The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The worldwide reach of selfless service

Photo by Graphic by Nic Tan

Since it began in College Station, Big Event has spread to over 100 countries.

The Big Event is known for having an impact on the Bryan-College Station community, but its reach has not stopped there.
The Big Event takes place annually and helps the surrounding community through service projects fulfilled by participating students. Since the tradition began at Texas A&M, other universities noticed the impact Big Event was making and began reaching out to A&M about starting their own service days. Now, The Big Event has spread to over 100 universities around the world.
In 1998, students from other universities in Texas reached out to A&M’s Big Event executives about starting their own day of service, according to Madeline Saiter, current outreach director and supply chain management senior.
“It really just was word of mouth, and as Big Event started making bigger news, other schools started to catch on,” Saiter said. “A lot of schools’ student governments have a service branch, so that was kind of an easy way for them to start a Big Event.”
Big Event takes place abroad in Pakistan, China, Germany and Spain. As the service event continues to spread, its execution may not be identical to A&M’s Big Event, according to Trent Armstrong, Big Event director and accounting senior.
“They don’t always look like it does here in College Station,” Armstrong said. “Some are working with non-profits around the city they’re in, some are working with local churches or food banks and some are residential homes.”
When other schools reach out about starting their own event, Big Event doesn’t set any specific rules, according to Armstrong.
“All you really need is a group of people willing to serve their community,” Armstrong said. “From some schools, it’s professor driven or even university driven. So whatever outlet you see fits under the scope of your school, it doesn’t matter to us, it’s just about helping people.”
Twelve years ago, A&M began hosting the One Big Thanks Conference, which brings schools that have Big Events to College Station together in order to share the best practices, according to Saiter.
“We are helping a lot of schools do what was done for us a lot of years ago,” Saiter said. “As it’s the 36th year of the Big Event, a lot was paved the way for us, and so to get to help other schools do the same is awesome.”
Samiullah Khokhar, current director of Big Event Pakistan and former Mehran University of Engineering and Technology student, was studying abroad in Kansas in 2013 when he participated in Big Event for the first time.
“I really find this project very inspiring as university students come out of their homes without getting anything in return, so I decided to bring this tradition back to my home university,” Khokhar said.
The first Big Event Pakistan took place in 2015 and was sponsored by the United States embassy in Pakistan. Big Event Pakistan is based out of Mehran University, but invites students from all schools and nonprofits to participate, according to Khokhar.
Big Event Pakistan is currently experimenting with an expansion to a national outreach program in hopes to begin projects at schools where Pakistani students are studying abroad, according to Khokhar.
“In this way, I think it is going to incorporate our image of Pakistan as a peaceful and understanding nation before the world, as our students are not only serving the people in their own countries, they are also trying to be helpful and caring when they are studying abroad,” Khokhar said.
Some service days take different names, such as The Project at the University of Texas. The Project is approaching its 20th anniversary and hopes to continue to increase student participation, according to Dante Romano, the Project’s administrative director.
“We are trying to go out there and really push for more volunteers, more desire to learn about the community,” Romano said. “Something about The Project that I like to think separates us from most service organizations is that we don’t just go out there for The Project. The actual body of The Project spends a whole year learning about the situations that are going on in the community and becoming active in the community.”
Armstrong said seeing Big Event expand gives him a sense of hope that people across the nation, and across the world, truly care about others.
“People can see the heart behind the Big Event, and see how helping people transcends cultures, transcends location and the acts of selfless service, anyone can get behind,” Armstrong said. “Anyone can see the value of giving back to your community and instilling that mission of selflessness in your peers and the camaraderie that comes along with serving others truly can transcend cultures and time zones. It’s incredible.”

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