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How Service Becomes Self-Care

Posted by Alexandra Van Rijn on

Written by Alicia Yan 

Today is national Make a Difference Day and it is a way for people give back and go out and engage with the community through volunteer service. I have been heavily involved in community service ever since I began my college career by participating on a Summer Community OutReach Excursion (SCORE) which was a week-long pre-orientation trip for incoming first years to get to know more about the Walla Walla community and engage in service. I continued to lead a Spring Break Service Trip, become the co-intern in helping run the Spring Break Service Trips, and eventually become the Resident Assistant of the Community Service House for my second year as an RA. In my final year at Whitman, it has become clear how vital service is to my personal narrative, who I am, and what I want to do with my life.


Make a Difference Day was celebrated on October 21st this year on Whitman College’s campus. This is the second year I have been on the Community Service Intern team and helped to create this even and opportunity for others. We had about 60 people come out on a drizzly Saturday morning to participate in a range of projects from gardening, to breaking down construction materials, to blowing up balloons for a humane society event, to making food for a fall brunch at the YWCA.


A lot of self-care tips typically have to do with individual things like coloring, face masks, bubble baths, and meditating. Self-care can also be a social thing like getting coffee to catch up with a good friend. For me, those things do wonders a lot of the time, but some other times, I’m really looking for something else. This something else has to do with service, but most importantly engaging with the community surrounding me. It’s important to me to engage in a critical manner with the community and to make sure I’m educated about what exactly are the needs of the community I live in and what I can do effectively to help. Doing service blindly, without understanding the needs, or the issue at hand, is not the most meaningful work. After being able to create a sustainable relationship to the community through service helps me to see the bigger picture and lift my spirits.


I have also been awarded the Newman Civic Fellow honor this academic year. I work closely with a mentor from the community, Nikki Sharp, a family and child therapist at Comprehensive Healthcare in Walla Walla. I have developed a plan to implement an eating disorder support group on campus, since that is something I identified as lacking on our campus and is very relevant to my recovery process. Ultimately, I hope everyone can take one thing from this article and that is to potentially reach out to a trustworthy organization in your community and establish some sort of repeating opportunity to engage in community service and that can be part of your next self-care Sunday!


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