Zaden Issah is a participant with the 2021-2022 Anchorage Service Adventure unit. To learn more about Service Adventure, a program of Mennonite Mission Network, click here.
When I first decided to participate in Service Adventure, I wanted to serve somewhere as different from where I grew up as was possible. That decision led me to Anchorage, Alaska. As time went on, I was glad to see that there were many differences in Anchorage from what I had experienced at home, in Iowa. Anchorage is a much larger city than I was accustomed to. I could see mountains in the distance, which differed greatly from the near constant flatness of my home. And the ocean is not far from where I am, unlike my land-locked home community. I received everything I had hoped for in regards to my change of setting. However, more than any of the changes I have experienced since arriving here, I was most surprised by how similar the people here are to those in my home community.
My job placement at Lutheran Social Services allows me to meet a lot of people each day, both while working in the office for our direct assistance program and while working downstairs in the food pantry, handing out boxes of food to those in need. During my time here, I've found myself taken aback by the fact that people were almost universally kind and understanding. They would thank me, talk to me about their day, and ask how they could not only support themselves but others, as well. This spirit of positivity and hopefulness was reminiscent of what I've experienced while volunteering at organizations in Iowa City. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but it hit me that of all the differences I had noticed, the thing that stayed the same was the people.
While I've gotten to meet a lot of people in need through my work here, I've also met people who are in stable positions and who donate to organizations like Lutheran Social Services. Part of my job is writing thank-you letters to those who donate food, time or money. It was one thing to write peoples' names on letters, but it was another thing to meet those people at an event, where they were volunteering and giving up their time, because they believed in the work we are doing. Seeing people doing good in the world has really lifted my spirits. Looking at the news, it can feel like things are falling apart and there isn't anything we can do to make things better. Yet, in only a few months of working here it's become clear to me that, even if that is how things appear, we shouldn't do nothing. There are things that we can do to help on some level. Maybe we won't solve huge systemic problems, but we can make someone's life a bit better.
So, as I go forward with the rest of my time with Service Adventure, I want to experience more. Looking at my life as a whole, I feel I lack experience in the real world, which is to be expected, since I only graduated high school in June 2021. But, by traveling, seeing new things and meeting new people, I hope to get a better idea of the world, where I fit in it, and what I can do to continue to serve not only in my local community but the community of the world.