I am a firm believer in the power of volunteerism. I feel that its impact is constantly strong no matter what city or location you are in. At the moment I don’t have any statistics or studies to prove this; however, I have some personal stories to connect you with this thought. Both stories involve young people who come from different places and have been equally inspired and affected by the impact of volunteers.
Last Friday Kimberly and I attended One In A Million, an art exhibit/reception celebrating the photography of the Power Project Prodigies (Baltimore City students who are part of St. Francis Neighborhood Center’s after school program). These young students experienced a semester long digital photography workshop with students from Loyola University Maryland. Parents, students, staff, and volunteers all came together on Friday to celebrate the wonderful art and accomplishments of the youth and those who support them. Music played throughout the John Eager Howard Recreation Center as young and old took time to not only sport some dance moves but check out the creative photos being displayed across the wall. The event was very touching, especially when awards and recognition were given out to parents of the Power Project students and staff from Loyola. One of them was even named an honorary Power Project Prodigy. 🙂 While that night was not a volunteer project, the efforts of the parents, college students, volunteers, and the volunteer coordinator (Corrine, one of our state AmeriCorps members) all granted these young people an opportunity to connect with a very positive experience. All of the work from these parties was done voluntarily-no force required- and they were genuinely interested in making a difference. Such involvement allows for families and community members to be more engaged in the advancement and happiness of youth in the area.
The next morning I went on a road trip to Vienna, MD to visit the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance. Along with fellow AmeriCorps members I volunteered to support the construction of two rain gardens at the site where another Volunteer Maryland AmeriCorps member, Matt, works. His organization partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lower Eastern Shore to make this event happen. It was great working with young children in a different setting across the other side of the state. The kids were really enthusiastic about planting as fast as they could and learning how to do it just right with the adult volunteers. Gardening was a skill of the day but it also provided the kids with a level of empowerment. Their ability to independently help the environment helped to foster an increased level of confidence.
Each event celebrated and educated young people about different things. Even though these events took place on opposite sides of the state, one thing remained constant between the two- the presence of service and its lasting impact. From Baltimore to the Eastern Shore volunteerism remains an important tool for building bridges, learning new skills, and bettering the understanding of ourselves and others. It’s very cool to see how our AmeriCorps members made this happen.