To serve is to be kind. To serve is to be generous. To serve is to be thoughtful. To serve is to be compassionate. To serve is to be humble. To serve is to be great. To serve is to understand the essence of authentic leadership. Every country where I've been privileged to sojourn has taught me the value of service. Serving others through teaching, smiling, encouraging, helping, caring, writing, and volunteering. Community service has played a major role in my life since I was a youngster. My parents and pastors modeled the behavior for pouring into others by being a blessing in their [others'] lives and using one's inherent gifts to better human society.
Now that I'm older those childhood lessons have remained in me, becoming all the more important as I age and understand how much the world needs people to serve; and to do so with pure and honest intentions with no expectation of outward compensation. Thus, it is my desire to be a servant leader because the best leaders know that they have been commissioned to a higher purpose. They are placed in their positions for the greater good of humankind, not for their own glory or benefit. My opportunity to engage in service has materialized this time in Bangkok, Thailand, my second home for the past 13 months.
As I wanted to do something meaningful for Christmas but not knowing how, a friend told me about the Mercy Centre (MC) located in Bangkok's largest slum district. The community center founded by a Catholic priest some 40+ years ago welcomes abandoned children and teens, those affected with HIV, and older women who have trouble remaining employed. Its outreach also extends to the sea gypsies (situated throughout the surrounding islands of Thailand) who lack education, resources and the life skills to become self-sufficient.
Although I didn't get the chance to visit the MC for the holidays, it was my New Year priority to commit to service learning. I ventured to the MC in late January to see about how I could get a group project going on behalf of Student Council at my graduate school. Walking the busy vicinity, fixed on the other side of the railroad tracks, I stopped to ask for directions by friendly locals who pointed me to my destination. The volunteer coordinator greeted me graciously, inquisitive about my intentions to help out where needed.
Once I completed my multi-page volunteer application, I went on a tour of the premises, learning about the history of the Human Development Foundation (HDF), its community outreach programs and the various sponsors that have enabled it to thrive as an NGO. I observed the women at their sewing machines making dresses and blouses, young learners running merrily through the courtyard, and then admired the stunning artwork created by the children of MC. Their original creations are available for sale in the souvenir shop.
My enjoyable tour of the facility ended with the coordinator showing me the classroom and canteen area where the children are physically and mentally nourished each day. They have a special need for morning English instructors, a task most feasible for me. I informed my nice host that I would recruit a group of volunteers so we could come back to get involved. A man of my word, I made a second trip to the MC with my graduate cohorts the day before yesterday. It was their turn to get a taste of what I had encountered the first time.
They, too, experienced the same fascination that initially struck a chord with me. The ideas for fundraising, word-of-mouth marketing, and a commitment to serving the community could not be concealed. After spending an hour there, we left the MC feeling empowered and inspired to make a difference, using our valuable education to impact a generation. And I certainly expect to do just that because as a great friend by the name of Mrs. Cynthia Henry told me "[to] give your all to something you fully trust."
*Enjoy the photos of our recent visit to the Mercy Centre in Klong Toey, Bangkok
Visit the Mercy Centre's website @ www.mercycentre.org