By: Johdinann Hartley, Summer Work Travel Participant & 2018 Ambassador Scholar
This summer, I have participated in two volunteer projects with my host community: the coastal clean-up with the Cherry Festival team and the Clinch Park clean-up. Doing these clean-ups contributed towards a safer and more sanitary environment for my community. By helping out with projects like these, I was able to encourage other people—community members and fellow exchange visitors alike—to take part in community-based volunteer events.
As a cultural exchange visitor, doing a volunteer project within my community allowed for me to show the community members why I am here. I felt that it was important to show them that I am not here to take away from the community resources, but to give back to the community and thank them for letting me experience their way of life. Volunteering was a great way for me to show my community that I feel like I am part of it.
Volunteer work not only impacts the community but also myself and my team. I feel like I am here to make a difference and give back, so following through on this feeling gave me a sense of purpose. These volunteer events also brought me closer to people in my community. My Clinch Park clean-up team and I bonded during our service. We learned much about each other, which made us appreciate one another more. I really feel like this is what cultural exchange is all about – learning about other people and showing that you care for them by giving back.