Community Service vs. Service-Learning

By: Jill Salvucci

I have grown up being taught to give back to my community in whatever way I can. Whether it was working at my local food bank, hanging out with the kids at the boys and girls club, or helping organize the Christmas presents for the families of the home for little wonderers. Whenever I participated in these community service projects I felt nothing but welcomed. I received praise from every supervisor that I met. They would tell me how great I was for spending my Saturday packaging food rather than go hangout with my friends. Before coming to Pine Ridge, I found that kind of service work rewarding. I enjoyed getting the praise because I felt my work deserved it. I was taking my time to help the less fortunate, what could be better than that?

This week I have learned what could be better. I began my service-learning. Until beginning this week, I had never been exposed to the living conditions of the people that I was serving. I never actually knew anything about them, all I knew is they needed the can of soup I was putting into the box. However, here on the reservation I am experiencing the culture and learning from the people I am serving. It’s a two way street. I may not fully understand why things are they way they are but from the help of the speakers, advisors, and the locals I can start to draw some conclusions. Its more rewarding to know what it is I am doing and why.

The why is so important. In community service you get about a five minute briefing that does not even scratch the surface of the why then you begin your work. How can one truly serve one another if they don’t wonder why?

From now on I will see service as a two way street. For me to serve the people and for them to teach my about who they are.


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