By Elyse Voyen, Greenheart Club Program Assistant
On October 17th-19th 2014, Greenhearts all across the country joined together for our third annual Greenheart Day of Service. Greenheart is committed to connecting people and planet to create a more peaceful and sustainable global community and one way we do this is through volunteer service. We celebrate this mission every year in October by empowering our community to give back to the world. This year our wonderful Greenhearts did not disappoint as will be illustrated in our three highlighted projects below.
In Chicago, Greenheart staff joined together to help the organization Open Books, a non-profit dedicated to inspiring creativity and increasing literacy skills. Thirteen Greenheart Chicago staff members volunteered as writing coaches during Open Book’s Adventures in Creative Writing program. We helped 6th graders from a Chicago middle school learn about and write their own slam poetry. The students were an energetic lot who enjoyed the expressive and performance-driven nature of slam. The volunteer writing coaches helped students brainstorm ideas to write about and kept everyone on track. After the students presented their poetry they were given an Open Books journal and a coupon good for one book form the Open Books library. Check out the photos of the volunteer outing below.
In Colorado, CCI Greenheart local coordinator Lasha Seaman organized a project that worked with Weld Project Connect-Neighbors Helping Neighbors; an annual, one-day event providing numerous on-site services directly to individuals and households in the community. CCI Greenheart exchange student, Mario Karam, shares his experience:
Our last volunteering event was on Friday October 17th, 2014. Weld County held a community service event at Island Grove Park. Once the other volunteers and I got there, we were trained as interpreters and then told to lead people through each station so that they could take advantage of all the offered services. All of these services were free including flu shots, acupuncture treatments, foot care, literacy services and even a municipal court. This experience revealed to us the needs of the people in our community, which encouraged us to work together to help satisfy those needs.
Lasha did another project earlier this academic year where she and her exchange students helped to clean up an area of Fish Creek including a wetland area between a housing development that had been destroyed by the flooding in September 2013.
Lastly, in Iowa, CCI Greenheart local coordinator Nancy Stubbs organized a project where she and her exchange students volunteered at the Great Iowa Pet Expo 2014. CCI Greenheart exchange student, Nour Saïda Harzallah from Tunisia shares her experience:
The 18th and 19th of October were without a doubt the highlight of this month for me and for the five other exchange students who shared this experience with me. It was such a great opportunity for us to get to see how people somewhere else in the world perceive things. I was brought up in an environment where people do not consider pets as a big part of their lives, but I have seen since the first day I came to the United States how much people care about animals, starting with my host parents. Seeing them care so much about their two amazing rescued dogs has opened my eyes on how many animals do need our help out there. It also made me excited to spend the weekend at the Pet Expo. It was an opportunity for us to talk to people about our exchange program, but also to see how many people are passionate about animals and would do anything to find a home for every single one of them.
My coordinator thought it would be great for us to see how the United States government is taking the initiative to find a solution for one of the biggest environmental problems nowadays concerning pets. I know that there are an estimated 6 to 8 million homeless animals entering animal shelters every year with barely half of these animals being adopted. Tragically, the rest are euthanized which makes more than 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs euthanized in shelters annually. Fortunately, there is a solution: neutering/spaying is a permanent and effective method of population control for dogs and cats.Thanks to the group of vets and surgeons who were present at the Pet Expo, we got the chance to see the procedure of a male cat’s neutering step by step.
This exchange year is all about trying new things and appreciating a new culture and environment. This pet expo experience was definitely new and exciting for the five of us. We learned a lot during that weekend, more than I thought we would. We got the chance to meet and talk to many great people. Every one of them had one or two stories to share about their pet and we had one or two stories (sometimes more) to share about our exchange experience and I think that that is what cultural exchange is about. I loved hearing every single story and seeing how everyone is passionate about their furry (sometimes very furry!) companion in their own and unique way.
Thanks to everyone who made this year’s Greenheart Day of Service such a sounding success!