By: Lauren Wilson, Greenheart Exchange CAP Operations Manager

It’s worth getting your hands dirty for the sake of cultural exchange! I was able to spend a day outside in the southern California heat, volunteering to remove invasive weeds and plants at the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy. This organization preserves and monitors 1,600 acres of protected open space about an hour outside of Los Angeles along the coastline. In the particular spot where we were placed, native plants had previously been sowed, and we were charged with the task of removing all of the other invasive plants.

This was a nice change of pace since my usual work day does not consist of shoveling, weeding, and farmers’ tans! I was able to also volunteer alongside several of the Career Advancement Program’s Interns and Trainees as well as some of our International Partners. Several of the participants had not yet been outside of the downtown Los Angeles area and enjoyed being at the nature reserve. None of us knew what we were in for, but we bonded over the shared struggle! The majority of the weeds were the size of small trees, with root systems well-entrenched into the hillside. After about twenty minutes, we discovered that many of the weeds could not be extracted without a team effort: one person armed with a shovel, and another with a trowel.

The participants self-sorted, and were able to pair off with someone they did not know within the Greenheart group. Many of the participants shared stories from their internships and respective cultural experiences since arriving in the United States. Some participants had been having a more difficult start to their program, and had not yet made many new friends. However, after the volunteer event, many of them exchanged information and made plans to meet up again! They were also able to coordinate with the Palos Verdes Nature Conservancy to volunteer again, as they offer weekly outdoor volunteering events.

We all left with blisters and sunburns, but had also discovered a newfound respect for individuals that put time and effort into conserving beautiful spaces for the public!

Interested in boosting your professional skills while also discovering the United States? Check out Greenheart Exchange’s Intern and Trainee program!