CCI Greenheart Exchange Students’ Voices Bring Cultural Exchange and Community Improvement in Hawaii
by: Molly Vidmar, High School Program Assistant
The mission of the FLEX program is to provide students from countries from the former Soviet Union with opportunities to learn about and to exercise free speech and the democratic process. At an enhancement activity on exposing students to the different branches of government, FLEX students Begaiym and Diana were invited to speak in a public service announcement about cultural exchange, courtesy of Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi. The mayor asked what things could be done for exchange students living in Hawaii.
By Jillian Sims: High School Programs Compliance and Operations Manager
When CCI Greenheart thinks Mobile, AL, we think about our awesome Local Coordinator, Adrienne Tate. Adrienne has placed a total of 33 J1 Academic Year students since just 2012, not including those that she places in our Short Term programs. But beyond being a high placer, Adrienne is known for her positive attitude, and passion for her students and families. When we asked what she does outside of placing and monitoring her students, she laughingly replied “When is that?” She and her husband have two children, and outside of spending time with her students, Adrienne makes room for family time and her own business.
Sometimes, she even gets a chance to travel because of her work with CCI Greenheart, including two international conferences. In February of 2014, Adrienne earned enough points by placing and monitoring students to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Incredibly, she did it for a second year in a row and this year traveled to Madrid, Spain and joined in celebrating CCI Greenheart’s “30 Years of Creating Global Leaders.” While the location of the conferences is incentive alone, Adrienne also finds great value in having the chance to mingle with other field staff, leadership, and even our foreign sending partners.
“It helps you become a better LC when you can pick the brain of others that have gone through much more than you have,” Adrienne says.
“I also liked being able to talk to the partners from the countries we receive students from. Talking to them about the process they go through and the information that is given to their kids before they come. They answer questions and give you a better understanding of the children you place. I would recommend (attending a conference) because you learn so much from each other and from the partners. You create a bond with other LCs/RMs/RDs that is worth so much in the long run. Plus, you experience another culture unlike your own and go though adapting process we ask our students to do on a daily basis.”
For Adrienne, having a good support system and being genuinely supportive of her students and their experiences is such an important part of her role. She joined CCI Greenheart in 2012 in part because of the evident team atmosphere that she felt from her now Regional Manager, Carol Arbush, who suggested she should join her team. “After working with her and Connie Dean (Executive Regional Director), I started gaining the wonderful feeling I had when working with the students and the families. I love being able to connect students with their forever families and seeing their faces light up when they finally meet face to face. I love when we talk about their experiences and the way they fall in love with their new American family.”
Adrienne loves seeing her students and families in action, too. Whether it is having fun with students teaching them holiday games like “Lefty the Elf” or seeing them learn the value of volunteering, these are the moments that make everything meaningful for Adrienne. She is particularly proud of two of her students who volunteer at their host family’s soup kitchen ministry “Ransom Cafe’.”
The students, Reinhold from Germany and Jeerawat (Bie) from Thailand, have fulfilled more than the 8 hours of required community service that CCI Greenheart asks its students to fulfill. The boys go above and beyond, serving food, helping on holidays, and even being camp counselor’s. “It has changed their outlook on volunteering forever and I believe that they will continue on when they return home….But I am proud of all my kids that have come here and learned how to adapt to another culture, to be open-minded to try things, and to have the courage to just be here,” Adrienne says, not wanting to forget the basic crowning achievement of any exchange student.
It seems fitting then, that the moment that she feels the most impact and pride from being an LC is also a bit of the most bittersweet for students and families. She speaks about the teary scenes at the airports at the end of a successful exchange:
“They have truly become a part of another family so deeply that they have a hard time resuming their lives in their home country. They will take what they have learned back with them, and pass it along to other that want to do the same. The more children we give that chance to, the more misconceptions about each others countries will cease to exist.”
With over 30 student placements under her belt, it also makes sense that Adrienne has picked up a few tidbits of advice along the way. They fall into 3 categories and are helpful to both new and seasoned LCs:
- Recruiting: “Talk to any and every one… step outside your comfort zone, but also play on your strengths,” Adrienne advises. One of those strengths, she points out, is your personal story. “Tell them why you do what you do and what they will gain from taking a chance on this opportunity.”
- Conflict Management: When it comes to dealing with student issues, Adrienne has some great advice for LCs. She advises, “Sit the family down, get a notebook, and us a page for the student, one for the family, and one for your thoughts. You let the student talk with no interruptions, then the family, and then you tell them what you heard and the suggestions you have or them. Document everything that is said and also what you said. The more detailed notes you have, the better when it comes to letting CCI Greenheart know and what they can tell the partner and natural parents. Always make them feel you are the non-biased party and you are there to help them with the problems so that they can have a better bond/connection with their families.” Most importantly, she adds, “Make sure that your students and families know that you are there for them at all times.”
- Support: Adrienne has come to value and rely on the support that her CCI Greenheart family offers when difficult situations arise. When she felt challenged, she recalls how a healthy support system kept her motivated. “But with the consistent encouragement I received from my Regional Manager and Executive Regional Director, I made it through the rough times. They gave me advice, tips to talk to students and families and words of encouragement to help me through dilemmas.”
Local Coordinators like Adrienne provide so much, not only to their students and host families, but also to the community and ultimately the global perspective as we work towards “Creating Global Leaders” at CCI Greenheart. Interested in being part of this mission? Check out how to become an LC in your community or visit CCI Greenheart to learn more about hosting and working with a great LC like Adrienne in your area!
By Adra Klopfer, Work and Travel Partner Relations Manager
Recently, we made an appearance volunteering at a popular beach in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic during one of our Summer 2015 Job Fair tour stops. Within an hour we picked up enough trash (mostly Styrofoam) to fill 28 garbage bags. Yuck!
A garbage pick up is as quick and rewarding way to help Mother Nature and earn Greenheart Club hours, wherever you may be on the planet. Here is all you need:
- A littered parcel of land
- Garbage bags
- A place to dispose of the garbage bags after the clean-up
- Closed-toed shoes
- Rubber gloves
- A great group of people!
Spice up your cleanup with a contest! Our group of Dominican participants, American employers, visa sponsor (CCI Greenheart) and Summer Work Travel sending agency staff competed to collect the Most Reusable, Most Disgusting, Most International, and Most Attractive pieces of trash. Hershey chocolate bars went to the winners!
Are you inspired to join the Greenheart Club and clean an area near you? Tell us about it!
By Sarah Tolman, F-1 High School Academic Program Coordinator
After hearing Dita speak in her impressively advanced and almost accent-free English, with such maturity, enthusiasm and charm, one would assume that she’s been studying in the U.S. for at least a year, if not more. Dita only arrived in
New York State this past January, but thanks to a warm, welcoming community of people, she has already managed to find comfort and confidence, both at school and in her homestay.
Dita, from the Czech Republic, is currently a participant on CCI Greenheart’s F-1 High School Academic Program. Students from a variety of countries are drawn to the F-1 High School Program, largely because of the opportunity to choose their school or their destination in the U.S. Dita chose her school, Allendale Columbia High School in Rochester, New York, because it was small and intimate, just like her school in her home country. Though she was nervous on her first day, it took almost no time for Dita to feel comfortable at her school.
“What I really love about Allendale is you just go and you feel like you are at home, ‘cause everyone knows you, and you are like part of a family.”
By being her outgoing self in class and participating in track and field as an extracurricular activity, Dita has made friends with other exchange students and Americans alike. On one day off from school, Dita enjoyed hanging out with her closest American friend, Carly. Carly’s parents own a local bakery, so the two girls helped out with the baking and enjoyed a delicious lunch. Dita has also shared her own food with Carly, cooking a Czech cream of spinach and Czech dumplings. They have plans to bake Czech cookies next!
Dita has formed a close bond with her host family as well. She lives with her host mother and three-year-old host brother, Neil, to whom she refers as “the little guy.” She enjoys spending girl-time with her host mother, says they have amazing talks and that she feels appreciated and very much a part of the family. When asked if she has encountered anything surprising
about living with an American family, Dita recounts this:
“One thing what I didn’t expect… I took AP French class, and my host mom, she’s originally from Haiti, which means she’s fluent in French. So sometimes when we want to, we can speak French! We speak mostly English… but that’s what I really didn’t expect, because the main goal was to improve English, not to improve French, but I can do both at the same time!”
At the age of 18, Dita has already gained an important skill that many people don’t gain until later in life, if they gain it at all. She has learned to compare and analyze cultural differences between her home country and a foreign country, by experiencing both cultures first-hand. Dita describes one of these differences that she noticed when she moved here:
“Czech people are like, when they see someone having trouble, they try to pretend like they don’t see it, because they don’t want to get into trouble too. But here, like ten people ask you what’s going on and if they can help you, and they really mean it, they really want to help you.”
Dita gave a heart-warming example of this to illustrate how welcomed she has felt from the very beginning of her program.
During her first week in the U.S., her French teacher asked if Dita missed her Mom. When Dita answered, “yes, a little bit,” the teacher said, “it’s okay, I’m your Mom here!” and gave her a hug. The friendliness from her teachers and classmates and continued support from her host mother and Local Coordinator helped Dita get through any homesickness she felt during those first few weeks. She advised any international students who are experiencing this same initial loneliness,
“Every beginning is hard. Just wait and give it time. Nobody expects you to come and be a superstar in the first week.”
Maybe it didn’t happen in the first week, but Dita has definitely become a superstar in the eyes of CCI Greenheart. She has gained independence, perspective and a newfound pride for her own Czech culture through her experience here. In addition to getting good grades and traveling to New York City, Dita hopes to gain new insights into American culture and share more about Czech culture and lifestyle with her peers and host family.
You can share your culture and become an exchange student superstar too. Click here to apply to the F-1 High School Academic Program for the 2015-2016 school year. We can’t wait to meet you!
By Elyse Voyen, CCI Greenheart Staff
The Greenheart Club held its Fifth Annual National Essay Contest for all CCI Greenheart exchange students and their high school classmates this year. Students were asked:
“Service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life.” —Carrie Chapman CattReflect on and describe a specific positive volunteer experience you have had within the past year. How did this experience make you feel? How did it impact those you were serving? How do you intend to continue spreading happiness through service within our world?
The winning essay receives a $500 grant to do a Greenheart Service Project at the student’s high school. We received an array of inspirational essays from youth across the country. After careful consideration of all the essays, a winner was chosen.
This year’s winner is Irina Pershina from Russia. Irina wrote an insightful, reflective essay about her experience working with Green Good Neighbors, an organization that gives food to low income families in the City of Green, Ohio. Her essay illustrated a deep commitment and understanding of volunteerism. Irina is also a member of the Greenheart Club and has volunteered 85.5 hours this academic year! We at Greenheart are excited to see what she does for her Greenheart Service Project and we would like to wish her a heartfelt congratulations! Read Irina’s essay below.
It’s the Small Things that Change the World for the Better
By Irina Pershina
What is volunteering? It is an investment in the future and well-being of our planet and global community. It helps develop a desire for making our world better, to become more compassionate, and to realize that you are not the only person on Earth. Dedicating a little time to the community makes you feel like a valuable member of society. We are all valuable people but some of us just did not have enough luck in life. After my exchange year I know that I will keep on volunteering no matter where I am, even though it will be harder in my home country. It has become a part of me and will be for the rest of my life. It is hard to express with words the impact volunteering has had on me and how it has broadened my mind, but I will try.
Green Good Neighbors is a place where families with low income can get their food supplies for free. Al, who is in charge of the organization, is in his 70s. He does everything himself from getting and restocking food to giving it away to people. Although he has a few helpers, he is the one to whom many people going through economic hardship can give a huge thank you.
I started volunteering there every Saturday back in November. Each time, we restocked food in a certain order, so that it would be easier to give away to people when they came in. Usually people do not go there on Saturdays, but one day a lady, who Al had told me about earlier, showed up to get some food. She is a grandma who raises her two grandchildren because her daughter passed away and her son-in-law went to prison. She took on the responsibility of bringing up her grandchildren. Since she is retired it is hard for her to satisfy all their needs and wants. That is why she needed some help from Green Good neighbors. She goes there every Wednesday, but once she paid us a visit on Saturday. This was my first experience with providing someone with food.
There is a minimum of how much a person can take based on the number of members in their household; however, it is estimated that everyone gets enough food. When the elderly lady came on Saturday she got some extra sweets because every Friday Panera donates fresh bread and cakes. They expire by Wednesday and Al wanted to give her some quickly-expiring goods. At first, I could tell that she was uncomfortable taking extra food, but then Al talked her into it. Throughout the whole process of selecting grocery goods she remained shy and polite. Every time we gave her one thing she said “thank you”. She was so grateful and happy and she could not stop thanking us. We loaded her car with products, and she left. I could really see the importance of what I was doing. The old lady did not have to worry about spending money on food. Instead, she could save it for college or for nice birthday and Christmas presents for her two grandchildren!
Al dedicates his life to helping people; he spends most of his time at Green Good neighbors. He is a very passionate and loyal volunteer and contributes a lot to making this world a better place. Apart from Al, there are two other men who volunteer with us on Saturdays: Tom and Lou. Tom is always singing while Lou teases him good-naturedly. They always joke and tell funny stories. The volunteers of Green Good neighbors know that good deeds bring satisfaction to both givers and receivers. They made me think about what volunteering means to society.
Every hour devoted to people who need support is a small step towards a cooperative and understanding world. The idea that I made someone’s life a little better and easier brings happiness to my heart. Kindness, honesty, and compassion, it all may sound corny but those qualities are a keystone of human perfection. Greed, selfishness and a strong desire for getting money by any means destroy us. A heart with pure intentions gives you what no money can buy – a feeling of accomplishing something great and sincere gratitude from those who you served.
People do everything for a reward. The result of volunteering is a reward in itself. You know that you helped someone and it gives you the drive and energy to do more volunteering. There are thousands of volunteers who improve this world every day. Their joint efforts should be an object of admiration because they devote their personal time to make others’ lives better.
Why do volunteers never stop their work? The answer is simple: once you do it, you start thinking about all the positive results. You realize that even little participation in serving your community is beneficial to the world. Volunteering consists of many large and small acts done every day. When added together, incredible amounts of kindness and love are produced.
All these ideas and thoughts dawned on me after I started volunteering. I like spending my Saturdays at Green Good neighbors. This way I know that I’m not wasting my life, for I am bringing happiness to a small community in Ohio called “City of Green”. I do not need any kind of recompense for my donated time and effort because I know that I am doing it for the sake of people and I truly believe that “Service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life.”
Keep an eye out for the blog about Irina’s Greenheart Project!
By: CCI Greenheart Work and Travel Staff
Last Month, CCI Greenheart staff member, Joe Burns, traveled to Colorado to visit participants working in some of the country’s most famous ski areas.
During a visit to Silverthorne, Joe had the opportunity to sit down with participants and their employer to discuss cultural differences and the impact of the Work and Travel Program. One participant mentioned that he is very close with his family and has never been out on his own until now. It was a challenge for him to adjust to life in America, especially in the beginning, but having the opportunity to learn how to live independently has helped him to prepare for life after college.
Participants had a good laugh when one of them mentioned that rice takes too long to cook in Colorado, due to the altitude, so instead she regularly picks up pizza for dinner on the way home. When asked what participants missed most about home, their families and the food were among some of the common answers. Two of the participants came together on the program as friends and said that they miss playing in their rock band back home in Paraguay. They shared some recordings of their music, which was really quite good!
Overall, Joe’s visit to Silverthorne was one of the highlights of his travels this winter. This is what the employer had to say:
“I wish I could clone them and keep them here forever. They are working hard to learn English, to experience culture, and have really been a great contribution to our team. These kids are so motivating to me!”
– Kelsey Lyons, Owner-Operator of Which Wich in Silverthorne, CO.
By Adra Klopfer, Work and Travel Partner Relations Manager
Recently, we traveled to Kingston, Jamaica where we volunteered at The Golden Age Home as a part of the Summer 2015 Job Fair tour, and we think the seniors and staff we met there are the tops!
The Jamaican government publicly funds this facility; and they need private assistance. Aside from money, they need flip-flops and toiletries. FLIP-FLOPS! (Honestly, how many pairs of shoes do you have?!) Look how easily you can purchase flip-flops in bulk for $3.30 a pair.
Aside from material goods, these seniors need physical touch and conversation buddies. Thinking of traveling through Kingston for spring break or to escape the winter? Give yourself the gift of an unforgettable experience and pencil in some volunteerism time at The Golden Age Home. You will not regret it. The residents speak English, will teach you Patwa, sing you songs and recite poems (they put on a full-blown talent show for us), and provide you with a private peek into Jamaican history, as they experienced Jamaica’s struggle and prevailing freedom from the British firsthand, amongst other events.
The grounds are a short 30-minute taxi ride from Norman Manley International Airport.
If you’re anything like me and spent the better half of the last decade listening to Bob Marley’s reggae on repeat, take his words to heart:
“So much trouble in the world;
So much trouble in the world.
All you got to do: give a little (give a little),
Give a little (give a little), give a little (give a little)!
One more time, ye-ah! (give a little) Ye-ah! (give a little)
Ye-ah! (give a little) Yeah!”
Unable to visit this hidden gem of Jamaica? Support by sending packages and donations here.
However, if you are able to connect to the Golden Age Home, log your volunteer hours with Greenheart International and tell us about your experience!
Want to see more instances of volunteering in Jamaica with the Work and Travel department? Check out last year’s post!