Why I Serve: Maker VISTA Leader Hadiyah Shabazz

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April is VISTA Month at Maker Ed, during which we are shining light on the work being done by our Maker VISTA program partners and members, and sharing stories of impact, service, and transformation occurring everyday. Be sure to check out the blog throughout this month as we offer insights, resources, and rich perspectives from a diverse array of communities and maker landscapes. Also, click here if you are interested in serving as a Maker VISTA member at one of our partner sites for 2017-2018.


The memory of my father and I making bag lunches for the homeless is the earliest idea I have of service. It was not a planned activity. He didn’t start a food drive, send out flyers or inform anyone of what he was up to. He simply decided on his own to help in a way that he could. It cemented a foundation, for me, for how I could live a life of service. It showed me that an individual’s actions can affect a community just as greatly as those of a large group, a truth that helped me to be more confident and strive to be more thoughtful in my everyday actions. It remains one of the most genuine acts (and memories) that impacted me in so strong a way that I can’t visualize a happy, fruitful future for myself without serving my community.

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Hadiyah grew up in Oakland, CA

The first time it happened, my father began his day like a regular one: he headed to Costco to buy groceries for the family. But this time, he returned home with excessive amounts of food—loads of bread, peanut butter and jelly, sandwich meat, juice boxes, fruit, chips, and brown lunch bags. Curious as to what his plans were for all the food, I eagerly asked if I could help. My father and I worked like an assembly line; he made the sandwiches, and I placed a cold juice box, one piece of fruit, and one chip bag in the lunch bags. I then labeled the bags based on the type of sandwich within. When all the sandwiches were made we headed to Oakland (we lived in Hayward at the time), to a spot by Lake Merritt where a large population of homeless people gathered. We described the different types of sandwiches we had. We asked the people which type of sandwich they preferred. And we served them.

Hadiyah working with a student at Drew Charter during a site visit

To serve is to give in the ways that you can. My father and the Muslim community that raised me modeled a kind of service that was humble, that didn’t require bells and whistles to be successful, that listened to those in need, and that offered what it could when it could. Seeing this type of service, and the warmth, respect, and appreciation for self and community it exemplified impressed upon me at an early age the value of service, and the many ways one can serve.

I have served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for three terms—once as a VISTA member in Greenwood, California, a second year as a VISTA Leader in Salt Lake City, Utah, and now for a third year at Maker Ed in Oakland. I have chosen to serve with Maker VISTA because I have experienced the transformative power of making. Some of the most impactful learning experiences I have had came from student-led, curiosity driven projects that have helped me develop self-assuredness and creativity. In a lot of ways, those projects saved me from feelings of not being seen and heard. They were tiny pushes that drove me move forward, even when I felt completely disconnected and discouraged. Making things has allowed me to experience my world with agency and imagination, and to combine that with service empowers me.

Like most people, I want to see myself grow healthier, stronger and better than the day before. I want the same for my community. I want to make and offer what I can, when I can. That’s why I serve.

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Click here for more stories about the impact of our program and the service of Maker VISTA members from across the country. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter to stay updated on all Maker VISTA happenings. If you would like to serve as a Maker VISTA or know someone who would, click the “Apply to Serve” icon above to learn more.