The Mora Family from left to right:  Asha, Levis, Monica, Aidan
Interview question responses provided by Monica Mora

Q:  How do you/your family work to ‘reach out in service’?
A:  Well, both my husband’s and my career is about service. It’s really who we are as a family. I have worked for over 27 years in the mental health/helping professions serving people of all ages and all walks of life dealing with a range of issues. In the past, my work has been on the back end helping people.  For the last 12 years, my work has been on the front end in prevention.  My work has been helping families and communities create and maintain strong relationships and foundations. But ‘Reaching Out in Service’ can look a variety of ways AND it can be fun AND all ages can participate. Big or small or somewhere in between…it all makes a difference and can mean more to someone than you could ever imagine.  As a family, we look for ways to give to our community and the world around us. We have made Christmas Care packages for the homeless and hand delivered them. Our children have made holiday gift baskets with their aunt and delivered them to families in rural areas in Nicaragua. Our son has made a quilt with the help of some past classmates and donated it to the organization Friends of Fieldworkers. The kids had a slumber party and did a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood collecting supplies for the humane society. We have volunteered in a Costa Rican wildlife rehabilitation center. We have collected and delivered toys and clothes to a Central American orphanage. There are so many ways AND opportunities.

Q:  What does service mean to you?
A:  To us, service means having compassion and understanding for others.  It means giving a part of yourself for the benefit of something or someone beyond you and not expecting anything in return.

Q:  What are some ways that someone could get involved with a service project?
A:  Find something that you enjoy doing or a skill you have that someone else might need. Find something you are curious about or want to know more about. Ask other people what they have done or organize a group of friends to serve together. Ask your children how they might want to help. Learn about the needs of your community or communities around you. There are many agencies and organizations that are always short-handed and in need of help.

Q:  Do you have a favorite service project that you’ve worked on? If so, why was it a favorite?
A:
  Oh wow! It’s hard to choose. One of the most powerful service experiences I have had was in my 20’s when I volunteered for a summer camp serving children who were infected/affected by HIV/AIDS. Children and one caregiver came to this camp for one week. The caregivers participated in their own program, which provided support, respite, and a chance for self-care, knowing that the children were being cared for and monitored by their very own counselor. The children were able to be in a safe environment while also being able to be carefree, have fun and not be defined as “the kid with AIDS.” I participated for two summers – once as a counselor and once as assistant director for the parents program. I met some amazing people from all over the country. The diversity, the compassion, the resiliency of spirit and the hope – some of the best human qualities were palpable and powerful. I loved it!

Q:  What sparked your interest in helping others and what keeps you motivated to do so?
A: 
 Perhaps some of it comes from our backgrounds. Family is so important us and we have tried to instill this value in our children. We always help each other out; we are a team. Beyond family, we are part of a community and we have a responsibility to help our community. The earliest memory I have of wanting to help others, took place in first grade. I noticed a classmate who would come to school every day and fall asleep on her desk. I would watch her and wonder what was happening that made her so tired that she had to sleep at school. She also wore Danish clogs, which I found fascinating. I wanted to know more about her. This is truly what drives me– wanting to understand and connect. People can look at other people and think they know something about that person but really, until you try to honestly see from another person’s perspective, you can’t know anything.

Honestly, what motivates us to continue to reach out in service is our children. Thinking about the world we want for them and the values we want to instill in them keeps us motivated to continue giving and stay engaged…even when time and energy is running low.

Q:  What personal qualities (e.g. leadership, communication skills, compassion, etc.) have you developed through service-learning? In what ways do you anticipate these qualities will help you in the future? To help others in the future?
A: 
When we decided to have children, we knew we wanted them to know a world outside of themselves. In order for them to be able to understand themselves, to be informed and to be compassionate members of society, we felt it was important for them to participate in service to their community and to their world. We feel individually and as a family that we have definitely further developed our leadership skills, communication skills, compassion, gratitude, adaptability, perspective and joy.  All of these skills come to play every day and we have seen these skills be of use to our children as they navigate issues that come up in their classrooms, between friends and between family. It keeps us connected as a family as well. By working together for the benefit of others, we build a stronger family foundation.

Q:  What similarities do you perceive between you and the people you are serving?
A:
  We’re human! There are so many more similarities than differences. Sure, we may come from different backgrounds, have different experiences, look different, sound different and live different but the essence of being human is the same. We all have good days and bad days. We all can be happy and sad. We have all have experienced joy and heartache. We have definitely all wondered what the heck we’re doing sometimes!

Q:  How would you motivate others to become involved in service-experiences?  What would you say to them?
A:  I would say to look around you.  Look at the world right now. There is so much need and great amounts of disparity. Some people say, “What difference can I REALLY make just being one person?”  Sometimes, one act from one person in one moment is all that it takes.  I would also say that one of the best ways to truly appreciate what you have, where you come from and who you are, is to put yourself out there and think beyond yourself and your needs. It’s a great way for your children to learn to appreciate what they have and where they come from. You can provide a great example of what it means to be a socially responsible citizen for your children when they see you participate in service and see you doing your part.  It makes for great dinner conversation and even better memories!