NHC Philadelphia member Kemi Balogun reflects on how her love and understanding of service has grown and matured throughout her service term.
I remember sitting in the Wake Forest University library during spring of my senior year, daydreaming about my next adventure as I put the finishing touches on my National Health Corps application. One of the questions asked of perspective NHC members was this: “Why do you serve?” I answered something along the lines of: “I serve because it is my civic duty. I serve for the sake of humanity.” It was a pretty answer but I wouldn’t come to truly understand its meaning until months later.
In the last ten months, I’ve served close to 1,700 hours, met hundreds of people, and heard an even greater number of stories along the way. During this time I’ve come to understand just how crucial the services offered by community organizations are to the wellbeing of our neighbors. Organizations like Grace Café and Bartram’s Garden simply cannot carry out their mission without the help of volunteers. By offering up our time, energy, knowledge and skills, we keep the engine going. We make it possible to feed 250 food-insecure patrons every Sunday night at Arch Street Methodist Church. We make it possible to grow and harvest fresh organic produce to be sold at an affordable price to residents of Southwest Philadelphia. Without this sort of service, there would undoubtedly be gaps in our network of community resources.
I’ve always enjoyed participating in community service but this year's experience has taken my love and appreciation to greater heights. Serving day in and day out the way we do as NHC members, we get to know those we serve pretty well. Because of the close relationships we’ve been able to form, we feel and witness the impact of our services in a unique way. In a more personal way. In a way that sticks with you.
I believe we are all called to serve, whether it be on a large or small scale. It is our shared responsibility. Without service, communities would be disjointed and broken, never seeing their full potential, but with service, we join together to ensure the continued growth and development of our shared spaces. Service not only unites us, it also humbles us. It reminds us of our own humanity and the humanity of others which oftentimes reflects both vulnerability and strength. Whether or not we want to admit it, we are interdependent beings. Not one person can carry on through life’s journey without the help of a friend, a loved one, or even a stranger. To serve is to lean on as well as support one another. It is to partake in the enrichment of the community and ourselves! I have the National Health Corps to thank for this new understanding of and love for community service. I will without a doubt carry this with me from this point forth. Thank you NHC.
This blog post was written by NHC Philadelphia member Kemi Balogun.
Kemi serves as a Prenatal Patient Advcoate at Family Practice & Counseling Network - Health Annex.