Every August at the University of Kentucky marks an event that has become synonymous with community service. UK Fusion, which stands for UK For Unity and Service In Our Neighborhood, is a large-scale service project that gives students the opportunity to volunteer for three hours at non-profit organizations around the Lexington area. Students, faculty and staff may serve at project sites that involve physical labor or interaction with the city's residents. Many sites, such as the Arboretum (a 100-acre garden in the heart of the city) and McConnell Springs (a historical preservation and wildlife site), are devoted to maintaining the flora around the area in such activities as planting flowers or preventing foreign predators like kudzu from dominating the local species. In one day alone, UK Fusion provides over 2,800 hours of service to the community -- the largest such project in the state. But is that enough?
We get so caught up in the novelty of the idea that we forget to think about the fact that our communities need care and maintenance all year round, and not for just one day. Projects like these are a wonderful addition to the university's agenda for the year, but for many students it falls short of the kind of volunteer impact they were forced to pad their college resumes with during their recent high school years.
During that time, students are taught that it isn't necessarily important that they gain something from the experience, merely that they be present for it. This kind of thinking will only engender the same, year after year, until we no longer care about the reciprocal nature of volunteering and the relationship will become decidedly one-sided. But isn't that already the way we engage in our relationship with the environment? We continue to take what we need in order to further our own ends but we refuse to view our world as anything but a treasure trove of resources -- something to be squandered without foresight of the consequences. Opportunities like Fusion should be taken to heart, or at the very least, processed in a way that encourages further like-minded activities in our everyday lives.
As a member of the university's Honors Living Learning Community, I have had personal experience interacting with students who wish to continue the spirit of Fusion during the other eleven months of the year. Yet many of them are frustrated at the lack of opportunity or wide publication of such community clean-up events or organizations. Thus, my question: is going green just a one-time thing?
In a world preoccupied by personal agendas and the minutiae of our busy days, is there room for day to day environmental awareness or is three hours merely a prerequisite students must meet to pad future job resumes? And if so, what is the consequence of looking out for ourselves when we were supposed to be looking out for our community?
Photo credit: uky.edu/VolunteerCenter/FUSION