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In a recent reflection, we were asked to think about what constitutes “good service”. There were a few disagreeing answers, some more critical of what good service ought to do, but at the end of it all, we decided it was ultimately up to the organization being served to decide if it was helped in the way that it wanted to be. Yet, that still doesn’t feel like enough–good service isn’t just getting the task done, but it’s getting it done in a fashion that is substantial to the organization. It is a difficult line to define, but doing so has made me think more about what I have done in the past few weeks here in the UK, and even more so over the entirety of my DukeEngage experience.

For most of my time, I’ve had a nagging feeling that I wasn’t doing good service. Not because I didn’t want to–but because of the limitations I felt within my placement. My work at Team Durham largely revolved around assisting the different sessions they had set for us, whether it be socializing with people with learning disabilities, helping carry out rowing boats, or watching after the children during holiday camps. It felt like there was only so much I could do to help in these sort of situations, attempting to make it easier on the supervisor in charge or telling our clients anything and everything they wanted to know about America. In total honesty, it felt that my presence wasn’t needed. We took time from our supervisors to ask them how to get around the facilities or have them explain the next activity that everyone else but ourselves already knew. Yet–we did the best that we could to do “good service” in these positions, and through my definition of the term, I do believe we did. Us doing whatever work we could relieved our supervisors of some of their smaller tasks so they could catch up on other work, or our presence excited clients because we were from the US. Our greatest tangible impact was creating four videos for the organization, promoting their holiday and rowing camps as well as the NCFE Certification they rewarded to volunteers. We knew that making those videos saved time for those in Team Durham, but it is difficult to feel like we did much more than that.

So why am I writing all of this in criticism of my time here? Because I still believe there is something to be learned from it. On a personal level, it taught me to open my heart larger for the different population we worked with (those with learning disabilities, visual impairments, recovering from drug/alcohol addictions, and children). These were the people who made up statistics I’ve read about before–real life examples with real life ambitions, personalities, and experiences to share. This experience also taught me about initiative. For my work here, it wasn’t enough to simply do what we were told. I wanted, and tried to, keep asking, “how can I help?” and “what would you like me to do?”. Once I took these steps, I knew there would be more for me to do and more of an impact I could make even if the difference was slight. Moving forward, I will take these lessons with me and carry them throughout the way I consider performing other “good service”, and whom that service is for.