By: Marta Odainic, Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar

Marta is a Work and Travel participant from Moldova who is very passionate for programs focused on helping those infected with HIV/AIDS and preventive teaching for teenagers. This summer, she has taken time to volunteer while living in Chicago.


Volunteering, it has always seemed to me, is like a door to discover who you are. Because when you volunteer for something, you can do that for yourself, to make you happy.


I did volunteer work in many areas that interested me. My first step on this wonderful road was when I became a member of a group called “Youth in Action” in my hometown. There, I discovered the concept of it, and the benefits it has for me and for the community I live in. I was involved in many interesting projects regarding environment, kids with disabilities, the elderly, and many other social issues.


The experience I gained is priceless, so during my stay in the United States, I decided to continue with this activity, with the guidance of the CCI Greenheart Family. Besides the cultural exchange program I’m involved in, I took some time to volunteer for two projects:

After having spent just less than a week in Chicago, I attended my first Greenheart Service Project that took place at the Xochiquetzal Peace Garden. This place reminded me of my granny’s garden: full of flowers, different plants that you can use as medicine and in the kitchen, and even more importantly, it was full of sunshine and nice people.

At this event I met my Cultural Outreach Coordinator, Haldis Toppen, and other members of the Greenheart Family. We also enjoyed the company of our hosts, who explained how to take care of the plants and how to live in harmony with nature. I was lucky to meet some volunteers from China. We all helped to clean the garden, and at the end, we enjoyed a pizza party.

For my second volunteer project, I decided to do something different; something that I had never done before. The Universe seems to always work for us, as I found a nice opportunity to be a hostess at an Italian Festival in the United States. Doesn’t that seem cool?!

My love for the Italian culture brought me to Festa Italiana. I greeted people at one of the entrances. Besides that, I had time to make some new friends, to teach them some Italian words, to share my knowledge about the Italian culture, and to try some Italian food (to be honest, it didn’t have that much in common with true Italian food, but it was tasty).

Also, I enjoyed the live music, and had a lot of fun watching the meatball contest.

If you have never tried volunteering, DO THIS as soon as possible. And do it with all of your HEART. You’ll realize how important you are in this big world. You’ll realize that you have the power to change something, to make miracles happen.

Together, we can make it!