Name: Ellias El Hamzaoui
From: Boston, Ma
School: Northeastern University
a Silly Name for an Orphanage
What does Dharmarajika even mean? Was my initial thought as my service
group walked through the rusty, dilapidated, barely standing gates of
the oddly named orphanage housed within a Buddhist monastery.
The juxtaposition of the orphanage against the city of Dhaka was
incredible. While the latter was host to interesting smells, traffic
jams that make L.A. look calm, and the highest population density in
the world, the orphanage offered a picture of serenity amidst the
blood-pressure-raising environment of Dhaka. Kids were playing with
squadrons of stray dogs, kicking around soccer balls, and some were
even splashing in a man-made lake, albeit quite dirty, a lake
nonetheless. The environment almost made me forget how little I
wanted to be there and how I was “voluntold” into spending 4
hours a day there every other Saturday for the entire school year.
Every other Saturday I begrudgingly mounted the bus to go teach English,
the whole time just counting the hours until I could get back to my
Xbox, after all, I deserved that after the invaluable free service I
was giving those orphans.
He asked me a question, taken aback, I had no answer. His name was
Salman and I asked him to repeat himself. He asked me why I was
teaching him English when I was the country’s guest and should
instead be learning from them. I realized at that moment, that my
“service” up until then had been selfish.
It is easy to assume we know best and that it is our duty to “educate”
and help people in the way that we see fit, our way, but I realized
how incorrect that was. After that day I would spend service days
learning Bangla from Salman while I helped him with his English, both
of us engaged in a symbiotic relationship which I discovered to be
the true definition of service.
I never did learn Salman’s last name which I now see as a very
fitting coincidence. His anonymity illustrates the unintentional
plight of service where we would rather mass produce “learning”
for that sense of accomplishment, instead of creating more dynamic
relationships that have profound and lasting effects.
For a generation whose biggest concern is their next selfie, narcissism
and selfishness is almost in our nature and we need to take a step
back and ponder whether our “service” is truly beneficial or
simply egotistically satisfying. Educational service should not be
about telling, it should be about listening, which is a combination
of hearing and actually caring.
Returning in 20 years, I would hope to see an environment where more intimate
acts of caring have created a service mentality based on intimacy
over quantity. Service of this nature is the only “forward
looking” service there is I believe, as creating relationships will
always produce stronger ties than simply talking at, telling to, and
remaining ignorant to the real wants of the very people we’re
trying to help.