In honor of International Volunteer Day (IVD) 2017, the CCI Program is celebrating this year’s theme of #VolunteersActFirst. IVD 2017’s theme #VolunteersActFirst. Here. Everywhere. recognizes the contributions of volunteers as first responders in times of crisis.
The impact of volunteers as first responders is especially relevant to this year’s cohort. In August and September, CCI participants in Houston, Texas and Orlando, Florida saw the effects of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. While their college classes were briefly cancelled due to flooding and damage to their local host communities, Houston Community College and Valencia College CCI participants stepped up to the plate to help those in need. In Houston, CCI participants volunteered with the American Red Cross—a volunteer organization dedicated to first response, while participants in Orlando contributed their time primarily to local food banks.
Around the same time as Houston and Valencia participants were reeling from hurricane damage, CCI alumnus Syed Minhaj Hossain (Bangladesh, College of DuPage, Media, 2015-2016) responded to the devastating monsoons in Bangladesh by traveling to flood affected areas like Tangail to help provide disaster relief. He and his team managed to distribute food and medicine to approximately 250 people in need. Though he completed the CCI Program 2 years ago, Syed says his interest in service is now a part of his lifestyle. He wrote, “The [CCI Program] gave me a lifetime sense of responsibility to serve my community and to act like a global citizen.”
Volunteering in the CCI Program
However volunteering in the CCI Program isn’t limited to disaster relief. CCI participants frequently volunteer with organizations that affect the day-to-day lives of local citizens and community members.
To emphasize the impact volunteering has across local communities, CCI participants made a point to volunteer on International Volunteer Day. At Bunker Hill Community College and Houston Community College, CCI participants focused on prepping and packaging meals with local food banks and community organizations. Valencia College CCI participants collaborated with the Culinary Department at their college to host a “Taste of CCI Event.” Through this event, they were able to share customs, cultures, and traditions, with the campus community at large and help raise funds for the Culinary Department initiatives. At Scottsdale Community College, the group volunteered with the Center for Native and Urban Wildlife where they helped with animal care, and at Northampton Community College CCI participants read to children at a local elementary school and taught them about their home countries.
With the holiday season coming up, participants at Kirkwood Community College helped decorate the Grand Hall of the African American Museum in Cedar Rapids and helped campaign for the Salvation Army. Participants at Northern Virginia Community College volunteered with the Salvation Army by sorting gifts for families in need, as well as volunteered at the Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long.
In November, over 40 CCI participants from CCI east coast colleges volunteered at the TCS New York City Marathon. They joined over 1,400 J-1 exchange visitors to help support the 50,000 runners from over 135 countries who ran the race. Several CCI participants said it was their favorite volunteer activity so far because they got to cheer on runners from their home countries and be a part of a huge event that relies largely on volunteerism.
Exceeding Volunteer Expectations
When the 2017-18 CCI cohort arrived, over the course of 10 months the 154 initial participants were projected to contribute 15,400 volunteer hours to local and neighboring communities. To-date, as of the first 5 months of their exchange program, the entire group has already contributed 15,000 hours.
At Houston Community College, the group of 18 CCI students has already contributed 2,827 hours of service. They are closely followed by the Valencia College cohort which has completed 2,118 hours, and the Scottsdale Community College participants with 1,639 hours.
In particular, some outstanding participants have already gone above and beyond their volunteer hour requirement. To-date, the top five CCI participant volunteers include:
- Ndivhuho Tshivhase (South Africa, Houston Community College) – 275 hours
- Laura Ortega Arcila (Colombia, Houston Community College) – 205 hours
- Kwame Dewortor (Ghana, Valencia College) – 193 hours
- Kausar Ansari (India, Houston Community College) – 192 hours
- Claudio Martinez Mora (Dominican Republic, Houston Community College) – 188 hours
Volunteering has always been an important component of the CCI Program because it helps participants integrate into their campus and local communities. Ndivhuho Tshivhase, who has contributed the highest number of volunteer hours so far, expressed that volunteering, to her, is about more than collecting hours—it’s about sincere community engagement. “Volunteering gives me a chance to help those in need, a chance to attend major events, and a chance to meet new people.”