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Must-See “Off the Beaten Path” Destinations in the U.S.

February 27, 2015

By: Melissa Muth, Career Advancement Program Assistant

The Career Advancement Program at CCI Greenheart promotes not only professional development, but cultural immersion as well. It is our hope that our interns and trainees are able to explore the many great destinations the U.S. has to offer- from NYC’s Central Park to the world-famous L.A. Hollywood sign to Chicago’s Willis Tower. But let’s also not forget about the more “off the beaten path” destinations! Not sure where we’re going with this? No worries! The CAP team has some suggestions for you as you plan your travels throughout the U.S.:

Minneapolis, Minnesota

“One of my favorite (less frequented) cities in the U.S. is Minneapolis, MN. It is one of the ‘Twin Cities’ (along with St. Paul), but it has a very small town feel. I have never met nicer people, who love where they live more th6066920895_051d396464_oan the Minneapolitans. Among the many things to do, its national claim to fame is the behemoth that is The Mall of America. I remember I went into 3 stores and walked the entire thing- it took about 4 hours! It’s definitely a site to behold with its basement aquarium and indoor theme park. Outside of this massive structure, Minneapolis has a lot to offer.    I recommend trying the famous “Jucy Lucy”, a delicious burger with cheese inside the meat, but be careful ‘cause they’ll warn you about the cheese (it’s molten hot)! Minneapolis boasts being the most bike friendly city, the most beard friendly city, the most gay friendly city, the most hipster city, the healthiest city, and the number one golfing city. It has many local brews and small businesses with local artisans, and it was the first major city along the Mississippi River. I definitely recommend visiting this great Midwestern city, where I could definitely see myself living, if I didn’t love Chicago as much as I do! “  –Luis

New Orleans, Louisiana

Hands down, I recommend all visitors to the U.S. go to New Orleans! New Orleans, and in fact the whole stoysters new orleansate of Louisiana, is famous for huge Mardi Gras celebrations which include parades, colored beads, and traditional bands. It doesn’t matter what time of year you go, though, because that spirit infuses life year-round. “Let the Good Times Roll” is the motto of New Orleans. While there, take a stroll down Bourbon Street and tour the old French Quarter; listen to world-famous jazz music on Frenchmen Street; take a bike or walking tour to learn about the Creole culture; tour the beautiful Garden District; volunteer with Habitat for Humanity on hurricane relief efforts which have been ongoing since 2004; and, of course, eat famous foods like meat and seafood stew called “gumbo,” fresh oysters “on the half shell,” powdered doughnuts called “beignets,” and shrimp sandwiches called “Po’boys.” This city is like nowhere else in the world! –Lauren

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Dells is one of those lesser known tourist destinations to excara dellsplore and enjoy. A popular vacation spot for Midwesterners, the Dells is the home to more water parks than any other area in the U.S. Additionally, the Dells is home to amusement parks, camping areas, canoeing opportunities, and great dining.  Not only is it a great summer vacation spot, but it’s also great for a winter getaway. Specifically, skiing and snowboarding are popular activities. If you’re looking for your next adventure, visit Wisconsin Dells with a few friends, rent a cabin, and explore all that this offbeat location has to offer!  –Cara

Palm Springs, California

While there’s much to love about the major cities of southern California, if you’re like me you enjoy taking a breather and removing yourself from the hustl5504668568_5e33bbb685_oe and bustle. Just two hours from both L.A. and San Diego you’ll find yourself in one of the state’s finest nooks: Palm Springs. First and foremost, Palm Springs offers the beauty of the mountains, the warmth of the dry desert heat (perfect for those who dislike humidity), and an “island” feel brought by the palm trees. It has many attractions, including golf courses, art galleries, museums, and the famous Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, where you can ride up the Chino Canyon to go cross-country skiing and hiking, or simply enjoy lunch with a view. The city is even a place of holiday homes for old-time Hollywood stars like as Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball! As you can see, Palm Springs is a lovely “off the beaten path” destination. –Melissa

What unique places have you encountered during your travels? For a chance to be featured on our blog send your favorite “off the beaten path” destinations to For more information about the Career Advancement Program, please visit at our website:

Our Grandparents – The Story of Hua Qiao Greenheart Club

February 25, 2015

By Xiaoman Zhu, Work and Travel Participant Summer 2014

Xiaoman Zhu, Lulu Kong, Ruixun Chen, Junyuan Yi and Qing Dai all participated in CCI Greenheart’s Summer 2014 Work and Travel Program. They were all placed in the same area and volunteered much of their time at the Five Senses Garden in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They all attend Jilin Huaqiao Foreign Languages Institute during the academic year. All were exemplary members of the Greenheart Club during their time in the United States and were therefore awarded a Greenheart Service Grant as a group. They have used this grant to bring joy, warmth and well being to the elderly in their community. The group has formed a Greenheart Club at their university and we can’t wait to see what project they do next! Read about their “Our Grandparents” project below and check out the photos and video they made!

Once I saw an advertisement for Dior perfume on the internet, and it said, “ What makes women beautiful? It is happiness and energy”. I’ve found this also to be true for the elderly. First, I want to show you a photo of an old man smiling with blue teeth in the nursing home after he ate the cake we had brought for him. From this photo you can feel his happiness and vitality.


During this project, I did see lots of different smiles from the elderly and I feel really lucky to have had the chance to help these people in need. The good results come from all-around plain and hard work. From the very beginning, we prepared for the purchase of fruit, cookies and cakes, long wool socks and long thick towels and other articles for daily use. In addition, Lulu designed our Hua Qiao Greenheart Club hoodies and our special flag. We had to negotiate with the nursing home’s administration. They were hesitant to have many volunteers in the nursing home at one time because they thought it would disrupt the warmth and comfort of the place so we decided to only have five volunteers working at one time.

Each time we went there, we would talk with them and help do some cleaning. The average age of the residents is 75 years old and some are even over 92, but luckily they are able to eat, talk, and walk well. Some of them need a home because they have lost their families, others don’t want to be a burden to their relatives so that they choose to come to the nursing home. They have such unique life stories, which they shared with us. And we also learned some useful life lessons from them. Every time we had to say goodbye, they expressed their thankfulness again and again and told us to focus on our studies. Sometimes we we really felt like our relationship was that of grandparent to grandchild.

Through this project, I not only learned how to work better in a team, but I also realized the most important thing to remember: no matter how others judge you , if you want to do something that makes you happy, just to do it with your heart and soul. I think the best response to our work is their smiles. We witnessed the smiles of the most beautiful senior citizens in the world with the help of our sponsor CCI Greenheart.

We have established the Greenheart Club of Hua Qiao and are trying to attract more members from our college to help us in the wonderful work we do. The following photos are of the five volunteers in Ji Lin Hua Qiao University of Foreign Languages: Lulu Kong, Xiaoman Zhu, Ruixun Chen, Junyuan Yi, Qing Dai. Check out our video below as well!

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This participant really does have “Caring Hands”

February 24, 2015

By Sushania Pryce, Work and Travel Participant, Summer 2011-2014Sushania

Sushania is a Work and Travel participant from Kingston, Jamaica who has been extraordinarily involved in all things Greenheart. She’s been a consistent member of the Greenheart Club and was an Ambassador Scholar in the summer of 2013. Her hard work and dedication to making our world a warmer, happier place has inspired the Greenheart Club to award her three Greenheart Service Grants! Sushania has used each of these grants to help the organization Angels of Love Jamaica and by doing so she has given joy-filled days to critically ill children. We appreciate all the work that Sushania has done and are excited to see all the amazing things she will continue to do in the future! Read about Sushania’s experience with Angels of Love below and watch the fantastic video she made!

Caring Hands was a project aimed at creating a fun filled day for our little Angels. It was in collaboration with other members of Angels of Love Jamaica and the surrounding community of Kingston Jamaica. Our main aim was to help take these children’s minds off being sick. The project started off with a meet and greet session with our little Angels at the popular Devon House in Kingston. We had a crayon and coloring book drive prior for our angels and spent the entire day with them. It was a beautiful Saturday morning and the children had the opportunity to fly kites, played football and color. It was truly an amazing day filled with activities and a great interactive session of getting to know our little Angels. All volunteers present got the opportunity to bond with the Angels and learned about their illnesses. Parents were not left out and they too got to partake in the day’s activities. We had lunch and also celebrated Angel Abby’s birthday.sushania 2

Our Christmas treat was next and what a treat that was. Our little Angels got a chance to visit Hope Zoo andview all the different animals. The look on their faces showed how fascinated they were, and for some it was the first time seeing many of these animals such as lions, zebras and ostriches. After leaving the zoo our Angels were then treated to lunch. They received a pleasant surprise when Santa showed up with presents for all of them. They got their faces painted and played games, sang carols and had a great time.

shushania 3Cancer kills more children than AIDS, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and congenital anomalies combined. Angels of Love is a non-profit organization aimed at raising money for critically ill children with a focus on pediatric cancer. We aim at creating a holistic form of care for these children who we affectionately refer to as Angels. We believe that every single life is precious especially the young ones, and as such should be protected. Children can’t fight cancer alone and we have recognized this and decided to help. I hope to continue bringing joy to these children for as long as I am able to do so. Thanks again to CCI Greenheart for allowing me to continue to do so. I am Greenheart.

Announcing the 2015 Holiday Photo Contest Winner!

February 23, 2015

By Franziska, CCI Greenheart Exchange Student


The Winning Photo!

The Greenheart Club is proud to announce that CCI Greenheart exchange student Franziska from Germany has won the 2015 holiday photo contest! You can see from the photo that Franziska is volunteering her time by shoveling snow. She is a member of the Greenheart Club where she has volunteered 78 hours! Franziska also participated in CCI Greenheart’s summer Service Leader Prep Program and has truly become and exemplary member of the Greenheart Club. Check out the photo that won Franziska $100 OFF a Greenheart Trip and read about her reflection below.

Before I came to the United States with CCI Greenheart, I had never really thought about volunteering. I mean, I had always seen issues and problems wherever I was and I’ve always felt the need to help, but I’ve never really known how. Being here showed me that even the smallest and simplest gestures can make someone smile, and what in this world is worth more than a smile?

One thing I want to accomplish in my life is changing the world by making it a better place. I know that might sound naive, but I think everyone can make a change in the world. There is so much injustice, so many restrictions and so much ignorance, but as soon as you stop focusing on the bad things and just concentrate on the positive, you’re one huge step closer to making a change. Now, if every single human being in this world would think like that, all our problems would be solved. This is why I’m trying to inspire other people to see the beauty of life, the beauty of nature, the beauty of our wonderful earth, and volunteering is an easy and fun way to reach people’s hearts to do so.

It is not only volunteering that has given me the chance to learn and experience so many new things but also just being in the United States as an exchange student. It is incredibly interesting to see your surroundings change and to watch yourself change with them in every single situation. I’ve learned to live in the moment and to be thankful and grateful for every single thing I have. I’ve learned that you don’t need a reason to smile and that the only thing that can truly make you happy is yourself. Also, my connection to nature has grown so much stronger and being away from home has helped me to appreciate everything back in Germany so much more. I think I am also closer to finding myself, understanding who I am and to figuring out what I want to do with my life. This year has changed my perspective and view on life and the universe, and I can’t wait for the next months to fill my life with even more experiences and insightful moments!

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There’s No Place Like Home! An Italian Girl in America’s Heartland

February 22, 2015

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By Jillian Sims; High School Programs Compliance and Operations Manager

When Maggie and her family opened their home to Veronica from Italy, they only hoped for as great of a year as they are having. Recently, CCI Greenheart asked them a few questions about their hosting journey so far.

  •  Why did your family decide to host?

My husband Craig and I have always appreciated that the world is very diverse.  I consider us both “lifelong learners” and love to experience new things.

  • What moment has made you laugh the most since Veronica has arrived?

We were driving in the car and Veronica starts to tell us a story about her home town Bologna, Italy.  She said it contains the world’s longest “toenail”.  We all looked at each other, because she made this announcement with such pride!  My daughter Emmaleah asked “is it outside in the open?”  Veronica beams and shouts “Yes, it has a big arch over it”!  Then Katie our other daughter says “Ew, it sounds gross”, but Veronica was offended saying “No! It’s NOT!” “It runs from the city center up a hill to a church!”  Then Emmaleah realized Veronica was talking about a TUNNEL, not a toenail!  We all laughed until we had tears rolling down our face!

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  • What has been your favorite memory with your “new family” so far?

We have had so much fun since Veronica has arrived.  I guess my very favorite memory is when we Skyped with her mom and dad plus a few of her parents friends.  They were watching a soccer match on TV and ordering pizza.  They were basically having a get together just like we Americans have when we watch a football game.  Except for the language difference, we are just the same!  We laughed and told jokes, played guessing games and Skyped for two hours!

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  • What have you learned since you’ve been living with Veronica?

Veronica is well versed in Italian and European politic, culture and traditions.  From her descriptions, I feel like I understand how complicated life can be in her country as well as our own.   She has taught us some of the Italian language and tells us “when you come to visit, I’ll show you around”…not IF you come and visit!

  • Can you also describe how you helped Veronica through any difficulties she may have had in adjustment or school?

Veronica has great study habits.  Both daughters have helped her with some of her homework when she had a question, (Algebra & Government) but really she is a great student.  I feel she had prepared herself well and has looked forward to this experience for so long she fit right in!  Veronica Skypes with her family every 2-3 weeks and has not seemed home sick at all!

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  • Any proud host parent moments?

Veronica joined the high school cross country team.  She didn’t know anyone on the team, but set a goal to try something new.  She met and made friends with lots of kids from the team and finished the season in great athletic shape!

  • How has the community embraced Veronica?

Craig and I are very proud of Veronica because she has the ability to read people and their actions very well.  She doesn’t meet a stranger; she makes friends easily and is willing to learn from everyone around her!    Therefore she gets along well with all kinds of people and is easy to talk with.  Many kids from our local high school have asked to take Veronica to dinner or a ball game or overnight to their home.  She is very well liked.

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  • What would tell someone about hosting–who has never hosted before?

The whole family should be involved in choosing a student.  We chose Veronica because she had a lot in common with our daughters.  We are excited to meet people from other countries and learn about life outside the USA.


Interested in hosting yourself? Visit our site to learn more!


Saying goodbye to our participants

February 18, 2015

By: Jesse Ruvalcaba, Good Nite Inn, Work and Travel Employer

Jesse Ruvalcaba is an employer from a seasonal community with CCI Greenheart’s Work and Travel program. Follow Jesse as he continued his Journey of an Employer. In this post he explained how his participants got ready to leave the United States as their programs came to an end.

Well, sadly, it’s time to say goodbye to our wonderful participants.

Honestly, this is one of the hardest days for all of us at the property.

Over the past three (3) months, we’ve come to know them very well and they truly have become part of our Good Nite Inn family. It’s always hard to say goodbye to someone who you know you may not see until sometime later.

With that said, they have been gradually making their way around saying goodbye to all of their fellow team members. We have all been positively impacted by their presence and are certainly better off as individuals for having had the chance to learn more about their culture. We can only hope that they feel the same way about us. For now, we’ve just been working with them to ensure that they are packed, ready to go and comfortable for their long journey home.

The participants have been great and we do hope to stay in touch. As a manager, there is nothing more rewarding than to have former participants reach back to us and say hello. It really gives us a feeling of accomplishment to know that we have made a difference in someone’s life and that they thought enough of their experience to maintain the relationship.

What could be better?

Want to hear more from Jesse? Watch his video below.

Communi-Thai Service

February 16, 2015

By: Josh Trangle, Work and Travel Employer Services Coordinator

Orphanage 26Last month, CCI Greenheart had the opportunity to travel to Thailand for a hiring event for the Work and Travel Summer 2015 season. In coordination with Click Education, the Thai agency, we were also able to partake in a volunteering initiative the day prior. CCI Greenheart staff, Click Education staff, host organizations, and soon-to-be Work and Travel participants all donated their time and effort to the Baan Kru Noi Orphanage in Bangkok. This wonderful establishment, run by Nuannoi Timkul, has helped over 800 children since its founding in the 1980s. With more than 100 children currently residing there, it is evident how much of an impact Nuannoi has had in shaping these young people’s lives for the better. We had the opportunity to deliver food, clothing, toys, and much needed items to the orphanage. We were able to play with the children who began to sing and dance in appreciation for the gifts that were brought.

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This experience encapsulated one of CCI Greenheart’s missions of community service and volunteerism, and it was incredible to be able to share it with everyone involved.

Want to hear more? Be sure to see how employers had fun on our Thai job fairs in the past!


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