Each year, Ayusa’s Community Service Contest has countless entries from students making a lasting impact in their host communities. And this year was no exception! With nearly 3000 hours of service completed, these students have given back to the communities who have welcomed them.
This year’s winners of the contest are Charlotte, from France living in Pennsylvania, Targiv, from Bangladesh living in Texas, and Houcine, from Tunisia living in Florida.
Charlotte has always had a love of horses. Her Ayusa Community Representative, Doris Junga, always encourages her students to “think outside the box and use what knowledge or talents they already have to come up with community service ideas.” Charlotte did just that. She volunteers at Leg Up Farm, which helps children with special needs through horse therapy. Children interact with the horses, with supervision of people like Charlotte, to learn different skills. Charlotte has always had a love of horses and was happy to find that she can work with them as well as do something good for her community. Charlotte shared that at first she “was afraid of working with challenged kids, because I had never done that before in my life, and I did not know their needs.” However, volunteering has made her more confident. “I feel now more confident to take care of kids, I learnt a lot about myself, about my own behavior and I worked a lot about my tendency not to be patient.” The Volunteer Coordinator at Leg Up Farm shared that Charlotte “has helped brighten kids days as well as helped keep out horses happy and healthy.”
Targiv has volunteered in a variety of ways in his host community, including tutoring classmates, fundraising, helping clean the community, serving at local churches, helping the less fortunate, and working with children. His favorite service project was serving with “Circle of Friends,” a club at his school that fosters inclusion, understanding, and acceptance for students with disabilities on campus. Targiv shared, “I’ve spent numerous hours with the children with special needs and it’s really hard to describe the special moments I had with the kids and it was an honor to be able to help them.” Targiv says that volunteering has given him “perspective” and “has changed my way of thinking and the way I look at the world.” One special person that left an impact on Targiv was Sergio, “an average teenager with Asperger’s.” “The tolerance for autism in today’s society is very low. Sergio has taught me while I tried to teach him...He is one of my closest friends and I believe autism is not his issue but his superpower.”
Houcine shares that his volunteer experience in many ways “saved his [exchange] experience.” After having some problems after he first arrived, he began volunteering: “Volunteering was my only way to stand against depression and homesickness. I’ve always loved people and wanted to help them but never has as many opportunities.” Houcine volunteered for numerous service projects, including working with children, serving at his church, volunteering at the local Bubble run, helping design and construct a theater stage, and fundraising. His experience volunteering here in the U.S. has inspired him to bring it back home. “Community service made a change in me forever and I’d love to spread this mentality in Tunisia.”
We want to give a big thank you to all of our exchange students who participated! They are all wonderful ambassadors for their country and are leaving a great impact on their host community.