Emma Obeng-Asante, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria 2016-2017 from Ghana, volunteered over 200 hours in the local community, 140 of which were dedicated to the Lincolnia Senior Center (and 75 more than was required by the program!). The impact of the volunteer work is often profound as illustrated by this beautiful digital story.
Sharing is caring. CCI Program has given me the opportunity to experience this beautiful phrase through volunteering. I have witnessed how American loves to give back to the community and to help those in need. There are people who are willing to sacrifice their time, energy, mind, and even money to put smiles on somebody’s else face.
As CCI participant we are required to do minimum 125 hours of volunteering, therefore I and some friends signed up to help Alexandria Dept. of Community and Human Services last year, December 11th-14th, distributing Christmas presents for low-income families.
I was amazed of the number of presents were delivered to the office. There were literally more than 1000 boxes and bags filled up with things. I and some other volunteers were marking and counting the presents, we put them in different sections based on their numbers to make it easy for us to find them when the listed families came to take them the next few days. More and more presents were delivered each day by those who signed up as donors. Little children came with their parents holding small boxes they had helped wrapping to be given to people they never even met before. There were new and beautiful bicycles coming in ready to be taken away to make other small children happy, Christmas trees and its ornaments to lighten up some more houses, jackets and gloves to warm some more people during winter, and many other things.
The fact that the donors didn’t even know the people they have been assigned to help personally but still they joyfully spent their time, energy, and money to brighten up those people’s holidays just really touched my heart. The donors simply registered through the office’s website, then they were given lists of families they could choose to help. Some of them even did more than one families. They received lists of things the family needed and then they started shopping, wrapping and delivering them to the office. Later on, the families came to the office to take them. We as the volunteers helped around to carry the things out for the families and to load them into their cars. I really enjoyed the work I did during those four days since I was able to witness the joy expressed on those people’s faces especially the children when they got new bikes or other cool stuffs. Even the donors came in happily with bags and boxes knowing that some people would have merrier Christmas or happier holidays time this year.
Volunteering has been a great learning process for me and also an eye opener of how much an individual or group of people can do to make better life for everybody else. What you do matters, you can choose to either put sulk or smile on other’s face. For me a smile it is.
Post written by Picessylia Anakay, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Indonesia
Life is not a race, but a journey. Make each second of your life worth it.
This is something I learnt during the CCI Program’s retreat. A retreat which helped us focus on the reason why we came to the USA, we, the participants from different countries.
Before coming to this retreat, I was focused on my classes, volunteering, and internship. However, I couldn’t think much further, neither what I will be doing after my CCI Program. Certainly, I will be going back to my life, but I don’t want to become the same after this program.
Being able to use each second of my life to make a better place.
Through this program, I have noticed, I have learned, that the more you give a deeper thinking about each topic, you get to know that these topics are related, linked, and connected to one another. They are like our body. If one single part is not well, all rest of the members are also sick.
Let’s keep in mind that our common goal is to make our world a better place. For that, we need to be together, think together, talk together, share ideas, listen, and understand. We just need to believe in ourselves, so that we can reach the top of the mountain. Let’s believe that we are this little bit of rope that can sustain our world.
Post written by Adjoke Therese Babalola, CCI Participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Côte d’Ivoire
It all started with a dream to study in USA. A dream to live a student life in the states. CCI has helped me to make this dream true. Started my journey in June 2014 which changed my whole life, my perception towards life and made me emotional too. LOL
I remember myself as a big guy with low confidence and trying to make new friends. Trying to adjust with new people and being over-friendly which led to a lot of misinterpretations about me among people. The only women who was with me as true mentor, a true guardian was Kelly Forbes. ‘’You don’t have to be fake and over-friendly to make friends” her words that changed me. She’s the best gift that USA has given me. I can’t forget her early morning messages when I was in Las Vegas “Akhlaq don’t spend all of your money’’ I bet no other coordinator would have been as concerned as she was with me. She pushed me far away from my self-bound limits to be independent and to be responsible. If I really want to describe her in one word she was mother and I’m fortunate to have her in my life as coordinator.
Jaclyn Ruybalid Krueger! The enthusiast coordinator whenever I saw her she was there with that beautiful smile. She always had a positive energy which reflects on her face that can change everyone’s day.
In my experience I’ve found many common skills with each CCI participants and I tried to upgrade myself to be better than before. I’ve learned so many things from these that I can’t mention them. I never thought I would be surrounded by so many pearls from different countries and getting to know them. Friends from CCI is the best thing one can have. Experiencing friendship other than CCI was bonus for me as I got to know people from Afghanistan, Thailand, Korea, and Ethiopia……. Omg! The list is never ending. In short I’ve friends from all over the world.
Volunteering at events and enjoying those events with free food, can’t describe that happiness.
These events taught me to serve for community. I never thought I would complete my volunteering hours without Luiza Arnaud and Bassem Alfy these guys always pushed me for volunteering. Talking with Khaled Soltanto (Habibi) always motivated me to get something I liked. My roommates were typically awesome hahahaha! Each of those guys have different perception for the same common thing. Whether its 12am or 1am and I wanted to go to DC Harold was always ready. Gymming with Andre (Brazilian) and Sifiso (South African) was an amazing experience and I can say I had international trainers. Dzidepo Kofi this Ghanaian guy taught me to play soccer and party hard! How could I forget the beauties of CCI Lekagugu, Joannita, Sandra, Gamze, and Luiza I miss you girls.
Praveen and Nabila will have a great importance in my life I’ve learned a lot from you guys. Hope to see you soon.
On my return my friends asked what did you do in states? And what did you brought along with you from states? To which I replied “I lived my life in a year and I brought a promise to see those face again who made my life worth living there”
Post written by Akhlaq Khan, CCI participant at NOVA, 2015-2016, India
I belong to a country where community is defined as the religious group with whom I share my beliefs and religious practices. In my community we have a structure of serving community under a volunteer setup. For example, if we have doctors, occasionally they provide services frees of cost or with minimal charges, if someone is a teacher, he/she will be voluntarily serving in any community institution, likewise all the people in the community have a kind of volunteer responsibility which is kind of mandatory to serve and I believe that, it is the back bone of my community development.
Generally we think like what can we do, how can I serve my community, how can I be part of a worthy cause? Being a young student, having no professional experience, guess what could I do for my community? Believe me; I had much more opportunities to serve my community than any professional person because, volunteer services need time commitment and dedication. Since childhood I remained associated with different organizations with different responsibilities like, Group Scout Leader, Finance Secretary with a welfare Organization, As a Teacher in religious institution, Member of wheel chair committee, Administrator of JDC an Institution and member of Aga Khan Economic Planning local Board Gilgit.
In my educational career, I always remained an average student but today I am a participant of Community College Initiative program among 40 students of Pakistan. Till now it is one of the highest achievements in my career and this would never have happened without the skills I have gained from volunteer services.
Although with busy life it is difficult to manage time, but if you spare a short span of time for volunteering, you may have a greater impact on your personal life, professional life and your community. It is the best way to gain experience, enhancing interpersonal skills; it gives you a sense of accomplishment, an opportunity to interact with diverse group of people, an opportunity for selection of right career path and much more…
To begin with, Volunteering is a great opportunity to gain interpersonal skills like, being a good listener, a good communicator, responsiveness, promoting togetherness and settling disputes etc.
Secondly, volunteering is a platform where we can learn new things through participating in different events. While serving as volunteer we get involve in social, technical, funny and academic activities. Participation in event like Park cleaning, fund raising campaign and art exhibitions gave me an insight about these fields, which I could never learn in my routine classes.
Next, working for long hours, studying, assignments and other activities sometime makes us stressful. We can find such volunteer activities related to our own interest where we can have fun and enjoy, which may have a positive impact on our health.
Subsequently, I have handled a lot of tasks back in my own country but cleaning a pond in a park and controlling traffic in an event was something new and interesting for me. Handling task smoothly in timely manners make us responsible and it gives us confidence to do something more.
Afterwards, networking is one of the most essential requirements for entrepreneurship minded people and nowadays finding a better job is all about networking. Volunteering lets you expand your relationships with other businesses and people with similar interests which can help you in finding better jobs.
Another main thing, volunteering is an opportunity to make choices from different professional fields, while participating in different events; you can select an interesting career field. Being student of economics I was planning to work in banking sector but my volunteer association with Aga Khan Economic planning board inspired me to think about entrepreneurship. During my services more than 10 families successfully initiated their own businesses which gave me a motivation to think beyond what I was imagining about my career and these were the experiences which linked me with such a wonderful international exchange program like the CCI Program, which is like a full package of experiential learning, theoretical studies, motivation and exposure visits.
Yet another important aspect of volunteering is meeting with diverse groups of people, for me it is a hobby; I enjoy participating in volunteer services because I love meeting new people and learning new things every day.
“Diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity”, HH Aga Khan”.
Volunteering is the best way to find people from different social backgrounds, cultures, food, experiences and ideas and only through mutual understanding we can bring peace in the world.
Finally, happiness and satisfaction cannot be purchased no matter how rich you are. The feelings cannot be compared to something else which we get after supporting a needy person.
In the end, I will conclude my writing with a beautiful quote by “Bob Marley,
“Live for your-self, you live in vain. Live for others, you will live again”.
Therefore I will recommend everyone to be a part of this worthy cause, which can help you being a successful person, helping you in living a happy, healthy and a meaningful life.
Post written by Naik Alam, CCI participant at NOVA, 2016-2017, Pakistan