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Posts Tagged ‘volunteer’

Photo: Elisa Coltro/Facebook
Nonna Irma, of Noventa Vicentian, Italy, poses with some of the children in the Kenyan orphanage she supports.

News outlets around the world reposted this story about a 93-year-old’s outreach work as described by her granddaughter on Facebook. But I found that BrightSide dug for additional details.

The website reports, “This charming woman from Noventa Vicentina, Italy is Irma, and she is 93 years old. Despite her age, she’s full of energy and desire to change the world for the better. She decided to fly to Kenya to help children in the orphanage there. Her granddaughter shared her grandma’s photos on her Facebook page, which took over the Internet. …

” ‘Irma has always loved life and was never stopped by life’s obstacles,’ her granddaughter [Elisa Coltro] wrote. She knows what difficulties are like and has always tried to help others. Irma lost her husband at 26 and later one of her three children. Her life has not been easy, and she has always relied on her own strength to make it through.

“Many years ago she met Father Remigio, a [missionary] who has spent his life helping the people of Kenya. Irma has supported him for many years. Once she heard that Father Remigio was hospitalized, she made a decision to visit him and all the places he had built during his lifetime, such as hospitals, orphanages and kindergartens.

“Now being in Kenya, Irma helps children as much as she can. She teaches English and Math in the school of Malindi. … Her age never stops her from taking motorcycle rides. Despite all the difficulties she’s faced, she continues to enjoy life. Irma plans to stay in Africa for a few weeks, but there is a possibility that she will want to stay there for good.

“She has always taught her children and grandchildren to help others. Her granddaughter Elisa did volunteer work in refugee camps in Greece in 2016 and 2017.” More here.

One of the things I like best about the story is the sense of a network of fellow travelers. Irma’s daughter went to Kenya with her. Her granddaughter volunteers. And zillions of people loved what Irma is doing enough to share the news on social media. One and one and 50 …

Photo: Elisa Coltro / facebook   

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Art: Jean-François Millet (1814-1875)
“The Gleaners, “1857

When farmers are done harvesting their crops, or when homeowners grow fruit trees for decoration but don’t eat the fruit, an opportunity arises for gleaners. Some gleaners may scavenge for food for their own tables, but nowadays it’s become more of an activity to feed people who need extra help. I blogged about the concept in 2011, here, and 2014, here.

A recent article by Henry Schwan in WickedLocal provides an update.

He writes, “Ruth Lyddy bent over and used a sharp farm tool to take a whack out of a thick stalk of kale at Barrett’s Mill Farm in Concord. Lyddy had the look of a full-time farmer, but she’s a volunteer gleaner, which is someone rescuing crops before they are plowed over and destroyed.

“She joined other volunteers Nov. 17 at Barrett’s Mill Farm in Concord, and their leader was Dylan Frazier, who works for Boston Area Gleaners, Inc. (BAG). …

“The nonprofit formed in 2004, and is in the midst of its ’10 Tons in 10 Days’ campaign. As the name says, the goal is to gather 10 tons of food in 10 days, which is distributed to local food pantries.

“Frazier said many farms only harvest what they can sell, so BAG swoops in, takes the excess and hands it over to Food For Free in Cambridge, which distributes it to local food banks and pantries. …

“The volunteers also harvested purple-top turnips, red beets, leaks, daikon radish and Savoy cabbage, and all of it was piled into a truck, paid for with a $25,000 grant from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. …

“Volunteer John Pilch summed up why people give their time to BAG as he carried a box full of kale that he just cut. ‘It’s very grounding for me. I love to give back, because I’ve been so blessed in my life,’ Pilch said.”

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When I think of Russia and the words “big brother” together, I don’t ordinarily picture the charitable organization that partners adults with kids who need role models. Roman Sklotskiy has altered my mental model.

Last month, Diana Kultchitskaya interviewed Sklotskiy for the Christian Science Monitor.

“Roman Sklotskiy, a former businessman and a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, didn’t dream of having a career in charity. In the early 2000s he was a pioneer in the telecommunications industry, testing applications for mobile networks.

“But then he was invited by a friend to be the administrator of a theater for deaf actors – a charity project launched by a group of professional actors and directors. He was so inspired by the experience that he decided to pursue charitable work.

“In 2007 he learned of a nonprofit group trying to bring a United States-based mentoring program to Russia. Big Brothers Big Sisters International is a volunteer program that helps orphans and children from troubled families find mentors who provide them with a role model and help them build a healthy relationship with an adult.

“In Russia this kind of volunteering was a new idea. Mr. Sklotskiy decided to join the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Russia team and became its director, spending six years developing it. …

“The selection process for people who would like to participate in Russia’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program is strict. … Those who are selected receive training. Psychologists work with them and explain the unique demands of communicating with an orphan. …

“Alexandr Gezalov, an expert on child adoption and orphanages, says that the project is very successful.

“ ‘I’ve never seen a more effective format for communicating with an orphaned child,’ Mr. Gezalov says. The success of Big Brothers Big Sisters should be shared with other organizations, he says.

“Today Sklotskiy serves as director of charitable programs at the RVVZ Foundation. But he’s stayed involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters as chairman of the board. And he thinks it still has great potential to grow and help even more children. Currently Big Brothers Big Sisters is operating in Moscow and St. Petersburg.”

More here.

Photo: Svetlana Balashova for the Christian Science Monitor
Roman Sklotskiy longed to do charitable work, and he found his calling in developing Big Brothers Big Sisters of Russia.

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The past couple holiday seasons, I’ve heard of acts of charity such as paying off a stranger’s layaway items. In November, a Minnesota couple deposited half a million dollars in a Salvation Army bucket.

As Lonnie Shekhtman notes at the Christian Science Monitor, “More than Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the Salvation Army’s iconic and ubiquitous red donation kettles, accompanied by bell-ringing volunteers, signify that the holiday season is upon us.

“This year, the century-old tradition got a major boost by an anonymous and unprecedented donation: a $500,000 check slipped into a kettle …

“This was the biggest single kettle donation ever deposited in a Salvation Army kettle in the Twin Cities, reported the Tribune

“In a statement from the donors the charity provided to the Tribune, the [donors] said they made the generous donation in honor of their father, who served in World War I and was grateful to Salvation Army volunteers who brought soldiers free coffee and doughnuts.

“The two also said they were inspired by challenges earlier in their lives that forced them to collect food discarded at a grocery store to feed themselves. …

“This was the same spirit that inspired Manhattan philanthropist Carol Suchman to buy an entire toy store and donate its contents to underprivileged children earlier [in November].

“The mother of three has preferred to donate anonymously in the past, but this year agreed to go public to inspire generosity in others.

” ‘I know everyone can use a gift around the holidays,” Ms. Suchman told the NY 1 News.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor
A Salvation Army donation kettle sits outside a shop on 5th Avenue in New York.

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What I liked about this story on rescuers in Iceland was how the volunteer tradition started when “women banded together and organized a rescue crew to curtail the loss of their men at sea.” The part that wasn’t so great was about tourists endangering everyone with harebrained feats for their bucket list.

Nick Paumgarten writes at the New Yorker, “Iceland, with a population of little more than three hundred thousand, is the only NATO country with no standing Army. It has police, and a coast guard, but these, like the citizens they are paid to protect, are spread thin, so come accident or disaster, disappearance or storm, the citizens, for the most part, have always had to fend for themselves.

“[Slysavarnafélagið Landsbjörg, or, in English, the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue] has evolved into a regimented volunteer system that serves as a peerless kind of national-emergency militia. It is not a government program, and so represents a tithing of manpower. There are close to ten thousand members in all, with four thousand of them on ‘callout’ duty, on ninety-seven teams. … They are well trained and well equipped, self-funded and self-organizing, and enjoy a near-mythical reputation among their countrymen, who, though often agnostic regarding the existence of elves and gnomes, are generally not inclined toward reverence or exaggeration. …

“Landsbjörg traces its roots back to the formation, in 1918, of a rescue team in the Westman Islands, an archipelago just off the southern coast. The women on shore banded together and organized a rescue crew to curtail the loss of their men at sea, and in time other fishing communities established similar groups and protocols. Eventually, the fishing industry, as it grew, supported these efforts with donations. On land, farmers, left to their own devices, looked after each other, as they will.” More at the New Yorker, here.

You may get a kick out of the fundraising based on selling fireworks. Setting them off is legal in Iceland once a year. “Last year, Icelanders blew up five hundred tons of fireworks.”

Photo: Benjamin Lowy / Getty Images for The New Yorker
“People think of the rescue teams as the Guardians of the Galaxy,” a mountain guide said. “They forget these are normal people.”

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Yesterday, as part of my organization’s participation in the United Way Community Care Day, several of us chose to volunteer in the Jewish Vocational Service’s refugee employment program. This service helps refugees learn basic English and works with local employers like Legal Sea Foods and Pret a Manger to find the immigrants jobs in four months. They have 80 percent job-placement success and more than 90 percent job retention after several months.

Each of the volunteers had a reason to be interested in this particular opportunity as opposed to, say, painting a day-care classroom or weeding in a community garden. One guy had lived in Germany for three years and knew what it was like not to understand the local language. Two women had parents who had been immigrants. Two other volunteers were naturalized citizens and had experienced challenges being an immigrant. In my case, I edit articles on low-income immigrant issues as one of the topics we cover where I work, and I am related to immigrants.

We were assigned either to a classroom where people spoke no English (and may not even have learned to read and write in their home country) or to a classroom where people had a little English. I was directed to a table of three adult learners in the latter classroom. The teacher gave me small cards with questions such as: What is your name? What is your favorite movie? What do you do on the weekend? How many people in your family?

We proceeded to get to know each other through these questions. The students asked me questions, too.

Then the teacher provided worksheets about the kind of things it is OK and not OK to talk about at work or to do in an interview. The worksheets also discussed body language in interviews. We practiced interviewing for a job.

Other staff showed up from time to time, reminding me of being in a hospital, where someone pops in to take your blood pressure and someone else suddenly arrives to check your chart or ask if you want to talk to a social worker. The people popping in at JVS were staff members focused on employment. A young man told my three students that on Saturday the restaurant Pret a Manger would be hiring people and did anyone want to come? He said it is a very supportive partner company. He noted that one person doesn’t eat pork and was able to ascertain that she wouldn’t want to work there as she might have to handle pork. She was a Christian from Ethiopia, and I found the prohibition against pork intriguing, especially has she later mentioned that she likes wine. The other woman said she would come Saturday. The man didn’t have his work papers yet, but another staff member popped in to help him take care of that.

Later, that student said I had helped him a lot and hoped I would come back again. All the volunteers had a wonderful time and are trying to figure out when they can volunteer again, although we will have to do it on our own time.

Photo: Jewish Vocational Service

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I asked around whether any local nonprofits were providing a service opportunity in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on the Monday holiday. Here is what I learned.

Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society told me it published a 12-page booklet to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March. The Dr. King Booklet is free. Postage is $3 for one booklet or $4 for two or more copies.  To have one mailed, send a $3 check to RIBHS at 123 North Main Street, Providence, RI 02903 or call 401-421-0606.

“Let Freedom Ring: 50 Years Later …” Woonsocket, RI. Memorial Service, King Memorial Sculpture Garden, South Main Street, across from St. James Baptist Church, 10 a.m., January 19, 2015. Youth Service Learning Project, St. James Baptist Church, 340 South Main St., 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Participants will help collect basic-needs items and snack food for the homeless. Contact nofokansi@neighborworksbrv.org or call 762-0993, ext. 234.

Providence College MLK Jr. Day of Service (2nd annual). Open Mic Night and Potluck, PC/Smith Hill Annex, 231 Douglas Ave., Providence. 2-5:30 p.m. Click here for info.

Special programs are being held to celebrate Martin Luther King Day at Audubon’s Environmental Education Center in Bristol, January 19, 10 – 2. Click here to volunteer to do crafts with children on Monday.

RI School of Design (RISD) has planned MLK Jr. events in Providence. Day of Service, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, 35 Camp St., RISD and the Mt. Hope Learning Center partner to celebrate King’s teaching by inspiring children to reach their full potential through the arts, crafts and special activities. 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Click here for details.

Greater Boston

I also wanted to check on what Kids4Peace Boston was doing because I know they are into service. Youth from the interfaith organization are volunteering on MLK Jr. Day at Solutions at Work. Matt says, “Approximately 12 of our teens will be helping to revitalize the space at Solutions at Work, which works to end homelessness in the Boston area.” Click here for some of the nonprofit’s other MLK Jr. service options.

Next year I hope to reach more nonprofits to give them — and the idea of a service day — publicity.

Photo: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki
Martin Luther King Jr., Washington DC

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