by Paula Peters
A number of years ago, I was asked “What do you consider success to be?” After pondering for sometime, I responded, “ I will have succeeded if my children leave the world a better place than they found it.” And so over the years, I’ve tried to impress upon my kids the importance of being productive members of a global society.
To some extent I’ve been successful. My children have been exposed to a number of experiences through travel and community service. We have dinner conversations around privilege, carbon footprint, and integrity. But even though my children have both had volunteer experiences, these experiences have rarely gone beyond the traditional “charity” framework. Rarely have they been pushed to become sensitive to the nature and needs of other cultural groups.
For my son Jannick, the Necessary Arts experience in Nairobi was a turning point. Before he joined Necessary Arts - Reach the Unreachable Nairobi project, his reflection was shaped by the expectations of others. Even though he had had many deeply engaging service opportunities before, he sometimes struggled with making meaning to since many of those experiences were not authentic or organic in nature. He had been able to sympathize with the suffering of others but he often actually compared himself with other youngsters or asked, “ How would this experience shape me had this been my life’s story?”
After joining Necessary Arts Team in Kenya Jannick is better able to engage with social issues outside his immediate experiences and to feel an obligation to help make a difference.
After sharing tea with George, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, writing poetry with Valarie, a Massai teenager who was also 16 and interviewing boys and girls of JEHO, Jannick now has the capacity to imagine someone else's point of view and the desire to establish and maintain supportive relationships with such individuals. He is better able to embrace life lessons, and understand how certain unspoken perspectives, dispositions, and behaviors sometimes reinforce
how we view others and ourselves.