Exchange Day 2019: Giving Bread and Preserving History

Cultural Vistas celebrated the sixth annual Exchange Day with two separate organized community service events held on Saturday, August 3 in Washington, D.C. and Sunday, August 4 in New York City.

Exchange participants, staff, and friends of Cultural Vistas gathered in each city to “eat. play. give.” as a way to celebrate the impact of international exchanges and the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.

Even before the “eat” and “play” portions of Exchange Day, our volunteers in D.C. were in remarkably good spirits.

True to the spirit of Exchange Day, volunteers at both Cultural Vistas events represented a wide range of nationalities, including South Korea, Germany, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, China, Pakistan, Cameroon, Poland, and Japan.

Eating, Playing, and Giving Bread to the City in Washington, D.C.

It has become a D.C. office tradition for babies to monitor the progress of our Exchange Day community service event.

In Washington, D.C., volunteers gathered for a “packing party” where they prepared over 1,100 donation kits consisting of nonperishable snacks and other essentials to be distributed to families in the D.C. metro area. Together with the results of a donation drive at the Cultural Vistas office, these donation kits were later delivered to the local nonprofit Bread for the City.

In addition to a diverse group of exchange participants, special guest Joseph Eyong from the office of Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) joined staff and volunteers to take part in the community service activity as well as to show support on behalf of #TeamRaskin.

Field Representative Joseph Eyong joined us from the office of Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD 8th District) to show support and take part in our community service activity—as well as talk Eto’o with some of the soccer ⚽ fans among us!

“We support all initiatives which are out to help communities, and especially young people being involved in volunteering and community engagement. And I’m seeing here different cultures, people—young people who are coming from many different cultures. [These events] bring people from different cultures together and help us to establish a relationship. America is great because of the things we do and leaders like you.”

Preserving Revolution-Era Flora at Roger Morris Park in NYC

In New York City, participants took part in a hands-on community service project to help preserve the flora and greenery of the landmark Roger Morris Park in Washington Heights, a historic neighborhood in upper Manhattan.

Some of the 2019 Exchange Day participants show off the all-important Exchange Day sign in NYC.

The mansion which sits on the grounds of the park, is the oldest surviving house in Manhattan, and even served as a headquarters during the American Revolution.

The oldest house in the Big Apple has somehow avoided having too many immediate neighbors.

Participants spent the hot summer day transplanting ferns, weeding, mulching, and learning about the diversification of the park’s flora. The team assisted park staff with preserving plants in the historical garden and removing invasive weeds to protect some of the plants that were found on the original grounds.

Imagine someone saying: “During my NYC internship, I learned about digital marketing, graphic design, transplanting ferns, and mulching.”

After completing the volunteer project, participants and staff enjoyed a picnic on the North Lawn. Participants also toured the mansion itself, which served as a temporary home for important historical figures, including George Washington and Aaron Burr.

About Exchange Day

It’s never too early “eat. play. give.”

Now in its sixth year, Exchange Day (formerly “J Day”) brings together participants in international exchange programs, their sponsors, and hosts for a day of sharing cultural diversity and customs and giving back to their local community. From collecting food donations and school supplies for families in need, to taking part in beach clean ups and volunteering at local food banks, exchange participants make an invaluable impact in their American host communities. In 2018, Exchange Day consisted of 47 events held across 24 states and Washington, D.C.

Read our post “What is Exchange Day” and visit the Exchange Day website for more information about this annual tradition held nationwide.