Empowering Change
Exchange student from Indonesia holding a bag of litter she collected from the park

Contest winner

Our environment is not just a place where we live; it's where we breathe, dream, and thrive. Preserving it is not just a duty but a necessity for our collective well-being. During my transformative exchange year, I was fortunate to delve into the profound impact of volunteering on both the environment and communities. This journey not only broadened my perspective but also solidified my belief in the power of giving back.

On Global Youth Service Day, I decided to join in and help clean up a park. Even though the weather wasn't great, with clouds looming and rain coming and going, I didn't let that stop me. I grabbed my bike and some tools, like a trash can and gloves, and headed over to the park. When I got there, I saw families having fun outdoors, which was nice to see. But when I looked closer, I noticed a lot of trash scattered around: cigarette butts, bottles, Styrofoam, and even some plastic floating in the lake.

Picking up the trash, I felt like I was doing something really important. It made me realize that cleaning up isn't just about making things look nice; it's also about taking care of nature and helping people understand why it's so important to keep our environment clean. As I continued to pick up trash, my focus was on the task at hand, so I was surprised when several park visitors approached me to express their gratitude.

It was a humbling reminder of the impact even small acts of service can have on others and the importance of community support in driving positive change.

They thanked me for my efforts in cleaning up the park, noting how much cleaner and more enjoyable it looked already. Their words of appreciation caught me off guard, as I hadn't expected such immediate recognition for my actions. It was a humbling reminder of the impact even small acts of service can have on others and the importance of community support in driving positive change.

Despite the rain, I felt a sense of satisfaction and purpose. It wasn't just about cleaning up the park; it was about making a positive impact on my community and the world around me. As the rain started to ease off and the clouds began to part, I felt hopeful. I decided that I wanted to keep helping out in my community and spreading the word about taking care of our environment. Together, we can make a big change and make sure our planet stays healthy for a long time.

—Ariella (YES Indonesia), hosted by the Kohltfarber family (AR)