The idea of public service that most people have in Washington, D.C. relates to the government. However, there are multiple ways to perform public service. One way is through actual service and volunteering.
This summer, I am in D.C. on a program through Ohio State with 35 other students. We have had lots of incredible opportunities outside of our internships to explore and connect to the area. Two of those opportunities have been through local service projects.
One beautiful Friday morning, we went to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to do some maintenance (and have some fun). Once I exchanged my Birkenstocks for a chic pair of waders, it wasn’t long until I was knee-deep in mud and waist deep-in water. Although we were equipped with all the necessary gear, it wasn’t easy. We spent a lot of the time physically pulling each other out of the mud.
Our group was tasked with digging up weeds that had begun to invade a pond of water lilies. While we were provided shovels, many of us (myself not included) opted to just reach through the water and into the thick mud to pull the weeds out by hand. We had an awesome time getting a little dirty to clean up a local national park.
Hairnet, apron, wash hands, gloves. That’s the standard procedure to get ready for a Saturday morning volunteering at D.C. Central Kitchen. This community kitchen provides 3 million meals yearly to those who need them! My team was cooking chicken and packing up the meals. The environment and the kitchen staff were great and made for an especially rewarding morning. Even the vegetarians of the group were happy to help. Also, although we were a huge group, there were still more volunteers that morning.
I have volunteered in similar kitchens at home, but it was a whole new experience to give back to the place that feels like my new home. Interning and living in Washington, D.C. this summer has been an incredibly enriching experience and it feels just as satisfying to contribute to the greater good around us.
A huge part of living in D.C. is the constant, busy focus on politics and trying to keep up with what is happening at any given time, so this was a humbling break. Real public service in the form of volunteering is a great way to give back to the community that gives us so much while we are here!