I was very grateful for the volunteer opportunity which was provided by Service Learning Project. This is my first experience to serve the community as a volunteer. Since I had no experience in serving as a volunteer in the United States, I had hesitated to apply for a chance in agencies that participate in community services. The project provided an opportunity for me to take a step forward in serving communities as my first volunteering experience. This opportunity also became a significant experience to participate in a discourse community which consists of people filled with humanity. It provided some set of goals of helping people who are disadvantaged. I had a valuable opportunity to learn about the community services through the beneficial communications with the discourse community.
In this project, I had a chance to apply as a volunteer with Loaves & Fishes Family, Kitchen(L&F) which is a local nonprofit organization in San Jose. The reason I decided to apply in this agency was because my friend strongly recommended it to me. She had an experience of serving as a volunteer in this agency and I received an excellent feedback from her. L& F is founded on trust that it is an established organization with a solid foundation to contribute to the community. Furthermore, I researched about the agency and found out that it was founded more than 35 years ago which enhances its credibility. L & F provides approximately 2000 meals a week at three different locations. It provides these meals to low-income families, single women, and the homeless people. Our supervisor, Ms. Hyru Gau, a volunteer Manager of L & F, argues that a third of the households in Santa Clara county are low-income. These people don’t have enough income to meet basic needs such as food. L & F is willing to provide nutritious and hot meals at no cost to these disadvantaged households.
My first volunteering duty at L & F was to distribute groceries to the low-income families. L & F collaborates with many other local non-profits agencies from Bay area. This program is called Grocery Bag Program and takes place at St. Maria Goretti church. It is held on every third Wednesday of the month at the church which is located on Senter Road in San Jose. Approximately 30 volunteers gathered at 8:00 am in a hall next to the church. Ms. Hyru Gau and the other people in charge of this program assigned different jobs to the volunteers. We started by carrying the tables for setting up the hall for the food preparation under instructions from the supervisor. The regular volunteers were very friendly and willing to help the new ones. Many boxes were carried and placed at the center of the hall. Each box came stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables such as potatoes, onions, broccolis, carrots, pears and oranges. L & F receives groceries and fruits from retailers, local growers, the Second Harvest Food Bank, and the other variety of other sources. Alongside other volunteers, we started to empty the boxes and arranged them according to the types of food on the tables. We started putting the fruits and vegetables in the plastic bags in equal proportions. We provided more than 200 bags of food and moved on to the next tasks. We then received other boxes with packets of milk, eggs, yogurts, tortillas, and various kinds of bread. We organized everything on the tables for distribution upon peoples’ arrival.
The people had to obtain a ticket before receiving food. The distribution was supposed to be divided into four phases in two hours. People who need this service are mostly mothers and their children, and a few homeless people. On the first day of volunteering, almost all the food we set up was distributed in a very organized manner. Some few snack boxes were left to give the children an extra treat. The only thing I was disappointed in was some moldy loaves of bread I found in the boxes and some sliced bread squished pretty badly in the boxes. These people deserve fresh bread even if it is for free
My second volunteering service was the same service at St. Maria Goretti. I continuously applied to the same program since I could work comfortably with the regular volunteers. Compared to the previous time, there were fewer students participating this time as volunteers and most participants were adults. With the other volunteers, we started by carrying and opening the boxes with vegetables and fruits. Since the number of volunteers was less than the previous time, it took a little more time to set up all the food bags for distribution. The supervisor, Ms. Hyru Gau, asked me to check the quality of bread as I had done before. Unfortunately, I found some moldy bread but the quality was much better than the other time. The number of people who came to receive the food was also a little less than the previous time.
I chose to volunteer at Goodwill Industries for my third opportunity. This program is also associated with L & F. Goodwill Industries target homeless people, low-income families, and single women. We took a couple hours to prepare food and served the meals for one hour. This time my task was cooking and I helped the other volunteers to make the salad. The meal consisted of five different items which included, spaghetti meat sauce, mixed salad, fresh cut fruits, vegetable soup, and various kinds of bread. We served the meals to more than 50 people who were mostly homeless and from low-income families. While serving the meals, I realized that approximately one in five people refused to eat salad and fruits. Although vegetables and fruits are important foods which provide essential nutrients, they preferred more carbohydrates.
My last service as a volunteer was at Catholic Charities Eastside Neighborhood Center. This is one of the locations that L & F provides meals to people from Monday to Friday. More than 50 people came to the church and were provided with nutritious meals. There were eight volunteers joining this program and I was very glad to see the supervisor, Ms. Hyru again as she works at this church daily. I helped to chop various kinds of vegetables for making a mixed salad. We also prepared many roasted chickens which were very delicious. There were two children, a brother, and a sister, coming to have a dinner with their parents. Both of them were overweight which made me get concerned about obesity. Their parents should be made aware of the dangers the children face. After the dinner, lunch bags were distributed containing a half sandwich, snacks, and some stick vegetables. Such kind of service is very helpful to the people, and I deeply admire Ms. Hyru’s selflessness. I was glad to be a part of the volunteering service.
In conclusion, I learned how difficult it is to educate people on the significance of food and nutrition as a volunteer. Obviously, there are many people who are in food insecure. Considering this situation, I believe that people need to be provided with opportunities to have education as well as providing food. The Service Learning Project provided for me an opportunity which made me feel very satisfied to volunteer to serve our communities. I gained much experience and importance of volunteering by serving at L & F. The biggest benefit I obtained from volunteering was an accomplishment of meaningful tasks that not only helped other people’s lives but also a significant opportunity to advance my career, and in all areas of my life