Typically, if I heard that over 1,000 teenagers took the time to volunteer in underserved communities, my faith in humanity would be restored. That was not the case, however, as last weekend Andover students once again took part in the annual and mandatory Non Sibi Day that consisted of various volunteering programs. While a day devoted to being “not for self” sounds amazing, the fact that Andover forces its students to participate is contradictory to the very purpose of volunteerism. Instead, volunteering should be exactly what it sounds like: voluntary.
I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon, which I spent in Lowell, Mass., helping organize a warehouse packed with donations and goods sponsored by The Wish Project. But I still believe that mandatory community service removes the true value of helping those in need.
As Non Sibi Day approached, I heard a few students commenting that they only wanted to partake in the activities to avoid getting unexcused absences on their transcripts. This was extremely disheartening to me as a Junior. Statements such as these make me wonder if we participate in Non Sibi Day because we actually enjoy the programing offered, or because we fear unexcused absences. The idea behind Non Sibi Day is important, and we must recognize that serving the community is a long and complicated process. We cannot reduce the complexities of community service to a one-day event and expect that students will be forever-changed people after a few hours of mandatory work. Students should, instead, develop a love for helping others on their own terms.
Instead of only devoting one day every school year to helping improve nearby communities, I suggest that more time for community service on a regular basis be implemented in the new schedules. For example, more time slots could be allotted for Praxis or other community service programs to allow students to fit volunteer opportunities more seamlessly into their daily schedules. Perhaps we could also offer bi-weekly or monthly trips off campus for community service projects in the Boston area.
Even though the spirits of Non Sibi Day and of volunteering are noble and respectable to spread throughout campus, we nonetheless should not require students to participate in work that is supposed to be voluntary. I think that Non Sibi Day attempts to artificially foster the joy of helping those in need. The act of volunteering should not be forced upon students, nor should it be packed into a single day. If Andover truly wants to be Non Sibi, we should learn the importance of this value on our own volition, not only when asked.
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