By: Kevin Smith, Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar

Kevin is a Work and Travel participant from Kingston, Jamaica who is volunteering in the United States. When he returns home he hopes to rebuild a community center.

I have always considered volunteerism to be a selfless act; by volunteering an individual or group of individuals give their time and energy to others without expecting anything in return. By volunteering, individuals improve the lives of not only members of their community, or country, but the planet as a whole. This is why I have made time over the years to give back to my community by volunteering at community events and to the National Children’s Home in Kingston, Jamaica in order to improve the lives of those in my community.

Since becoming a CCI Greenheart Ambassador Scholar, I have had the chance to do meaningful volunteer projects in the United States. My volunteer projects in the United States have included going to a family farm in rural Pennsylvania. This helps kids with developmental problems by giving them a chance to play with animals, and also having them experience the outdoors in a safe environment. I have also volunteered at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, DC. Here I helped organize different types of meats and learnt important lessons about the prevalence of hunger in the United States.

While, volunteering in Jamaica and in the United States, I have seen that there are slight differences in how volunteerism is administered and the scale of the operations in both countries. For example, in America it is very common for high school and college students to volunteer as a part of their curriculum as well as for families to volunteer in their free time. This kind of structured system allows not only for more volunteer work to be accomplished but also provides an atmosphere of excitement around volunteerism. While in Jamaica the system to volunteer can be very bureaucratic and cumbersome, thereby serving as a disincentive to volunteer. Also the scale of the volunteer organizations in Jamaica is a great deal smaller than those in the United States due to the limited resources of the public and private sector in the small developing country.

Finally, my experience volunteering in United States has taught me many lessons that have inspired me to advocate for important issues in my country. For example, when I return to Jamaica I plan to use social media to actively engage with my piers about how they can help feed those in our community that are suffering from hunger. The reason being is that, from my experience at the Capital Area Food Bank, the general public does not sometimes fully grasp how many people are going hungry on a day to day basis. I believe that through advocacy and a little service I can help to mitigate this problem in my country.

Want to hear more from Kevin? Watch his video below!