Building Character & Communities
Sometimes, it can be a daunting task trying to change the world. As cliché as that might sound, plenty of ambitious high school-age students have the desire to be such an agent of social change, but lack the roadmap to get started. For Rayne Lynes, a self-described “Typical Western Australia girl,” this was a situation she seemed to struggle with every day.
“I was always passionate about helping the younger generation of people and giving back to them, but I never knew how to get started,” Rayne said. Always having the goal of becoming a teacher one day, she still felt that there was more she could do to help those around her. Unfortunately, finding an outlet to get started was often hard to find.
“When I tried to participate in community projects throughout high school, I always sort of felt like an outsider. It was like I was by myself, alone on this island and I couldn’t relate to any of my friends.” In many ways, Rayne saw her involvement with the Institute for Civic Leadership as a breaking point. While she felt that it was becoming increasingly hard to devote time to something her friends didn’t understand, she knew that service was something that could be a cornerstone in her life. “When I received a scholarship from the Institute for Civic Leadership, it was like finding an answer I had been subconsciously looking for all along. There were so many people like me there. Imagine that, right? Almost 100 people from every continent and we all cared about giving back to the world. It meant a lot to me. It was a huge weight off my shoulders in a way.”
While finding a comfortable niche was important to Rayne, perhaps her biggest discovery was that successful social entrepreneurship starts with being an effective leader. In her case, Rayne learned that her friends back home might not have been inclined to participate in community service projects, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t help them develop into service leaders by setting an example and having enough confidence to set her own path. After all, sometimes standing out from the crowd is the best way to get others to finally pay attention.
“Community service is for yourself as well as others. So why stop doing something that you love. It’s about growing as an individual really – learning about yourself and your abilities – your shortcomings – and working on them. It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life like family and studying and social life, but if you forget about the larger world, you’re not really growing and you’re losing a part of yourself in a way.”
Rayne took her experience and hit the ground running as soon as she returned home from Canada in 2011. Since then, she has participated in a number of community service initiatives, beginning with the “Just Smile” program she developed with fellow DGLA alum, Hannah Owen. The program included was designed to inform disadvantaged people in Mandurah, Western Australia of all the local organizations and programs in existence to help foster a sense of community for those who lacked financial means to better their lives. By hosting a free holiday bake-off with games for children and an information session for adults, Rayne and Hannah were able to successfully plan and execute what turned out to be a small fair that almost one hundred local people were able to enjoy. As of this writing, they are planning on repeating the event in 2013.
However, Rayne’s participation in community initiatives didn’t end there. As she points out, “the academy is not about doing one thing and then saying you’ve done it. The academy was about fostering a love of service and never stopping.” Rayne also partook in a number of other community-driven events in the last year including “The Mandurah Children’s Festival,” “Perth Crab Fest,” as well as a number of food drives for the homeless.
After all of her experiences with the ICL, Rayne still plans on becoming a teacher. Now a student at the University of Notre Dame in Australia, Rayne is working towards mixing her professional goals with her desire to continue improving the world around her. She is currently spending a semester abroad, volunteering at the Dwight School Canada, while pursing a degree in teaching. Her end goal is to take her experiences working with global youth and apply them in a remote placement program in the Australian outback where families are generally underprivileged. She hopes to build communities through education and make schools a positive force in people’s lives from a young age.
As Rayne puts it,”Community service is important in a young person’s life. It keeps you grounded and helps you build character. After all, that’s what it did for me.”