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Science teacher helps at-risk teens in Kenya

%E2%80%9CService+Superstar%E2%80%9D%2C+Mr.+Dinh%2C+sits+in+his+room%2C+grading+papers.+%28Maryam+Ratemi%29
“Service Superstar”, Mr. Dinh, sits in his room, grading papers. (Maryam Ratemi)

“Service Superstar”, Mr. Dinh, sits in his room, grading papers. (Maryam Ratemi)

“Service Superstar”, Mr. Dinh, sits in his room, grading papers. (Maryam Ratemi)

Teja B., Editor

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Mr. Dinh, a middle school science and high school chemistry teacher, ventured to Nairobi, Kenya to offer service of education and help to children, specifically drug-addicted teenagers, over the span of the two-week-long spring break.

Since his arrival at ISG Jubail school in August of 2016, Dinh has earned the title of being the school’s “service superstar”. Dinh is a relatively new staff member, considering the fact that it has only been eight months since he stepped foot in Saudi Arabia. Although this may be true, Dinh took charge of the local Week Without Walls gardening activity and has since inspired and motivated several other students to join him after school every week in gardening. Furthermore, after his move to Saudi Arabia, he has already been on two service trips ― one to India and the other to Kenya.

Imagine standing in the middle of a landfill in Calcutta ― central Calcutta, which is one of the poorest areas of Calcutta. You are holding a class with about 40 children, encompassing all age ranges. Some of these children are Muslim and some Hindu. A mosque hovers in the distance and there’s a Catholic church not too far away. In the middle of the landfill is a Buddhist temple. Dinh experienced this on his service trip to India.


“And I thought ‘what a wonderful atmosphere, in terms of we have such diversity and we have such acceptance.’ I’m standing there in the middle with some volunteers and we were teaching the kids. They all had the desire to learn. They all wanted to be there. Some of the kids were learning mathematics, some basic science, some learning how to read and write, other kids were just coloring pictures and then we had music they all participated in that. And that happens all the time in the work I do.”

“All my life I’ve been in service.” Dinh said. “Well, no ― at least not in the same capacity, but in different forms. So, when you look at the defnition of service ― what service is ― [it is] to serve; to do things for someone else or for a different purpose other than yourself.”

In high school, a generic notion about service revolves around the fact that it is a component of education that merely helps students get into college. A belief among ambitious students is that the more service hours obtained, the more likely one is to get into college. In a world where service rendered is primarily for one’s own personal prosperity, is it considered service at all? What does service even mean?

Dinh is a strong believer of the idea that the doing is more important than the outcome.

“Being a teacher is a position of service,” Dinh said. “And so, all my life I’ve felt like it’s a part of my duty. In my youth, I served to tutor students at the high school level. These are your typical services ― there are little services that you do that most people don’t recognize as service, like for example serving nature: being a steward who takes care of nature. You have to look at your actions based on your service work and the actions that counter that. If you are going to serve the poor and then you go and consume more than you need, that action counters the service work.”

Around the world, volunteer rates have been deteriorating. In the United States, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded that the volunteer rate in 2015 was 24.9 percent of the population. This is a massive drop from 2003, in which the volunteer rate was 29 percent.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Volunteer rates were lowest among 20- to 24-year-olds (18.4 percent). Teenagers (16- to 19-year-olds) continued to have a relatively high volunteer rate, at 26.4 percent. Over the year, the volunteer rates for 35- to 44-year-olds and 55- to 64-year-olds declined.”

With these statistics, it is clear that high schoolers try to do as much service as possible. When the rule that a high school student needs ten hours a year (40 hours for four years) to graduate from ISG Jubail was first established, it was no surprise when several complaints arose from the student body. While some complaints would center around the argument that 40 hours was “too much,” most complaints were about the lack of opportunities present in Jubail. However, Zainab Imran, a senior who currently has 200 hours of service for just this year, strongly disagrees.  
“I’ve come to realize that the things we beat ourselves chasing after are not as important as we think they are,” Zainab I. said. “If anything will justify your greatness, it won’t be your six-figure salary or Ivy League degree, but your sense of duty to give back to the society that gave you a place to thrive. You don’t need to believe in any particular religion to see the value in helping someone else. I think that it’s a matter of your own personal values and your love for things that are bigger than yourself to see the goodness in it. For me, when it comes to feeling fulfilled at the end of the day, it’s knowing that I put out something of real value that lets me feel that way. To those who struggle to find ways to contribute, I say you’re not looking hard enough. Where there is drive and a sense of gratitude, there are a million ways to show it. You need to open your heart and mind to the light of the smallest way to give back and I guarantee you will find it because being a girl in Saudi Arabia is not an excuse for you to hide behind. It wasn’t for me.”

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