I have been volunteering with SOS Children’s Villages during the semester in their headquarters office in Washington DC. The company is located in Farragut Square, which is an easy bus ride away. The organization provides loving homes for orphaned children and struggling families in many countries around the world. There is also a lot of work done with children’s health, including increasing food and medicine availability. I’m studying these health topics in Health Promotion, so the classroom learning is certainly enhancing my community experience, and vice versa. The office in Washington, DC is a pretty small operation that focuses on marketing and connecting sponsors with the children.
So far I’ve really enjoyed working in various parts of the organization; it allows me to meet many different people and learn about several components that go into making the organization function smoothly. While certain departments are separated, there are a few events that involve the entire staff. SOS does a Thank-a-Thon where employees stay after-hours and call donors to thank them for supporting SOS. There are thousands of sponsors, so not everyone was called during the Thank-a-Thon. I got a list of individuals who were not yet contacted, and I sat in an empty office to make some calls. I was expecting to be doing soliciting, which I was not looking forward to, but I was happy (and relieved) to learn that the purpose of these calls isn’t to get more donations. It’s simply an outreach to the sponsors to say thank you and show appreciation for all of their continued support. Most people, when the call wasn’t directed to voicemail, appreciated the simple thank you for their charity, and went about their day. SOS certainly puts an emphasis on connecting with its sponsors, ensuring they know how much their generosity is appreciated.
Although I’m not learning a lot about health promotion itself or doing hands-on work with orphaned children, I’m learning a lot about what happens behind the scenes to allow people in the health promotion field to do their work. I have been thinking of doing nonprofit work, so this volunteer position has allowed me to connect with a local organization and experience what non-profit work is like. I have had an incredible experience at SOS so far, and I can’t wait to go back next week and hopefully be involved with the wonderful organization more in the future.