Volunteering while traveling allows you to peek behind the curtain of a community to get to know its inner heart. It provides a uniquely un-touristy look at the local culture through the eyes of residents who are passionate about supporting, protecting and enhancing their corner of the world and the humanness that exists within it. For a brief moment in time you participate in their story and become part of the strength, compassion and resilience which makes their community thrive. Read more
“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves” reads a quote in the volunteer kit. I was reading up ahead of my scheduled day at Mane Stream, an adaptive horsemanship and equine therapy center in Oldwick, NJ. I would quickly learn that Mane Stream was much more than a therapeutic program. It is a community of joy and healing. The special staff, therapists and volunteers who work at Mane Stream light up the lives of their patients and their families.
In the movie The Never Ending Story, Bastian learns the power of imagination….
Empress Moonchild: One grain of sand. It is all that remains of my vast empire.
Bastian: Fantasia has totally disappeared?
Empress Moonchild: Yes.
Bastian: Then everything has been in vain.
Empress Moonchild: No, it hasn’t. Fantasia can arise in you. In your dreams and wishes Bastian.
Empress Moonchild: Open your hand.
She puts the grain of sand into his hand and he looks at it…
Empress Moonchild: What are you going to wish for?
Bastian: I don’t know.
Empress Moonchild: Then there will be no Fantasia any more.
Bastian: How many wishes do I get?
Empress Moonchild: As many as you want. And the more wishes you make, the more magnificent Fantasia will become.
Empress Moonchild: Try it.
Bastian: Then my first wish is…
Moonchild follows his gaze and smiles…
The first question is usually, “How hot was it?” And I’m never quite sure how to explain it in a way that makes sense. Think about sitting in a sauna fully clothed and in work boots. Then think about playing soccer and football, digging trenches and sifting gravel in that sauna. For 8 hours. That’s pretty much the physical experience. But that does not convey how happy you are. That the heat only really registers occasionally, when you’ve hit the wall of exhaustion. Otherwise, you are feeling fulfilled in a way you just don’t feel in your everyday life.
Sometimes charity work puts you in contact with people and places you’ll never have the opportunity to see first-hand. Even without that first-hand contact, these interactions can become a path towards broadening your understanding of humanity and learning more about this amazing world. Such was my connection with The Arctic Eider Society, a non-profit working with Inuit and Cree communities in the far Northern Canadian Greater Hudson Bay area. Their focus is on understanding environmental changes and working with local communities to address food security, safety and environmental stewardship in this critical and understudied region of the arctic. Read more
One day in the not too distant future the world will belong to our children. They will make decisions on the environment, policies on poverty and social services, and be responsible for making decisions about resources, war, and peace. They will be the problem-solvers (and problem-creators) responsible for the well-being of future generations.
How can we support our children and young adults so they become their best selves in a global society? How can we fuel within them a sense of service and civic engagement? How can we expand their minds to include causes bigger than themselves?
Most importantly, how can we help them develop the resolve and confidence they will need so they believe without a shadow of doubt they can make a difference, effect change, and improve the world?
The speaker stood up at the front of the auditorium….
“Several times a year our group goes into local cities and towns and asks, ‘Who are your missing children?’ We get their names and photos, then make posters of these children.”
(She holds up one of the posters with the faces of at least 15 children on it)
“We then stop at motels and hotels” she continued, “and ask the staff, ‘Have you seen any of these faces?’”
“EVERY TIME we’ve done this we’ve had at least one rescue. Sometimes several. The children are usually going by different names, but we always find someone who recognizes at least one and it allows us to start to work towards finding them and rescuing them.”
These children… they are typically between the ages of 12 and 16. These cities and towns? …. They are in New Jersey….
“Have you ever fed a baby squirrel?”
That was the email I received from Hope Kosch-Davison, Founder of Wild Baby Rescue, when I’d reached out to see if she needed any volunteers on site.
“I’ve got 37 baby squirrels right now,” her e-mail read….
April 19, 1973…. It’s Maundy Thursday. Seven-year old Joan Angela D’Alessandro is playing in her front yard after school when she sees her neighbor, Joseph McGowan, drive by on his way up to his home three houses away.
Eager to deliver her last boxes of Girl Scout cookies, Joan runs into the house and tells her mom she’s going to walk over to Mr. McGowan’s house to give him the 2 boxes of Thin Mint cookies he ordered.
Joan never came home.