At the beginning of the year, I began volunteering on Saturday mornings at my local library. Since it is close to home and doesn’t require a large time commitment, I figured that some volunteering was better than no volunteering. Being in graduate school on top of full-time work, library volunteering is both convenient and therapeutic.
Though library volunteering may not sound exotic, I feel like I get to step into a magical place on the weekends and to actually make a difference. My library has a “Used Book Store” that consists of books donations. My job is to re-stock, alphabetize stacks, and to create displays of books based on inventory and demand. For instance, with back-to-school approaching, I recently created a display of books that was more academic: the history of England. We had many books on this in stock and it seemed great for history lovers!
This fall was busy since there was a parade in town and we held our Annual Book Fair to coincide with that date. Hundreds came into the library to get their hands on used books (all of our inventory from storage had to be pulled for it), and I assisted people in the children’s book section.
The next day, I went back to the library but this time, solely as a buyer. I was told that on the second day, people could fill a grocery bag with books and only pay $5! I decided to fill a bag with kids books for my niece and nephew, a bag for me, and oh wait – it was later declared in the day that “all paperbacks were now free” and everyone could take home a single filled bag of them. Of course, this encouraged me to get even more. In total, I brought home three bags of loot and only paid $10 (since one one bag was free). I think I took home about 30 books! Yes, this is excessive but many will go to family and friends, and the ones that don’t may find themselves donated back to the library.
In the past, I have discussed my experiences with taking a Volunteer Day. I have been fortunate to work for a company that genuinely cares for the community and is best-in-class with their sustainability efforts! This is something that I am personally very passionate about, both inside and out of the office.
For about a year now, I have been volunteering on Saturday morning’s at my local library and I absolutely love it! I understand that volunteering outside of work time is isn’t feasible for many – I work and am in graduate school so I definitely feel the pressures of time management. However, if you are able to dedicate a few days a year, I highly recommend it. With more and more companies encouraging employees to take off time each quarter to volunteer, it makes it easy for any schedule.
Here are some of my achievements this year, with reflections on volunteerism:
I raised money for education. When volunteering at the library, I was able to sort books for their Annual Used Book sale in which all proceeds go to charities that promote education. Last week, our sale raised $4,200 (I also snagged a lot of great books in the process too!)
I helped a local nonprofit using skills I already use on the job. I recently volunteered the Nordic Bites 2018 Food Festival to promote Scandinavian culture in the Boston area. My uncle is the Director of a nonprofit which promotes Scandinavian culture and he has always taught me the importance of learning about other cultures, because it promotes the acceptance of others. While at the festival, I captured content that the nonprofit can use throughout the year to promote their cultural center.
I was the Team Leader for my company’s Walk for Alzheimer’s this past weekend, in honor of my grandmother. My grandmother (“Nona”) was truly special and to watch her lose her memory was heartbreaking. By having my company rally with me to raise money and to promote the cure for Alzheimer’s, it was personally touching. And think about how many lives the cure will save! My company has a general matching program which allowed me to raise close to $1,000!
I made connections with people who have similar interests. You truly never know who you will meet when you are volunteering but no matter what the person’s background, you are brought together for the same cause. That is so powerful!
Being able to collaborate and connect with others translates directly back into your work environments, since working together leads to success.
This year was filled with great volunteer opportunities, so my hope is that more people will feel empowered to create change in their communities.
That said, which social causes are you interested in?
March 8 is International Women’s Day, and is also my birthday. I’d like to think this was destiny, or my mother pre-planned my birth to land on this day, but it simply a great coincidence. A tradition that I started last year and hope to have in the future, is volunteering on my birthday. I am very lucky that my company has paid volunteer days and were onboard with me taking off time to volunteer!
Like last year, I chose to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, a reputable organization that helps build homes for those with financial burdens. It was too cold to work on a house today, so I worked in their retail store. Their “ReStore” retail stores carries items that have all been donated, and all of the proceeds go to help fund the building of their houses.
At ReStore, I organized book shelves, swept floors, tidied inventory, and even painted chairs. Painting furniture is not something I have ever done but have wanted to, so I was glad I could pick up a new “skill,” even though I’m an amateur!
I think that is the beauty of volunteering in general: you pick up new skills and also learn what you do and do not like to do. I know that we typically associate volunteering with community building but it really helps build YOU as a person, so that’s why I am happy spending my birthday’s serving others.
My 10 days abroad in Germany were a success. Sometimes my days were dauntingly long but nonetheless, I came out learning a lot more than I thought I would. This is mainly because I spent 6 days of my vacation volunteering at a small village called Laubach (app. 1 hour away from Frankfurt). However, my first impression of Germany continued until the end of the program…
The landscape of the northern part of Germany (and perhaps all of Germany), is very much the landscape that we see in New England. You will find lush, green forests and after spending many hours walking with German students in them, it felt at times as though I was in my own backyard.
Frankfurt itself reminds me of my city, Boston. This observation was apparent as soon as my taxi from the airport approached my hotel. In Frankfurt, there is an older section of the city with more traditional German buildings, as well as some of the tallest skyscrapers in Europe. Though Boston doesn’t boast the tallest buildings in the U.S., the buildings were comparable to ours and the city felt just like home.
Germans are extremely organized and punctual. This is not a bad thing and doesn’t seem like such a surprise but after spending time living in Spain where everyone is 15 minutes late, it was a difference experience to be where everyone is 5 minutes EARLY.
Germany isn’t perfect. You hear that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and it’s true. Even with socialized medicine and education, people still still worry about the same things that are worried about here in America like mortgages, juggling work and home life, etc.
Germany is more of a melting pot than I imagined. You may have heard that there are a lot of Syrians going into Germany and as whole, lots of people have been flooding into the country. To an outsider, Germany would seem like a favorable place to move to. Education and healthcare aside, Germany has the top employment rate in the Europe next to Sweden (based on a Statistica finding). The government has also been vocal about allowing migrants into the country. Whether that is a good thing or not is its own debate.
As a whole, Germans tend to value staying in one place and not moving to other parts of Europe. As some Germans explained to me, if a person finds a steady job, they are not too keen to jump from job to job. When I asked about how they felt about Americans, I was told that their was an idea that Americans move around a lot changing jobs, but that we must easily move to different states for work. This is ironic because I would have thought that with European citizenship, a European would be keen on moving to different countries!
Visiting and moving to a foreign country will always be an eye-opening experience for me but what I was not expecting on this trip was that I would connect so well with the German people. The language was so different but the people and lifestyle reminded me of American culture which was surprising. However, I look forward to going back someday and visiting some of my new German friends. Despite what you might think about the “rough” German language and any stereotypes you may hear, Germans are as lovely as the country.
As a person who has lived abroad in Spain and had the opportunity to travel to lots of different places, people have frequently have said to me, “You must have been to Germany.” The answer has always been “no” with a sigh. When I was studying and later working in Spain, I went to a lot of the surrounding countries – except for a number of countries in northern Europe – but never have been to Germany. So, I am excited to announce that come next week I will be in Germany volunteering!
So, in case you are wondering how this all started…
While I was trying to get to bed at 2 AM one morning and failing, I was on Google randomly looking at volunteer opportunities and stumbled upon a company called Diverbo which places native English speakers in a villa in Spain or Germany for 5-7 days with meals and accommodations, in exchange for speaking in English to English learners. It sounds easy and it is, if you are fine with speaking up to 12 hours a day! I am fine with this and it is perfect because longer placements would be impossible, since I work full-time.
If anyone is interested in doing something similar, you should check out their website and stay tuned because I am hoping to come back with lots of anecdotes and some insight about German culture since I will be speaking to Germans for 12 hours a day for 5 days. 🙂