All Hands on Deck! Stories of Community Service – Part II

A few months ago, we shared inspiring stories about the volunteer work of several of our fall semester participants. Now, as the spring semester rapidly draws to a close, we’re excited to highlight our current Global UGRAD participants and how they’re getting on with their community service hours. From tutoring and after-school care to event coordination and more, Global UGRADs are making waves in their local communities.

Bodoor AlHaddad (Saudi Arabia)  at University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Painting sessions!

Volunteering on spring break? Maybe not a typical way to spend your break, especially if you’re in the U.S. for the first time. But that’s what I did. In the U.S., I had a goal of “collecting experiences” and to my surprise I realized I was also collecting “stories.” So, when volunteering for spring break came along, I went for it. We set off to Cincinnati, visited an emergency shelter, a foster home, a behavioral health agency, an autism center, and Boys & Girls Clubs – an after-school program for kids in low income areas. We served in any way needed, from rearranging a library to making slime with kids!

I made adorable friends, and each one had a story. I met K, who’s secretly Superman – he was seriously into it and actually had the hair twirl – K had incredible painting skills for a seven year-old, we drew together, he told me about his days as superman, and about his “invisible” dirt bike. K had a batman t-shirt on which he’s wearing to “maintain a cover”. I met J, who in day one completely ignored me, but in day two he said Hi! He and I had a drawing session, he told me he likes to draw scary, creepy, and silly stuff. J says he doesn’t like to paint because colors ruin a picture. He later went on and told me about his mean ‘drunk’ stepdad, and when I mentioned that many grownups drink, he said when he’s older, he wouldn’t. I met the smartest puppy fanatic, D, an eleven year-old girl with Autism. D dreams to be an animal scientist, just like her mom. She was a genius in math, and really wanted to join a normal school, but couldn’t because of her illness. She then bombarded me with a bunch of animal facts I couldn’t wrap my head around. There was also L, ten years old, who told me that fidget spinners were actually made for stress management! He told me about his anger management issues, how sometimes it takes him over, but a walk, music, or a stress ball really do help him. L was aware of his issues, and apparently his friends around him were, too. Lastly, the youngest M, who just gave me hugs, hair braids, and lots of compliments. She drew me her family tree, where each of her siblings had a different family name, but to her that didn’t matter. I had a rap battle with the wittiest girls, they called me Oldi-ful- meaning old but beautiful. I played basketball and won!, I drew, painted, and I listened. I sat with the kids younger than me, and heard stories bigger than me. So, a reminder to myself: people want to share, but they do so in different forms with different paces. Be there, and have an empathetic heart.

Alice Mwaniki (Kenya) at University of Nevada – Reno

I have always loved doing community service and I am so happy that Global UGRAD gave me the opportunity to do my community service in the U.S. The first day of my community service was the best day of my life so far in the U.S. I was volunteering for Arts for All Nevada, helping to set up a Family Art Festival. I got to know about the organization through Christopher. R. Partridge who works in the Center for Student Engagement at  the University of Nevada, Reno. He has been so helpful so far in ensuring that I always get volunteering opportunities. I was personally working with Chris as his teaching assistant in the Family Art Festival. We were teaching kids how to do some drawings and color them, and then we would finally paint them. One particular kid known as Aiden caught my eye. He was not so good at drawing but he had passion for it and he would not give up. I helped him write his name in big bold letters and he did some coloring and finally I painted his drawing. It was so lovely and I could just see how happy he was as he ran to show his mum his drawing. Some kids were so happy and excited that they would keep coming back to try a different drawing. I felt satisfied that I made an impact on a child’s life on that day, that I helped put a smile on their face. I only volunteered for six hours but I wish I had even more time!

Ahmed Beltagy (Egypt) at West Virginia University

The Islamic School of Morgantown is where I spend most of my community service volunteering hours. The little kids are so energetic, cute, innocent, active, and lovely. They’re adorable in a way you can’t imagine. Each Sunday when I go there I experience this feeling of peace and calm. When I see those children playing I feel no worries; I just watch them playing or sometimes I forget myself and go to play with them. It helps a lot especially when I feel homesick . I’ve volunteered a total of 17 hours so far, but I don’t think I’ll stop at 20 – this place became a part of me.

Kumhyang Kim (South Korea) at East Tennessee State University

I started my community service in a warm and inviting space, One Acre Café. The café is a non-profit community restaurant for everyone which offers the Johnson City community healthy and nutritious food. The vision of this café is to see all of community members, regardless of their means, dining together and supporting one another in building the strength and health of our community. The café functions with 95% volunteers. There are suggested donations for those who can pay or pay it forward and the ability to volunteer in exchange for a meal for those who cannot. The café cooperates with local farmers to produce healthy amazing cuisine. I mainly take orders and serve the food. In the beginning, I was a little nervous because it was the first time I took an order in U.S. Thanks to volunteer coordinator Heather and the former volunteers’ help (and the generous customers), I was able to take orders successfully. I met many passionate people there. Most volunteers come from different universities and schools, and there are also some local residents who served for several years. Every time when I work there, I feel very excited and rewarded. Doing community service with a sincere heart not only makes others happy but also yourself.  As a Global UGRAD, I always feel blessed and feel grateful for all the opportunities that I have. I am so glad I can give back some to local society by doing community service.

Zhanna Ateibek (Kazakhstan) at University of Wisconsin – Green Bay

Zhanna volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club of Green Bay during her free time. The Boys and Girls Club serves underprivileged children of all ages from the East Green Bay area, offering a wide range of specialized educational, professional, and social programs for young people. Zhanna has been facilitating programs and helping staff members with the ‘Be Great’ and ‘STEAM’ programs. Both programs focus on after-school homework help and free educational lessons focused on STEM and social science tutoring.

Goga Katalandze (Georgia) at Wayne State University

Goga has been volunteering with the Detroit Public School (DPS) system. As a Wayne State student, he takes frequent trips to inner-city public schools and meets with students ranging from kindergarten to 3rd grade. As a member of the DPS Reading Corps, Goga helps promote literacy and enthusiasm about reading among elementary school students who have shown lower than average levels of reading competency for their grade levels.


World Learning Global UGRAD Team (United States) Washington, DC

As part of our staff retreat, the World Learning team spent time giving back to our community through a volunteer activity with Food & Friends. This local non-profit provides more than home-delivered meals to those in need – it provides compassion, community, and dignity. We spent several hours packaging meals, organizing pantry items, and helping the staff to prep for the next day’s delivery service. And we had fun along the way!