For the 2006-2007 Annual Community Service Contest, we received dozens of entries from Ayusa students volunteering in their host communities around the United States. Students worked on service projects ranging from working with the elderly, fundraising for important causes, serving meals to the homeless, planting trees, helping to build houses with Habitat for Humanity, and more!
Three winners were chosen to participate in a weekend trip to San Francisco which took place at the end of March. Among other things, the winners were selected based on the commitment they have shown to volunteerism, the impact they have made on their communities, and how they have grown as individuals based on their experiences in performing service.
The contest winners (Dragana, Rebekka, and Aizat) at San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge
Ayusa would like to thank everyone who participated in community service this year and congratulate this year's winners:
Rebekka Bellmann (CBYX-Germany; North Carolina)
Rebekka has volunteered at weekly events with her local church's youth group, Acteens. Through this group Rebekka helped create gift baskets of home-baked cookies and other presents to bring to sick church members in the community who are not able to attend church. Rebekka described what she learned through her involvement with this project: "The visitations opened my eyes about new ways to serve people because I realized how hard it is for some of the people, and that being visited by younger persons means a lot to them. Everyone needs to know that there are people who care about him or her, and I believe that a smile and nice gestures, as small as they may seem, can help people feel better. I realized that I can make a difference by taking action, that I can overcome difficulties and even be an example for others."
Dragana Stojkovic (Montenegro; Florida)
Dragana gave her time to a variety of service projects this year, including helping at a local domestic violence shelter and working with an anti-AIDS/HIV organization, a cause that she was previously involved with in Montenegro. Dragana's involvement with AIDS awareness has encouraged her to continue to work for this cause in the future. She says, "I'm planning to volunteer during my adult life not only because I'm helping people out but because I feel it's my obligation to give back to my community."
Dragana (right) at a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society
Aizat Jakybalieva (FLEX-Kyrgyzstan; Texas)
Aizat had been involved in volunteer work in Kyrgyzstan and was therefore looking forward to performing community service while studying in the U.S. this year. Within just a few weeks upon her arrival, Aizat started volunteering every day after school with a local nursing center and rehabilitation facility. She has already performed over 400 hours worth of service working with the elderly residents there-doing room visits, reading books, playing games, and just sharing stories. Of her experience in working with the residents at the nursing center, Aizat said, "These people are special to me and they have their own world, and during this time of being a volunteer there I became a part of their world. My volunteer work gives me an opportunity to change people's lives including my own. It provides me with a sense of responsibility because people really depend on me. It helps me to develop a new understanding of people who are different from me, people with disabilities, sick kids, or the elderly. Volunteering helps me feel that I am making a difference-that I have the power to change things for the better."
Aizat with one of the nursing center residents
Thanks to everyone who participated in community service this year-you have helped make the world a better place!