Community Service: Not Your Average Goat Farm
Shared from a talk given at Middle and Upper School Assemblies this week by Lalith S.
Hope all of you are doing well. If you don’t know me, my name is Lalith, I am a senior and I also serve as Co-President of the Upper School Community Service Club here at Waterford. I am here to talk to you guys about a recent community service project we did on the outskirts of Salt Lake. As a basic general overview of the project, the club spent a morning cleaning up and managing a goat farm. Before I speak further, I would like to show you a video.
So you’re probably wondering by now… how is helping a goat farm community service? Well, the goat farm isn’t just a normal goat farm. It is a community-led goat farm that is working towards giving East African communities appropriate goat meat, youth education opportunities, and income-generating goat husbandry. Out of the 60,000 refugees that live in Utah, a large portion of that population is Somali. There are many reasons as to why Somali refugees flee their country. Ever since 1991, there has been an ongoing civil war, which has deprived Somali citizens of the privilege to live safely and freely. Not only is there an ongoing war, but food insecurity and famine are prevalent, making it difficult to raise children properly.
Although the United States has offered East African communities a safer home, cultural aspects that were once found in their home country are now difficult to practice. For example, 99 percent of Somalis are Muslim. One of the most necessary practices in Islam is the practice of Halal, which can only be done through dhabiha, the Islamic form of slaughtering animals for meat. Oftentimes, Halal meat from international markets is imported, expensive, and frozen making the quality unsatisfactory. With the help of the East African Goat Project, refugees pay a Muslim to perform proper slaughter practices which provide fresh goat meat to the refugee community given that transportation is minimized as well.
Additionally, raising goats is a vital part of East African culture. By having the opportunity to raise goats, while earning funds for the refugees’ educational funds, the East African Goat Project accurately simulates their cultural practices and lifestyles from their home country to the US.
I am so glad that the Community Service Club had an opportunity to really immerse ourselves into the true meaning of our work and dedication to the East African Goat project. It was truly enlightening to see so many of my peers educate themselves about the hardships of the refugee lifestyle and dedicate their time to eagerly contribute to the cause out of love for one’s community. Overall, we had a great time experiencing what it was like to maintain a goat farm. However, we had some hectic moments, for sure. I remember for the last twenty minutes or so, the manager of the organization started a countdown to make people shovel more hay into the goat farm.
He’d be reminding us each minute—telling us that we had “five or six minutes, left” — I looked around and I saw one volunteer panting because she had endured a whole cardio workout from all that shoveling. Another volunteer had been sore from the wheelbarrow steering job she had been assigned. Everybody was so tired by the end of it, but we all had this glimmer in our eyes.
You know, that glimmer could be tears of joy because we were promised that we would pet the cute goats after our service. But I like to think of that glimmer as a sign of connection. I have been in many clubs—trust me - but nothing has even come close to the familial tenderness I feel when I am beside my peers serving the community.
One common misconception of community service is that it’s mandatory and boring because you’re basically “working without pay”. Obviously, the fact that the club just went to a Goat Farm should change your mind. But if it doesn’t, I would like to leave you with an anecdote. Do you ever have that friend who makes you laugh just because they’re laughing? It could be because their laugh is funny or just because their laugh is contagious. This is what Community Service should be like for everyone. The contentment you see Ed ex in other people should infect you with joy. And I think it’s worth a shot to try and view it in this way during your next community service opportunity.
On that same note, the Community Service club will be making Welcome Cards for refugees this week. If you would like to come, meet at the foyer of the 600 building at lunch on Wednesday. We would be happy to have you join us.