A Transformative Summer

A reflection on service by Martin Wise, GreenIowa AmeriCorps member alum with the University of Northern Iowa Center for Energy & Environmental Education

I’d like to start by simply saying how lucky I feel to have had the opportunity to spend my summer working for GreenIowa Americorps. It is a fantastic organization led by truly inspiring and committed leaders. It focuses in on some of the most important and neglected problems that persist in communities across the nation. It brings people together and quite literally creates a better tomorrow. In so many ways this summer has been transformative for not only my community, but my own skill sets and viewpoints.

In a practical sense, I and the rest of the summer crew have become more talented and useful members of society. We gained general construction and landscaping knowledge working with Habitat for Humanity that will surely help us and save time and money in the future. Some days it wasn’t pretty, retrieving heavy rocks from front yards in 100 degree heat may not exactly be glamorous, but nothing feels better than being able to stand back and see the fruits of physical labor.

We became more proficient gardeners, managing and helping with several community owned gardens in the area. We may not quite be professionals yet, but we still managed to plant, tend to, and harvest gardens that produced hundreds of pounds of fresh, nutritious food for deserving families that may not have had access to quality food previously.

We learned the ins and outs of classrooms and how to become effective educators. Through countless education events, we were able to lead lessons on subject matters that rarely reach students desks in a public school environment. While some days may have been more of an exercise in patience development, it is hard to disregard the amount of success felt when a student hands you a tin can because “Mom and Dad weren’t going to recycle it, but I learned from GreenIowa last week that that isn’t good.”

It was easy for the summer crew to see that the work we were doing wasn’t just work. Yes, we may have been logging hours that would eventually pay for our rent and groceries, but that wasn’t what got us going each morning. What got us going was the beauty of a line of freshly planted maple trees that will provide shade for children walking to school years to come. What got us going was the appreciation we felt every time we dropped of a box of vegetables for the food bank, or shoes for a donation drive. What got us going was watching refugees and displaced families enter their home for the first time- a home that we had helped build.

That what really got us going. Building a bright future that everyone can enjoy. By working for GreenIowa we gained a sense of investment, a sense of purpose. A simple community initiative is so much more than the next item on the docket of discussion for a city hall meeting now. It signifies a commitment to the future. A commitment to do good to others and do good to one’s community and world. We now better realize the fact that it takes everyone, every last member of each and every community to create a world that we all can enjoy. This knowledge is priceless. It is useful. And it is also transferable. Each and every one of us will go out into the world more committed to spreading the message of sustainability and the power of commitment. Too often, people ask the question, why hasn’t someone fixed this when they see a problem in their community. GreenIowa workers know the answer to that question. The solution is us. It is you. It is everyone.

Together we truly can fight for sustainable alternatives and create a greener world. The tools and resources are already there, we simply need more people in the world who know how to utilize them. The past three months have given 11 amazing and good-hearted individuals a chance to become the proficient and talented future community leaders that our world so desperately needs. This transformation will create change and progress in whatever community they may end up in for years to come.

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