Cougars contribute to community care
The holiday season reminds many students why community service to individuals less fortunate is important.
Organizations such as the Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees, Terry Scholars and AIESEC all work together at UH to provide students the opportunity to help those who may need assistance or someone to talk to.
“Community service keeps us humble, generous, compassionate, and hard-working,” said nutrition senior and president of the Terry Scholars Pamela Ayala.
“The holidays can be very tough for those who are in need, so I think it is important to make some contribution for those who are struggling.”
Volunteering experiences can be memorable for both the giver and receiver. Elementary education junior and president of PAIR Valerie Hang, said she remembers how the simple act of listening was enough to make a difference.
“I remember the first student I met was Amina — a shy, yet bright girl from Eritrea (Africa). Although she rarely spoke, she acknowledged my questions with a nod or shake of her head, and all I knew to do was to keep speaking to her, encouraging conversation and not giving up,” Hang said.
To Hang, volunteering with refugee students of Las Americas Middle School, tutoring them and hearing their stories, is her way of volunteering.
“These students simply need someone who can overcome the language barrier to understand their situation and be there for them.”
Ayala does community service with Terry Scholars. She said that one of the most rewarding experiences for her was helping victims affected by Texas wildfires.
“I speak for many scholars when I say that the most meaningful service project I participated in was when we went to Bastrop, Texas to help out with the wildfire relief,” Ayala said.
“What I learned from my volunteer work was that people who have been through devastation need, more than anything else, someone to tell their story to. They carry an emotional burden that can be alleviated by someone who is compassionate enough to lend a listening ear.”
AIESEC, a student organization for global leadership and internships, is collecting gently used winter coats and blankets to be donated to the homeless during the approaching cold months.
“As humans, we have a necessity to help others,” said biology junior and AIESEC member Alex Bui.
“During the holidays, we reflect on the things we have and cherish the people in our lives. At the same time, we realize that some people don’t have that luxury, and so we, as humans, have a necessity to share compassion with others.”
Print journalism junior and vice president of the Terry Scholars Natalie Harms is motivated to engage in community service to bring hope into the lives of others.
“For us, it is a mere four hours out of our weekend, but to them, it makes a world of a difference,” Harms said.
While December is conducive to many for volunteering, most student organizations aim to make charitable work in the community a commitment throughout the year.
“Although I feel that it is especially necessary to give back to the community during the holidays, we really should give back year-round,” Hang said.
“The holidays last for only a couple of months out of the entire year, yet there will always be families struggling to get by.”