Practicing the Art of Service

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Celebrating their second Day of Service, the girls of Seisen International School reach out to communities near and far.

The group of young girls took their positions in the center of the hall, waiting for the first strains of the old American spiritual to come in on the stereo. As the choral version of “I’ve Been ‘Buked and I’ve Been Scorned” filled the room, the children began to dance the choreography for the opening number of Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations.” The sixth graders’ audience—residents of a nearby senior center—probably didn’t know that the slow, stately movements of this opening piece had been performed around the world for decades, and that it is the introduction to one of the masterworks of modern dance. But from their reactions to this performance and those put on by other groups of students that morning, it didn’t matter. What they could see, and feel, from the young kids was their energy, and despite some giggles from the younger ones, was a sense they were brightening the day for these seniors.

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A group of students dance the opening movement to Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations”

The performance was just one of several activities that the students of Seisen International School were doing for their second annual Day of Service. This new school tradition was being conducted in honor of St. Raphaela, who founded the religious order of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1877. Seisen is a K–12, all-girls’ school that was started in 1949 by the Handmaids order.

The Day of Service project had been inaugurated the year before by head of school, Sister Margaret Scott, as a way for Seisen’s students to truly live out one of the school’s tenets of improving the lives and the communities around them. It proved to be a hit with students and faculty alike, and this year again, children across the grade levels could be found engaged in projects to support the campus and the communities around them. The youngest children were preparing lunch for the school staff, groups were painting murals in common areas around the school, and others had gone off campus to take part in cleanup projects in nearby parks.

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Students at work on a school mural project

Visiting another senior home where a group of high school students had gone to give musical performances, we caught up with two of them, Risa and Jisoo—a violinist and singer, respectively—to ask what sharing their art as a part of the Day of Service meant to them. Risa is no stranger to playing in front of audiences: the high school junior first started the violin when she was three years old. But she recognized something different about the pieces she played this year and last: “For other performances, I was usually preparing for myself. But this time it was to help the senior citizens enjoy what I was playing, because I wanted to make an impact on others through my music, and through what I could do.” Jisoo said that she felt a deeper impression from the songs that she sang on the Days of Service: “When I’m performing at the senior home, I’m sharing my music, but I feel like I’m putting more emotion into what I’m doing; I’m really expressing what I feel the message of the music is.”

Back at the campus, Sister Margaret reflected on the St. Raphaela Day, and the other changes that had taken place on the campus over her three-year tenure as school head. As she explained, “one of the fantastic results from last year’s Day of Service was that a lot of the kids said, ‘we don’t just want to do this once a year. How can we create a culture of service in the school?’” One answer has already been put forward: beginning this year, Seisen has reached out to four schools in four different countries—East Timor, the Philippines, El Salvador, and Vietnam. School supplies have been donated, high school students have gone to volunteer in East Timor and Vietnam, and as Sister Margaret said, this is just the beginning. Although she was going to be returning to a professorship in the U.S., Sister Margaret looked forward to what the future held for Seisen. As the voices of the children rang out in the hallway, she smiled. “I think we have renewed our sense of identity, of who we are—to be competent, compassionate, creative thinkers in our global society.”

Seisen International School

12-15 Yoga 1-chome, Setagaya-ku
Tokyo 158-0097 | Tel: 03-3704-2661
Web: www.seisen.com | E: info@seisen.com


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