MU organizations participate in SAALT’s annual Be the Change service day

SASA, AAA and ACF planted flowers Saturday through Columbia’s Adopt-a-Spot program.

The South Asian Student Association collaborated with the Asian American Association and the Asian Christian Fellowship for the first time in order to help the Columbia community.

The student groups worked together as a part of the South Asian American Leaders for Tomorrow’s “Be the Change” annual national service day. Held on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, the Oct. 1 event gets its name from one of his quotes, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” According to the Be the Change national website, the event's purpose is to build communities and foster civic engagement through community service.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity, this national day of service,” said Baria Rashdi, SASA vice president of philanthropy and education. “We’re the only location in Missouri participating this year.”

Twelve members from SASA, AAA and ACF met other members of the Columbia community at 8 a.m. Saturday. About 30 volunteers spent an hour and a half planting flowers at the four corners of the South Providence Road and East Green Meadows Road intersection.

The activity is part of Columbia’s Adopt-a-Spot Beautification Program, through which community members can purchase land and be responsible for maintaining it. SASA does not know who purchased the intersection’s land plot.

“It’s a mix between our event and the community’s,” said Sheela Lal, SASA president and Maneater staff member. “It’s the city’s event, but our group participates.”

Lal and Rashdi have been working since the summer to get SASA involved with more community service activities.

“You get to utilize your privilege to help people,” Lal said. “It’s (also) a good way to interact with people you normally wouldn’t and expand your worldview.”

SASA decided to go through the city of Columbia to ensure volunteering space and time. After looking online at different city-sponsored organizations, they talked with an administrator about participating in Adopt-a-Spot, Lal said.

SASA invited umbrella organization AAA as well as ACF to partake in “Be the Change." Although SASA and AAA have collaborated on past cultural events, Saturday marked the first service-oriented partnership for the two organizations. They hope to continue to work together on future service events, AAA President Andrew Tsao said.

“It’s a good idea,” Tsao said. “When we all get together, we get a lot more support.”

Rashdi said SASA wants to continue to expand its relationships with different types of organizations.

“We’re trying to get everyone involved and meet other people," she said. "We want other organizations to see our organization. (Lal) has been trying hard to get other organizations to come.”

Rashdi said she recognizes the importance of college students giving back to the community through organizations such as SASA.

“It just shows that we do care about other things than our own selves and culture and events,” she said. “It shows that us college kids, we have something to give back, so we give back to the city.”

SASA will participate in more service activities as the year continues. Members will help clean up Hinkson Creek next week, and they are looking to work with the Central Missouri Food Bank, the Shanthi Mandir Hindu Temple and the Islamic Center of Central Missouri for future events.

Lal said she hopes SASA’s initiative to participate in service activities encourages minority students to become more involved within the Columbia community.

“As a minority student, I almost didn’t feel comfortable going to service events as a freshman,” Lal said. “Hopefully, our work becomes a catalyst for a greater minority community, LGBTQ, ability, race, religion, whatever.”

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