GCD: Community Engagement (Service Groups)

I have been part of service groups ever since I came to YIS three years ago. When I first came to Japan and YIS, I was immediately intrigued by a number of activities you could choose from at this school. As I was still in Middle School, there was just one service group I could join in the beginning of the year. This was the GIN/CAS group. Here we split ourselves into smaller groups with a cause we wanted to support or further understand. For this, I chose to lead the Equal Rights group. Here we mainly focussed on gender equality and made posters that we hung up around the school.
Towards the end of eighth grade, however, Mr. Coutts introduced the Student Service Committee to the school. I was immediately interested and signed up as soon as I got home. I was part of this group for the rest of middle school and all of the ninth grade. In this group, we took care of and supported all service groups, started new ones and organized the Service Exhibition.
I was also part of other service groups outside of the Service Committee throughout my three years at YIS. Firstly there was Combating Human Trafficking. Here we mainly worked on educating the upper grades (8-12) on the massive issue with human trafficking in Japan. We also held events such as the speaker event with Lighthouse, the local group that we supported.
I am also part of the Library Council. Here we generally help out with shelving and organizing the library, host events and try to promote reading within our YIS Community. As we were and still are a relatively small there is always a lot of work and responsibility on each of us. However being a small group also has advantages as it is easier to bring your ideas across and make important choices as everyone “has to” participate.
Another group I am part of is the YIS Magazine. I am not sure if everyone sees this as a service group but I think that there are definitely some elements of service within this group. At our weekly meetings we generally discuss how we can encourage people to write more and how we can share people’s work. I see this as a service as we are not doing this for ourselves but for others to get their work out to the school community. I like this as I get a chance to see other people’s writing and help them improve it.
Finally I am also part of the VanderPol group. As there is one main event in this group, the christmas party for the local orphanage, this is not quite an all year long commitment. My main role in this group was in communications. For the christmas party, I sent out the daily bulletin posts and tried to help get people to do their roles. As I could not attend the final party, I decided to participate in one of the weekend outings instead. This was an amazing experience as we could play with the kids and see a completely different side of what life can be like. It also changed my perspective of what life is like for an orphan. Of course, this was only on children’s home that we visited but it was still eye-opening to see how happy all of these kids were.

Overall I have loved all of these experiences I got to have due to the fact that I joined this many service groups. Through this, I have learned that service is not just about helping others but that you can learn a lot along the way as well. Through most of these activities, I have learned new leadership and communication skills. This is due to the fact that I was part of a variety of groups that all required different skills. I learned leadership mainly in the smaller groups, or groups with sub-groups where I could help lead. Communication skills were needed in all groups and as I already had a few communication skills before I came to YIS, I took this position to learn more and help the groups out.
What I love most about these experiences though is that I got to help others. Helping others is one of my highest values so being able to practice something I love and value, whilst doing something for others as well, was amazing. I will most definitely continue doing service and helping as much as I can in the future as it is something I enjoy and know will help others too.

Here is some more deep explanation of which skills I developed and what knowledge I gained.