Yesterday was my university’s Make A Difference Day program; a day in which more than 1,000 students go out into the surrounding community to volunteer in several different capacities. Last year the program made an economic impact of $82,000 with 1,100 students volunteering. This year, more students volunteered, meaning the economic impact will be even greater! I am proud to say that this year I was able to serve as a Project Leader! The project I chose to lead was a clean-up, but it wasn’t your regular clean-up! The clean-up that my team participated in was for an elementary school’s rain garden and central courtyard. This was especially educational for me as I had recently learned about rain gardens in my Applications of Sustainability class. It just so happened that the rain garden is hugely supported by the Beaver Water District (the water district that the university and elementary school are in), who also recently spoke with my class. A rain garden is a natural way to control runoff water. It uses plants which absorb excess water, and soil without a liner in order to hold excess water for several hours. Rain gardens help to prevent erosion, flooding of water sewer drains, and pollution caused by the water picking up contaminants as it travels down hill.
One of the major aspects of volunteering that I absolutely LOVE is the fact that when I’m giving back, I learn SO MUCH! I learn from the actual labor that needs to be done, from the volunteers that work by my side, and from the people I end up helping. I was so excited about learning to use a pitchfork that I had to call my grandfather, who has been a farmer for the majority of his life, and tell him about it. Even though I come from a lineage of farming folks, my generation didn’t learn much about the maintenance and “growing plants” side of it. I can pick green, peas, pintos and corn, I can hull and shuck, I can cook some mean black eyed peas, and I even learned how to drive a tractor when I was 10! But I do not, I repeat, DO NOT, have a green thumb. I also learned about rain gardens – the purpose they serve, how they work, and how to maintain them. Specifically, I learned about clearing out the weeds and mulching. I also learned from the PTO organizer that, because the school is diverse in several aspects, including that of family income level, there are a lot of parents who aren’t able to help out around the school. Even though the kids may not notice what we did, we made a big difference for them. We helped prevent mud in their play areas by covering loose sand with mulch; we improved their rain garden which they learn from in their science club and science class; and we also helped the community at large because the elementary’s rain garden serves as a tool to teach others about the benefits of incorporating a rain garden on their property.
The most amazing part, as always, is when someone asks “why are you doing this?” The PTO organizer’s son wanted to know if we had to do this for some specific reason, and we all said, with smiles on our face, that we did it just because we want to help. This scenario reminds me of a bible verse that I hear during every communion, and gives it so much meaning.
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 (New International Version)
With that being said, check out some photos from the awesome U of A ladies and Elementary school PTO members that lent a helping hand!
Our Make A Difference Day was fun, educational, and a success! I hope that you, too, are making a difference in your community by giving back and lifting others up!
Until next time, Ci Vediamo!!!