By: Rob DeLaney, Greenheart Exchange Work and Travel Employer Services Coordinator

This summer, I visited some of Greenheart’s participants in Houston, Texas. While I was there, we participated in a volunteer activity, where we traveled to Houston’s McGovern Centennial Gardens. There, we helped out by weeding and trimming hedges. I had such a great time working in the park and talking with the participants about their summer.

Some of the participants told me about the fun places they’d visited in Houston, like the Museum of Natural Science or the Downtown Aquarium. Others told me about how much fun they had working, even on busy days when they were swamped with customers. I also heard about all of the participants’ plans for their 30- day travel period, where they detailed their plans to explore the United States. I only hope that those participants visiting Las Vegas are able to hold onto some of their money before returning home!

The day before, I visited participants while they were at work, and got to see them in action.  I learned about their training periods, where they were taught about the different items in the store, and how to operate the cash register. However, by the time I visited, the participants were seasoned professionals and seemed like they had been doing the job for years.

It was very interesting to hear from participants what their favorite aspect of the Work and Travel program was. Some said that they appreciated the chance to learn about American culture and improve their English. Multiple participants told me the true value of their program came from the experience of being independent for the first time in their life, forcing them to really come out of their shell.

As we wrapped up our volunteer event at the park, the volunteer coordinator there told us that other countries had donated art or sculptures to the park and that the park itself featured plants and flowers from across the world. It was very rewarding to think that our efforts to maintain the park helped that spirit of diversity and inclusiveness. I had a wonderful time visiting our participants in Houston and want to thank them and their supervisors for letting me be a part of their summer!

If you want to explore a new community, look into our Summer Work Travel program. Follow us on Instagram to see the awesome places our participants’ stay while visiting.