Reducing Barriers to Realize Dreams: MLK Jr. Day of Service

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.” Not everyone has the opportunity to receive the education they desired, the job they wished for, or the life they dreamed of. It is with service that the Jacksonville community and AmeriCorps members hope to reduce the barriers to achieve every individual’s goals in order for them to lead healthier and happier lives. 

On January 15, 2018, the National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps members and several community members gathered at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida to participate in the MLK Day of Service. About a thousand volunteers attended the rally and served at 27 sites throughout the Jacksonville area. The AmeriCorps members chose to serve at two sites: The Neighborhood Garden and the Northwest Jacksonville CDC Backpack Assembly. Through both of these service projects, we recognized a common theme - serving not only for the community, but with the community as well; this Day of Service certainly was a collaborative effort.

During their service to help revitalize a community garden, the NHC members were able to directly reduce the impact of a local food desert in a low-income neighborhood. One of MLK Jr.’s most famous quotes is, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." The MLK Day of Service proved to be a very special day for the members of the NHC, as words and thoughts of service evolved into action. Let’s see how this quote resonated with some of our members during our MLK Day of Service:

“It means that you should never let the doubtful voice in your head win.”

“If you’re not trying to make this world a better place for your fellow man/woman, then you’re living an empty life.”

“It is a matter of advocating for our community and the principle of giving back to the very community that helped us achieve our goals. We are attempting to be servant leaders and hope to continue meaningful service learning while engaging in our activities as National Health Corps AmeriCorps members.”

While one group of NHC members served at the community garden, the other group helped to pack and distribute school supplies for children and to beautify a local school. How does the MLK Jr. quote apply to them?

“You're doing yourself and the community a disservice when you choose to ignore issues affecting the community. As a society, we are self destructing when we do not advocate and protect for each other. You cannot consider yourself an ally if you are not vocal in the midst of corruption. “

“You should constantly be serving and engaging in discussion about social justice.”

One member responded with Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Overall, MLK Jr.’s quote was a reminder for all about the importance of fighting for social justice. As National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps members, we have been given the opportunity to use our service term to advocate for the disadvantaged people of our community. The service we commit to as National Health Corps Florida members is about reducing the stigma of social issues, increasing access to healthcare, providing education to the community to lead sustainable and healthier lives, and creating people-centered interactions. We have a responsibility not to become complacent, or “silent” about the issues affecting those we serve. As we move forward with our service term, we should keep the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words--and our passion to eliminate health disparities--at the forefront of our minds.