Volunteering and the Fence Clean Project
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan -- Volunteering has changed my life forever. I have often heard people talk about the benefits of volunteering, of it being a way to reach out and touch the lives of others in a positive way. But I didn’t fully understand the impact of that claim until I started to volunteer myself.
I started volunteering a few months after I arrived on Okinawa so that it would make my time on the island go by more quickly. At first, I was volunteering for local community events, like a Boy Scout Eagle Project at the Friendship Park along Route 58 in Ginowan City near Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. This was a project organized by a promising American high school student who has spent many years in Okinawa to clean up and beautify the park by planting flowers, shrubs, and trees.
It was there that I first heard about the Fence Clean Project, an effort initiated by local residents to remove the vandalism of Futenma’s fences that started abruptly to occur in the fall of 2012. Eventually, U.S. personnel and their families and friends began to participate. I became one of them, and this truly changed my life forever.
Volunteering my time to clean the fence was one of the best things I have ever done in my life. It taught me that motivation will come only when you know you can make a difference in another person’s life. For me, the Fence Clean Project motivated me to help others.
Communities depend on volunteers. Volunteering is probably the best way we can help our community, as not only does it contribute something to the community but also promotes compassion among others. Whether you live in a small town or a large city there are many opportunities for volunteers. I hope to inform more people of the benefits, rewards, and positive effects on one’s community by becoming a volunteer. Also, I wish to give you, the reader, ideas on how you might find the right opportunity for you.
Volunteering has endless possibilities. In Okinawa, the Fence Cleaning Project members go out every Sunday, rain or shine, to clean the fence and to enjoy each other’s company. Being a member of the FCP, I have made some great friends and gotten to know their families, as I see them every Sunday cleaning the fence of Futenma’s Gate 3, known locally as Nodake Gate. I have also volunteered at the local schools for their multicultural days or to teach English.
Doing community service is such a rewarding experience. The phrase, “community service,” can mean different things to different people, but to me it means a united group that comes together to help one another without requiring anything in return. To me it is important to help one another and it is a very important factor when it comes to advancing your society.
For those already engaged in community service, thank you! For those interested in volunteering, please go out and do it! You won’t regret it and it will bring you closer to the people of Okinawa Prefecture than ever before. And, to my fellow, former Fence Clean Project members, Japanese and Americans alike, thank you very much for the opportunity to serve with you and for your friendship!
Vanhxay, a native of Laos, enlisted in the United States in August 1997 from Jacksonville, Florida, and first served in Okinawa from August 1999-September 2001. He returned to Okinawa in April 2013, assigned to Marine Air Control Squadron-4 on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, until October 2014. He retired as Staff Sergeant, returning to Florida in November 2014.