PA Community Worldwide Joins In Non Sibi Day

Over 2,000 members of the Phillips Academy community participated in community service projects in the first Non Sibi Day. This Saturday designated for community service was intended to connect to alumni, welcome new students and help returning students work with each other, according to West Quad North Cluster Dean Chad Green, who organized many of the projects. Non Sibi Day was designed to “bring the Andover family together under the umbrella of a day of service in both the world and our own community,” said Mr. Green. “It wasn’t about the money [from alumni donations]. This was a chance for them to give their time to their community rather than a check,” he said. Students, faculty, alumni and others affiliated with Phillips Academy worked on projects that ranged from making sundaes with the elderly to planting crops on an organic farm. On campus and around the Andover area, students completed tasks such as serving meals to the hungry and cleaning up rivers and parks. Around the world, Andover families worked in their own communities in North and South America as well as Europe, Asia and Africa. Group and individual projects were completed in 14 countries, as well as 27 states. While the purpose of Non Sibi Day was to engage in community service, some students felt that to require participation was not the way to inspire volunteerism. Some students also felt that it was contradictory to the purpose of community service that participation was required of all students. Tiffany Li ’09 wrote in an email, “Why have mandatory one-day service when so many PA students voluntarily commit to long-term service?,” Li wrote that, for some projects, even though they worked out logistically, “there was no feeling of accomplishment or contribution at the end.” However, Associate Director of Alumni Affairs Jenny Savino believed that it was critical to make Non Sibi Day mandatory. She said, “PA students are very busy, so by making [Non Sibi Day] required, we got everybody there.” She added that it is not always easy to fit community service into Phillips Academy students’ schedules. Some students, such as Abbot Blue Key Head Maggie LeMaitre ’08, had a positive experience. “I think that we all had a great time and really made a difference,” LeMaitre said. Many students enjoyed getting off campus and working for their community. Amanda Shpeigler ’09 said, “If we actually are ‘non sibi’ instead of just promoting it and saying that we are, then it is so much more meaningful.” Oliver Bloom ’08 said that “contributing to the community and getting Andover students out of their own little world to appreciate the world they live in…and how lucky they are to live [the way] they do is vitally important to our education.” However, he said that he questioned the manner in which the school conducted the day, especially in terms of the publicity the school received for the event. Both Green and Savino maintained that the publicity was a consequence, not a purpose, of the day. Green said, “We very purposely did not go after publicity, though the opportunity presented itself. When it came to the press, we chose to be reactive rather than proactive.” While the idea of global service is not new to the PA community, the concept of Non Sibi Day was born about four or five years ago, when Instructor in Math Paul Murphy inspired Green by mentioning an alumni community service day being conducted by Murphy’s alma mater, Bates College. Green spoke with then-Director of Alumni Affairs Reverend Michael Ebner about the concept, and both decided to organize a community service day for the Phillips Academmy community. It wasn’t until the Spring 2006, when their idea was brought up at the Alumni Council, that Green and Ebner realized how much enthusiasm and support they would receive from Phillips Academy alumni. By Fall 2007, project planning was fully launched, with Green and Ebner spearheading the effort alongside Savino. Ebner hoped that Non Sibi Day has inspired students beyond one day of service. He said, “[Non Sibi] is less about a day of service and more about a life of service. It is not just about selfless giving; it is about selfless living.”