WHEN Julia Hill, nicknamed “Butterfly”, climbed an endangered redwood tree named Luna in northern California in 1997, the 23-year-old environmentalist vowed she wouldn’t come down until its preservation was guaranteed.
She ended up living 55m above the ground for more than two years. From atop the 1,000-year-old tree, Hill endured hunger pangs, helicopter intrusions and violent storms. But when she finally climbed down, she had managed to save not only the tree, but also the surrounding hillside.
Malaysian students itching to contribute to society don’t have to live on tree-tops, but their gestures will mean a lot.
“In these difficult times, a local community project is one area in which we can demonstrate care to members of our community. We believe it’s a small beginning which can lead to bigger and greater things, and as such, we hope that students will take this opportunity to make a positive difference,” says Lilac Ong, head of Prepaid Marketing at Maxis, the organiser of the Hotlink Nationwide Student Community Service Competition.
Community service should be a way of life, says Help Institute’s Centre for Psychology director Dr Goh Chee Leong. “It’s an attitude – you see someone who needs help and you help. This attitude has to be cultivated from a young age.”
More importantly, he adds, one has to persevere if one is to attain success. “All the heroes in the world experienced obstacles to their dreams before they succeeded; but the challenge makes it worthwhile. No one in the history of the world who ever said they wanted to help somebody has failed, but many people who wanted to be billionaires have failed.”
Students interested in helping the community should not easily lose heart and give up when things do not go their way, advises Dr Goh, who will be the main speaker at a community service workshop aimed at giving useful tips to students interested in taking part in the competition.
The good thing about this community service competition is that it helps instil selflessness in students, says Dr Goh.
Open to all secondary school students aged 13 to 18 years old, the contest calls for ideas on projects that can benefit their school or community. The winning team gets RM10,000 to implement its project, and RM5,000 for itself.
“All you have to do is to look around you and identify the issues and problems in your community that you can do something about. Ask people what they need. Maybe there are students who need tuition, or can’t afford textbooks and reference books,” Dr Goh suggests.
Students need to be proactive to help make their world a better place, he adds.
“Even if they can’t save the world, they can do a few things to make an impact on people’s lives. Start small, don’t start with something too ambitious. Start with your family or school.”
For those who think they’re too young to be of service to the community, Dr Goh says: “Mother Teresa was only 17 when she started out. She was a kid when she decided to take up the squatters’ cause in Calcutta, India.”
Now that the contest deadline has been extended to May 13, students who want to make a positive difference in their school and community have more time to develop their project ideas and submit their proposals.
“Read or talk to local non-profit organisations, then get together with a few friends and start planning how to implement the project,” says Dr Goh.
Students interested in taking part in the contest are encouraged to attend the workshop on community service that will be held on April 26 at Menara Star in Petaling Jaya.
They will have all their questions answered and get tips on writing the project and budget proposals.
Other panellists in the workshop will speak on social, environmental and safety issues.
Participation is free. For details or registration, call 03-7967 1388 ext 1009.
For more information on the competition, visit the website at www.hotlink.com.my