The non-profit service-learning site that I participated in is Community of Hope. I worked with grade school children who come from families that struggle with poverty and homelessness. I am forever grateful for the unforgettable experiences I have gained through Community Service Learning Program (CSLP) opportunities. At first, I struggled in trying to find the right opportunity as I had several personal requirements. Primarily, I needed a site that would advance my knowledge and experiences. This would be a place where I can offer all my help and skills to the best of my ability. Having a full schedule already as a full-time college student, a member of a sports team, an EMT trainee, and working long nights as a waitress, I thought it would be nearly impossible to find a site. Nevertheless, CSLP did a great job staying by my side helping me throughout this whole process. Preparing us from the start, they did inform us that sometimes it is a struggle (especially with my schedule) to find the right program but they are always there to help. They were very approachable and gave us great opportunities to sign up for. I now look back and realize that through this struggle, I gained a lot more experiences than I initially anticipated.
I volunteered at a few sites before Community of Hope, one of them being Glen Echo Fire station (as an ambulance ride along). I loved it so much that I’m continuing to be a member there as an EMT, and that is why I had to choose another site. I then quickly applied to volunteer at Community of Hope. This place fits me like a glove. It is now home to me and brings me to feelings of triumph, gratification, and humility. There really is no way to describe the deep joy I feel when I walk into the kid’s club and hear cheers of delight, “Ms. Sonia is here!” Emotions flutter around me like a gentle spring rain as little enthusiastic people present their activities to me and wait for my reaction of astonishment. They just want someone to believe in them. Being able to be that person with whom kids are eager to ask help in solving a puzzle with them, reading to them, helping them with their homework, or even helping you clean up together truly humbles me.
One of the many activities we prepared that connected to my health promotion class was familiarizing the kids with the ChooseMyPlate icon introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture. MyPlate was meant to help people make healthy food choices about the foods they choose to eat. The icon emphasizes and illustrates the serving sizes and colors of the fruit (red), vegetables (green), grains (orange), protein (purple), and dairy (blue) food groups. This opportunity built my character, strengthened my education and cultural competency. Not only is Community of Hope a place that I look forward to after a long day at school, but a place that drives my passion to help others even more. This site is exactly the experience I was looking for and I’m proud to say that CSLP offered it to me. Many would assume the children benefit from volunteers, but I am convinced it is people like me who benefit from serving.