The purpose of Global Youth Service Day (April 17-19, 2015) is to celebrate and mobilize the millions of young people who improve their communities through service. NSLI-Y students fully engage in the service spirit in order to give back to their host communities abroad.In Taiwan, NSLI-Y students participated in a community service activity in rural Cishang Township, Taitung. There, at a Cishang community center, the students had a chance to paint and eat lunch with a group of senior citizen women, whose ages ranged from seventy all the way to ninety.
Prior to this, the NSLI-Y students had had several opportunities to experience Taiwanese culture’s traditional emphasis on respect and reverence towards the elderly. Yet it was during this activity in Taitung that the students felt the deepest connection with and made the greatest impact on the senior citizens, with whom they spent the afternoon.
Each student was paired with a senior resident, or a mah, meaning “grandmother” in Taiwanese, and each student/a mah pair were given a painting done in traditional Chinese brush style. The students and a mahs then copied their paintings, with the a mahs enthusiastically helping and guiding the students. When the pairs were finished, they signed and then exchanged their paintings; many of the a mahs proudly showed their NSLI-Y student partners their art portfolios. By painting together, the NSLI-Y students gave the a mahs a new, special connection to the world outside their small township; and by teaching the NSLI-Y students how to paint in their culture’s traditional style, the a mahs were reminded that they still had much value and much to contribute to the world.
[The NSLI-Y students and a mahs sing “The Moon Represents My Heart” together.]
For several of the NSLI-Y students, spending time with the Cishang a mahs was one of the highlights of their entire Taiwan experience. “I was so touched,” said Haleigh, “and I’m so grateful I was able to touch their lives, too.”
On April 7, NSLI-Y Russian Language Program participants studying at Narva College in Narva, Estonia took part in “America Days,” an event organized by the U.S. Embassy in the city of Rakvere, Estonia. In coordination with the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Army soldiers and Marines, NSLI-Y students volunteered around the city and shared American culture with residents of Rakvere. NSLI-Y participants volunteered in three different ways. Several spoke to local high school students about the American higher education system and admissions process from the point of view of applicants. Another group of participants volunteered at the city’s animal shelter. A third group worked with U.S. servicemen and women to clean up a forested area in Rakvere. There were many highlights during this day of service. Students enjoyed interacting with Embassy staff and servicemen and women. They also enjoyed speaking with Estonian peers, using their Russian language skills, and seeing the sites of the city of Rakvere. Participants look forward to future opportunities to participate in such service-learning projects.
In Korea, NSLI-Y students took part in GYSD by introducing American holidays, group dances, and children’s games to children at the Mapo Youth Center in Seoul. This activity was especially meaningful because the students had prepared their scripts entirely in Korean and spoke only in Korean when they were talking to the children.
[Elianna and Emily explain the rules to playing “Hand Slap.”]
Miranda (NSLI-Y Korea, Academic Year 2014 – 2015) says:
“The day began with a Powerpoint presentation about American Holidays, after which NSLI-Yans asked the children questions and rewarded correct answers with candy. Next, a group of NSLI-Yans taught the children dances that are very popular in America, including the Macarena and the Cha Cha Slide. At first, many of the children seemed lost and struggled to follow the dance moves, but after several practice runs everyone was dancing and having a blast. After dancing, everyone ate pizza together and then it was finally time for the highlight of the day: playing American style games. Outside the youth center, NSLI-Y students set up four stations to teach the children four very popular American games, including Hand Slap, Duck Duck Goose, Sharks and Minnows, and Simon Says. Then after, everyone had the chance to learn and play at each station the day ended with a huge game of Freeze Tag in which everyone participated.”