In honor of International Volunteer Day 2016, we are participating in this year’s theme of #GlobalApplause by giving our Community College Initiative (CCI) participants a hand for their volunteer efforts. For the 2016-17 program year, CCI participants studying in the United States are projected to contribute 25,000 volunteer hours to local and neighboring communities. Their efforts have a strong effect on economic and social development, and today we’re sharing just a few highlights and reflections.
CCI students participate in a variety of volunteer activities throughout the course of their year studying in the United States. Some work hands-on with people in the community, including those with special needs, the homeless, and the elderly. Other CCI participants volunteer with nonprofits like the American Red Cross, local volunteer fire stations, children’s centers, and soup kitchens, and many also help put on fundraising events for organizations like the American Diabetes Association. CCI students further devote their volunteer hours towards helping the environment by creating sustainable community gardens, cleaning up beaches, and revitalizing national parks.
Karim Virani, a CCI student from India who is studying at Bunker Hill Community College had a stand-out story about an experience with the American Red Cross. He explains, “I volunteered for a blood drive organized by the American Red Cross at Dorchester Police Station, which was organized for two police officers who were shot two weeks before. The blood drive was organized by Dorchester police, and almost all the donors were other police officers. My task was to assist blood donors by giving them refreshments and helping them rest. It was a very good experience for me, because I had never been to a police station, and it felt so good talking with police officers and listen to their stories. They also asked me where I came from and how I got my scholarship, and congratulated me and wished me luck for my year in United States.” During his volunteering event, Karim also had the opportunity to meet the police commissioner of the city of Boston. “I was so excited to meet him, he came and greeted us all and talked with us for few minutes and thanked us for giving our precious time. It felt amazing, this would have never happened in my country. I was very happy that day.”
At Fox Valley Technical College, the 2016-17 CCI cohort worked with the Special Olympics of Wisconsin Bowling group. Before working with the group, a representative from the Special Olympics briefed the CCI participants about how to work with individuals with special needs with the hope that CCI students would take what they learned back home. In a day-long event, CCI students went to Sabre Lanes and assisted bowlers to their lanes, helped with the awards ceremony, sold merchandises, and cheered participants. Saba Al Leswas from Yemen said, “It was one of the best, if not the best, service learning/ community service events I’ve ever been to.” South African student Juliet Malambe said, “I really enjoyed it. I like doing community work where I am engaging with people. Truly making an impact in someone’s life. Just seeing how happy they got when they received their medals was heartwarming. I got a feeling that I was doing something worthwhile.”
To add to the spirit of the season, we asked this year’s program participants to reflect on their volunteer highlights. The assortment of activities and the range of personal impact was powerful.
At Northampton Community College, Dince Abanat of Indonesia said her favorite volunteer experience was working at a children’s center. “I had a great time interacting with the children, playing with them and reading stories for them. It was also a great opportunity to learn about and experience the early childhood education system in U.S.” Dince’s classmate, La Ode Marsudin, also from Indonesia, said he most enjoyed preparing food for the hungry at a local soup kitchen and that every “thank you” he received was motivation to be a better person. Komal Alam, a Pakistani student studying at Valencia College said, “I love volunteering with elderly people. Many are sick, or they are alone and far from their families but still they have the courage to smile” and agreed with La Ode: “It’s motivational.”
When asked what he loved most about volunteering, Andres David Erazo, a Colombia native, said that his experience volunteering in the community around Houston Community College made him realize the significance of giving your time to others. He explained, “The way that we can add value to our community by just spending time together—that shows the connection that we as a human beings have.”
Ultimately, Amira Mero, a Santa Rosa Junior College student from Egypt summed it up best. “Volunteering is about giving and sharing. Through different volunteering events I learned that volunteering is not an act of charity but it is an act of community and leads you to understand the core meaning of humanity. The number of hours you spend volunteering is time you give to the future.”