International Interns Give Back for J Day

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.

–Howard Zinn, Author of “A People’s History of the United States”

There is an understanding that is pervasive in the United States: the transformative power of volunteering. Community service projects and volunteer-run organizations have become as American as apple pie and baseball.

These days, community service is thought of less as a punishment and more as a type of education, a baseline for college acceptance, and a part of many national and religious holiday celebrations.

Day of Service Riverside Park
Exchange students and staff joined the Riverside Park Conservancy in New York in 2013 and have returned each year since.

At Cultural Vistas, we look to provide our over 6,000 international interns and trainees from over 100 countries with a meaningful cultural and immersive educational experience in the United States. One way we do this is by participating in J Day, a nationwide celebration of the impact and breadth of international education and exchange programs in the United States.

More than 40 different cities across the United States held J Day service events providing international students and their hosts, an opportunity to enjoy American cuisine, share cultural diversity and customs, and give back to their local communities.

This year for the first time, Cultural Vistas teamed up with fellow exchange organizations, host companies, local representatives, and our staff to organize service events on both coasts: in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

San Francisco: Golden Gate State Park | July 22

“My work here will always be a part of this park”

J Day participants in the Bay Area completed conservation projects at Golden Gate State Park.

Our first event took part in the Bay Area where 35 volunteers came together at Golden Gate State Park and completed habitat restoration, invasive species removal, botanical garden + conservatory of flower improvements that will last well on into the future of this beautiful and historic park.

The group’s contribution to the City of San Francisco Parks and Recreational facilities and communities was equivalent to an in-kind donation of $2,896.95.

DC Sandwich-Making Challenge to Support Martha’s Table | August 6

J Day participants in Washington D.C. made and donated 1,137 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to support Martha’s Table local nonprofit.

Over 50 members of Cultural Vistas’ community of international interns, American exchange program alumni, staff, and supporters were up to the challenge of spreading the love and making over 1,000 sandwiches to help feed the needy in Washington, D.C.

It took 2 hours, 95 loaves of bread, and more than 75 pounds of peanut butter and jelly, but we met and even exceed our goal. When all was said and done, we had made and donated 1,137 sandwiches to Martha’s Table.

We then capped the day with a picnic on the Mall.  Later in the evening, we were even featured on the evening news by NBC4 Washington!

New York City: Lower East Side Ecology Center| August 6

Thirty-five international exchange participants, including 15 from Cultural Vistas programs, joined at East River Park Fire Boat House to help beautify the East River Park. They primarily helped with maintaining planting beds along the East River as well park clean-up. For many, it was their first experience with gardening.

East River Park Community Service J Day
J Day volunteers joined for community service at East River Park

The volunteers were joined by Lynette Evans-Tiernan, a Public Affairs and Outreach Officer at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Lynette spoke with the participants about the power of exchange programs and encouraged them to share more and display the impact of their experiences.

J Day Lower East Side Ecology Center New York City
Over 35 international exchange participants worked with Lower East Side Ecology Center to beautify East River Park.

“I think the tree saving mission was very exciting. It was physical work and it was an idealistic mission. I was happy that I got to talk to interesting new people and we were able to work together.”

Implementing service activities is increasingly becoming an integral part of our programming due to the positive transformation that these experiences have on all those involved. View our photo album from this year’s J Day events to learn more about our work in the community.

If you would like to partner with us on our programming or to co-sponsor a community service project or event, contact events@culturalvistas.org

Emily Wiechers

Emily studied, worked, and completed a fellowship in Germany on her way to her career in International Education. She is passionate about creating connections through meaningful exchange and community building.
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Emily Wiechers

Emily studied, worked, and completed a fellowship in Germany on her way to her career in International Education. She is passionate about creating connections through meaningful exchange and community building. Connect on LinkedIn

View all posts by Emily Wiechers

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