz said.

Much like Swartz, Horner was also given the opportunity to serve those less privileged thousands of miles away from home.

“I went to Brazil and we went to the villages and tribes along the Amazon River and we gave them food, some glasses, filtered a lot of water and gave a little sermon,” Horner said.

Being so far away from home, it wasn’t long before Horner noticed just how different life is for Brazilians along the river.

“You know how everyone says that going to a third world country is really eye opening, and you believe it, but it’s really different when you’re down there,” Horner said. “I knew what I was expecting because we were doing meetings well beforehand, but I realized that I really do take things for granted.”

According to Swartz, a trip to a different country isn’t necessary in order to see how easy it is to underestimate privilege.  

“I think helping with people who aren’t from your demographic is important because I think it builds perspective,” Swartz said. “Johnson County is a lot of times referred to as a bubble and I think as high schoolers we don’t get to experience what a lot of the world looks like.”

Though Swartz says students aren’t always able to get perspective of the world, reaching out for service opportunities is rewarding in various areas of life.

“I was working with this little boy and we were just talking and coloring and he asked me why people had to grow up and why people couldn’t just stay young forever. It’s just something I can’t forget,” Swartz said. “It just reminded me how there are a lot of negative things in the world and his comment just lifted me up.”

For Swartz and Horner alike, serving allowed them to make memories that are sure to last a lifetime. While in Brazil, Horner mentioned that one of the biggest hardships was the language barrier between her group and the tribes that they were helping. Though this might scare most people into avoiding interaction, Horner met someone who’s bravery will always remain in her memory.

“There was one girl in the village that spoke no english, but she was trying. She was sitting next to me and she was trying so hard to communicate,” Horner said. “ I can’t forget her because she was so persistent in trying to figure out what i was saying.”

In addition to these memories, Swartz believes that serving will allow her to have a powerful impact on the world.

“I’ve become more aware that the world doesn’t revolve around me,” Swartz said. “Now I have such a strong passion for other people around me, even in my future, I’m more concerned with how I impact the community.”

While both Swartz and Horner serve mostly through their church, there are opportunities  for non-believers and non-church goers as well.

“I know religious people do serve a lot, but I don’t think that’s where serving stems from,” Swartz said. “Whether it stems from beliefs, morals, or whatever, I just think it’s really important to unite to better the society around you.”

Whether it’s serving in a soup kitchen, shelter or school, Horner believes that it’s important to follow a personalized path.

“The phrase they (the church) use a lot is ‘don’t miss your moment,’” Horner said. “If you feel that you need to do something, you should try and do it.”

With many service opportunities within our city, like Antioch Crossings and volunteering at Children’s Mercy, there’s plenty of places to help out.

“A message to our school,” Swartz said, “if you’re hesitant or anxious about serving, just give it a try and just see how it changes you and the community surrounding you.”