Volunteer Service Lies at the Very Heart of American Culture
This country has relied on volunteers from its start: Colonists banded together to survive the harsh New World, forming support groups to help each other plant crops, build houses and fight disease. Benjamin Franklin developed the first volunteer firehouse in 1736, an idea that has become the country’s norm, as more than 70% of all firefighters today are volunteers. And during the Revolutionary War, patriotic citizens volunteered to organize boycotts against British imports and raise funds for the war efforts, and of course there were the famous “minute men,” who were a volunteer militia.
During the Civil War, groups such as Ladies’ Aid Societies were created to make bandages, shirts, towels, bedclothes, uniforms, and tents.
During World War II, volunteers were active in the military and on the home front. Thousands of volunteer officers took part in coordinating volunteers in collecting supplies, entertaining soldiers on leave and caring for the injured. After the war, major developments including the Peace Corps and President Lyndon B Johnson’s “War on Poverty” in 1964 started the expansion of volunteer opportunities that continues today.
Within the past few years, you could say volunteering has essentially become a national pastime. In 2011, volunteering reached its highest level since 2006, as Americans volunteered nearly 8 billion hours of their time to local and national causes.
Today nearly one in four Americans, an estimated 64.3 million people, have served as volunteers. Take a closer look at the who, what, where and why of volunteering in America: http://causes.volunteermatch.org/articles/infographic
In an effort to bring this important part of American culture to our J1 international exchange visitors, AAG had developed a volunteer component for our programs, enabling our participants the chance to give back to the communities that host them year after year.
In honor of National Volunteer Week, AAG had the honor of engaging nearly 70 international students in service events across the U.S. Here’s how J1’s gave back to their communities last month:
- Austin, Texas – working the community garden at the Sustainable Food Center
- San Antonio, Texas – sorting food products at the San Antonio Food Bank
- Arlington, Texas – sorting food products at the Tarrant Area Food Bank
- Galveston, Texas – beach cleanup for community Adopt a Beach project
- Kansas City, Kansas – food prep for community shelter lunch service
- Sandusky, Ohio – food prep for community shelter lunch service
- Orlando, Florida – sorting food products for the Orlando Food Bank
- Wisconsin Dells – community park clean-up for Earth Day
Do you currently have an employee engagement, volunteer program established with your company? Please let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteer service is an important component of the J1 cultural exchange programs and we look forward to working with you more closely as this initiative grows across the U.S.