#GivingTuesday is a global movement that connects individuals, communities, and organizations around the world to celebrate and encourage giving back. Celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, it represents a global day focused on promoting sustainable change in one’s community.
Even before #GivingTuesday, volunteering and investing in one’s community has been an important facet of American culture. Dating back to the founding of our country, Americans have banded together to help serve the collective good. In 1736, Benjamin Franklin founded the first volunteer firehouse, a concept that continues today with more than 70 percent of firefighters in the United States being volunteers.
Nowadays, the idea of giving encompasses donating one’s time, money, or knowledge to better the health and well-being of the community. In 2015 alone, more than 62 million Americans volunteered more than 7.8 billion hours.
At Cultural Vistas, we honor this American tradition by encouraging our international participants to give back to their adopted communities.
As part of their exchange programs, Cultural Vistas participants learn why volunteerism is so valued in the United States, and ways they can continue community service efforts when they return to their home countries.
This is epitomized by the Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program. Each summer, participants give back to their host communities around the U.S. by completing at least one community service project. Our participants have volunteered in everything from serving local food banks, to visiting senior centers and animal shelters.
The Muskie Internship Program encourages each participant to find an issue that resonates personally and dedicate time to see how local organizations work to address those issues.
Here are some of the organizations where our 2016 Muskie interns volunteered this past summer:
Viktoriia Bazylianksa and Denys Pivniak
Vizcaya Mansion and Gardens
Viktoriia Bazylianska and Denys Pivniak, two Muskie participants from Ukraine, decided to volunteer together at the Vizcaya Mansion and Gardens, a National Historic Landmark in Miami. Volunteers come together at the property to assist with garden upkeep and removing debris and garbage to keep the space pleasant for visitors. Both Viktoriia and Denys thought the experience gave them an opportunity to collaborate and meet new people who are passionate about environmental protection.
Viktoriia highlighted her positive experience stating, “I enjoyed our collaboration, communication, beautiful weather, and fresh air. I decided that I will take part in a volunteer movement more often in the future to benefit people and the environment, and I strongly recommend everyone to join such a volunteer movement.”
City of Refuge
Yulia Brusova, a Muskie intern from Russia, focused her volunteer efforts this summer with City of Refuge, an organization created to serve refugee and immigrant families in the mid-Missouri region. One of Yulia’s volunteer duties was playing with children from these families, which helped them learn to socialize and practice their English skills as many had come to the U.S. with no English ability.
She reflected that “As a mother of a seven year old son, who came to America with no English, I faced the difficulty of his adaptation to new environment. I was glad to contribute to the community by providing at least one day of positive emotions for children who were new to the country.”
We Are Family Senior Outreach Network
Artur Denysenko, another participant from Ukraine, chose to help the senior community in Washington, D.C. by volunteering with We Are Family Senior Outreach Network. We Are Family was created in 2004 to support the low-income senior community in downtown D.C. Many vulnerable seniors struggle to cover daily needs such as food and medicine. Artur assisted We Are Family with food services, and expressed the great impact that the organization has in the city.
“Together with 20 plus other volunteers I helped to assemble hundreds of grocery bags and prepare them for delivery. More than two tons of food was packed. We Are Family is not just volunteering organization. It is also community service provider that build strong, inclusive community,” he noted.
As cultural ambassadors, Cultural Vistas’ international participants also use these volunteer opportunities to promote international exchange and mutual understanding. By giving back during their time here, these exchange visitors expand their impact by promoting multicultural awareness while serving community needs. In addition to civic responsibility and community engagement, giving unites people from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal.
This #GivingTuesday, we are thankful for supporters of international education and exchange programs. Cultural Vistas continues working to foster shared understanding and appreciation of diverse peoples, values, and cultures in a global world.
— Cultural Vistas (@CulturalVistas) November 29, 2016
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