The holiday season is upon us. People are preparing for the smell of roasted turkey and all the trimmings. This means the season of giving is also upon us, when many volunteers will take to food banks and shelters to feed the hungry on this day dedicated to being thankful.
Social Media is typically flooded with images of volunteers being helpful and getting praised for their work. But what if these volunteers only helped for the praise and not to serve others?
Volunteering is no stranger to the University of Tennessee community. However, how can you be sure you are volunteering for the right reason? Are you volunteering just to help others or is there another reason?
TEDxUTK provided the answers to these questions and more as they hosted their last salon of the semester, “Serving with Intention, Not for Attention.”
UT student-led, TEDxUTK is an independent of the larger TED talks. TEDxUTK is designed to reach further and create greater impacts and share, ‘ideas worth spreading.’ TED stands for technology, entertainment and design, and the talks cover a variety of topics.
Serving with Intention Not for Attention was their last salon event of the fall semester. The purpose was to educate UT students and the community on the importance of serving for the right reasons. The salon featured two student leaders who gave presentations on their service experience as well as how to serve the right way.
Serving With Intention
Carine Cheney is a student leader with the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity. APO is a co-ed organization dedicated to serving the community and building friendships.
Cheney talked on her experience with the fraternity and highlighted the importance of serving with good intentions.
However, she also mentions that intentions are not enough. One has to follow through to be successful and make an impact in their service work.
She mentioned that she, like many, only did the minimum amount of volunteer work to earn credits and her heart was not in it. She emphasized that serving with the heart is a big part of service.
“You could have good intentions by making a plan to go volunteer but for me, I think it’s one step further and it’s making that plan and making sure that your heart is really in it too,” Cheney said.
She also highlighted that service can help students grow in knowledge.
“Serving has really showed me knowledge that’s applicable in the real world and through experiences and meeting people,” Cheney said.
Cheney also urges students to serve in an area of the subject that they enjoy. Service that is enjoyable is more impactful for the server and the service.
Not for Attention
UT junior Taylor Dempsey is a co-founder of Students for Migrant Justice. Dempsy has a long history of service that started back in Memphis during high school with the Refugee Empowerment Program. Dempsey continues to serve the immigrant community through SMJ and VOlbreaks.
VOlbreaks are service-learning trips to different cities across the country. Students learn new information about communities while furthering their service experiences.
Dempsey spoke a lot about bad service and what it entails. She mentioned that while some people have good intentions going into service opportunities, they can still fall short of completing the service. This is the difference between intent and impact.
Dempsey also emphasized the importance of power imbalances in service opportunities. Often times volunteers will find themselves serving communities of a different race. She highlights the importance of understanding the need to recognize and mitigate power imbalances.
“For example at REP I knew I wasn’t a refugee but I didn’t know why that was important. I didn’t know why it was important that instead, I was a white U.S born citizen and I didn’t understand how that changed and altered all of my interactions with that community,” Dempsey said. “It shaped my perception of them [and] their perception of me.”
Dempsey also instructed students to learn, listen and reflect when serving. Learn about the community that you are serving, listen to what others are telling you to do and think about the impact that that made.
After Cheney and Dempsey concluded their presentations participants split into breakout rooms to reflect on the salon.
Edited by Ryan Sylvia and Christian Knox
Featured photos courtesy of TEDxUTK Facebook.