Is mandatory service an oxymoron?
Filed under: observations, public health, social change | Tags: community service, public health, service, volunteering |
During the last week, I have worked on tweaking my project include more community involvement. While talking with my boss, one of the ideas that I proposed was working with students from the national university in La Plata through internship opportunities at the clinic. There is clearly an academic interest for a partnership between the university and the clinic as they are a variety of disciplines that could have something to contribute. The first concern that I had about such a partnership is the the university would compel students to participate as a requirement rather then an opportunity that they could pursue.
Mandatory community service has been brought to the forefront again due an emphasis in Barack Obama’s campaign platform. Obama’s proposed plan for national service includes expansion of well-known programs such as AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, promotion of service at the middle and high school level, and a requirement for 100 hours of service for college students. The plan also proposes one of the five new service corps, including a Health Corps to improve public health outreach.
As much as I have valued my own experiences from volunteering, I am cautious about making service a requirement for anything. People who have no interest in service can lack the connection to the people who they are meant to serve. Some research has suggested that broad service programs can actually have a negative impact on the community.
From my own experiences, I have never met anyone who regretted giving back even if it was a requirement. Getting out of your social circle can break up the monotony of navel gazing: What do I want to in life? Can I find something that has meaning? You can give a little of your time or a lot, perfect for those who want to test the waters. Volunteering may help you find your passion or get you closer to it. And most of all, you might change someone’s life and quite possibly your own. So don’t wait for someone to make you do it. Just do it!