Monthly Archives: March 2019

For the Love of Service

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Not long ago I was wearing a Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) sweatshirt at school, and someone asked what it was. When I explained that YVC is a network of youth volunteers, the first thing he said was, “Why would you do work you don’t get paid for?” That’s a great question, one that I had weirdly not thought about before.

I have been volunteering from a young age when my parents would take me to soup kitchens with my church. Eventually in middle school I had been volunteering for a while and decided to join the volunteer club there. In 7th grade I first learned about YVC through their summer of service program, and within the first hour on the first day of the week-long project, I fell in love with YVC. I went on mission trips, and kept volunteering whenever and wherever I could. I continued to work with YVC through middle and high school, joining Youth Advisory Board (YAB) and International Youth Advisory Board (IYAB), and in my freshman year I joined my high school service club, which I am now president of. For me, service has always just been a part of my life, and I had never really given much thought to why I do it, it was simply a part of my life. Now as I prepare to head off to college next semester, I could use all the money I can get. So why am I working for free? Am I being ripped off? I had to take a step back and think about this for a while in order to come up with an answer, and it honestly bothered me a bit that I had never given this much consideration before. After some deliberation, I realized that the answer is quite simple: it allows me to see the world.

I see the parts and people of my community that would have otherwise been hidden from me by circumstance and privilege. I have been fortunate enough to have the memory of watching a patron sing at a soup kitchen in downtown Kansas City, and I remember she had such a beautiful voice and a kind spirit, which I never would have been able to experience otherwise. I also got to hear the experiences of a man who was once homeless, and his stories of the struggles of homelessness and life on the streets exposed me to a new perspective that I could never have heard outside of the realm of community service. I have gotten to meet animals that have been abused and neglected, and learn how to help and comfort them. I have met individuals at a home for the elderly and gotten to hear their stories. Through them, I have learned of wars and peace, of love and sadness. They are some of the most lively people on the planet, with the sweetest senses of humor that I might never have met. I have tutored children, and though I may have helped teach them math and reading, they helped to teach me creativity and joy. They sparked something greater within me, and inspired me to find my inner child at the times in my life when I felt most stressed.

Through volunteering, I have been blessed with many opportunities to see the world through the eyes of others, and this has made me a more compassionate person. In everyday life I find myself expressing greater empathy and searching for new ways to see the world, and without this perspective I truly believe that my life would be too dull to bear at times. So, as it turns out, I am getting paid for my work. I am getting paid in memory and experience, in empathy, kindness, and a renewed passion for life that has helped me through hardships. Most of all, I have been paid in love, for the world and its people, for my life and my circumstances. Service has imbued me with a passion and dedication that I doubt I could find elsewhere, and this is more than enough compensation for my work.



Zoe Thompson is a senior in high school in Kansas City. She enjoys volunteering, reading, playing the cello, and playing with her golden retriever.






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The Unbreakable Bonds of Service and Food

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“What should be the last song we should sing in the van before we leave for the airport?” asked Becca. I heard someone in the back rows suggest Uptown Funk. She instantly loaded the song up on her phone and we heard the signature intro play through the van’s speakers. All of us sung at the top of our lungs as we waited for Greg, our Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) program director, to come back and hand the van’s keys back to the rental place.


The crew I got to sing carpool karaoke with at our service project in Houston, TX, was comprised of our program director, Greg, our Repair the World fellow, Becca, and volunteers Jessica, Winnie, Brian, Barry, Hannah, Celine, and Qinlan. Although it may seem that we have known each other for ages, I actually only knew Jessica, Winnie, Greg, and Celine from previous years with YVC. In the summer of 2017, if you asked me who Becca, Barry, Hannah, Qinlan, and Brian were, they would be complete strangers to me. This is our story.



In July of 2017, I was messaged by Greg, asking me to join the Youth Advisory Board of Greater Philadelphia and represent my high school. After consulting with Jessica and Winnie, who were already on the Board, I gladly accepted the invitation. During my first YAB meeting, I met Brian and Qinlan formally for the first time. I recognized Brian from YVC service projects, but I had not known much about either of them. After a couple of hours at the Repair the World Workshop discussing potential projects for the coming school year, we were finished with our meeting. At our next meeting, we were about to finish our conversations when Brian suggested, “Hey, I’m hungry. You guys want to go get food soon?” Everyone nodded.



As we got up to leave, Qinlan told us that she was going to Chinatown for food and anyone was welcome to come along. Brian smiled and exclaimed, “Let’s go!” After some thought, I said, “Count me in.” Winnie and Jessica had the same idea. That day, we all had a nice time eating bowls of pho and cups of rolled ice cream.



One month later, all four of us were in the middle of planning service projects when we unexpectedly heard a doorbell ring. Greg got up to get the door as the rest of us exchanged confused looks with each other. In walked a fit, young asian teenage boy with glasses and dressed in black clothes. Greg patted his back and he smiled. Greg announced, “Guys, I want you to meet Barry. He’s a great volunteer from Furness High School and I invited him to join us as a new YAB member,” He turned to Barry, “Barry, I want you to meet Brian, Jessica, Andy, Qinlan, and Winnie.” We waved. In a low and tired voice, Barry waved and said hi to us. Sometime later, we all decided to take a lunch break. I pitched an idea of going to get sushi at a nearby sushi bar. Instantly, I heard Qinlan exclaim, “OOO…SUSHI! But isn’t that expensive?” Jessica answered, “I’ve been there. It doesn’t cost that much if you get their lunch special.” Barry finally spoke his thoughts: “Mmm…you know what? Sushi sounds really good right now.” A few minutes later, we found ourselves waiting on five lunch special orders of sushi. When we started eating, Barry was the first to finish his food when the rest of us were only halfway through. Brian said with a surprised look on his face, “Wow, that was fast. Wait…,” Brian smiled and turned toward the rest of the group, “Hey guys, it’s Barry Allen, the fastest man alive!” We chuckled. Barry was a little confused. “But my last name’s not even Allen,” he paused, “I’m hungry again.”



By the end of August, we had a structured plan for the start of the 2017-2018 school year but had yet to start executing it. In the closing days of my 2017 summer, we were introduced to Becca. She would be working closely with Greg and the Board, making sure our plans were implemented properly. Although I didn’t have summer to get to know Becca, our YAB meetings and YVC service projects really showed off who she was as a person. We clearly saw her passion for community service. Throughout my junior year of high school, I had a great time volunteering with Becca. She made sure every volunteer had a smile on their face during our projects and had great solutions to any planning problems the Board encountered. As the school year progressed, Becca helped YVC Philly developed into a much more structured system and never seemed to disappoint anyone.



A couple of weeks after the end of my junior year, I decided to go to drop by the Workshop to see if I could help out with planning the monthly service-learning units for the next school year. I knew Greg had brought on Jessica, Barry, Qinlan, and couple other people as interns to help with the process. Walking in, I recognized Jessica, Barry, and Qinlan working on their own laptops. Looking around the room, another person caught my eye. She happened to be the only one on a 2-in-1 laptop and a stylus pen. A few minutes later, I learned that her name was Hannah and that she was also one of Greg’s interns. During our food break, Hannah pulled up a funny moments video of the TV series The Office, resulting all of us had a great laugh along with our meal. When I learned that she would be coming along for the Houston service trip, I knew I was going to have a great experience in Texas.



The YVC service trip to Houston, Texas was a project where our YVC partnered with Repair the World and the St. Bernard Parish to help provide disaster relief to the families affected by Hurricane Harvey. Despite the storm hitting the area one year before, there was still so much work to be done on the ground. Over the course of three days, our group worked to lay floorboards and tiled the floors of two affected homes. All of us worked our hardest and became covered in mosquito bites. I was grateful to be on this trip not only for the work we did, but also for bonding experiences I had with both old and new friends during the trip. One night, Becca decided to lead our group to a Texan BBQ restaurant for dinner. I remember Brian getting a nice meaty pork sandwich for his order and suggest that all of us get some root beer to go along with our meal. Qinlan got the same thing, but when she saw that the place had a self-serve tray of pickles she tried to fit as many as possible between the meat and the top bun. Barry had got a small mountain of meat and a loaded potato… but still wanted more. If someone was full but still had food leftover, Barry probably finished it for them. At our temporary home in Houston, I brought out the video game Just Dance and got Barry, Brian, and Hannah to dance with me. With every song played, the four of us laughed while showing off our moves – even if we were pretty sweaty afterward. At the end of the day, I enjoyed it when Becca would gather all of us up to have a group conversation. In addition to talking about our plan for the next day, it was a special moment for everyone to reflect on their experiences to others and for us to celebrate our achievements.


As I look back on this trip more than half a year later, I feel like the experience was more than just performing impactful service and having fun times with people I love – the disaster relief project was an encapsulation of all the personal progress I had made with YVC in the past year. I gain so much knowledge from being a YAB member, and I also gained some new friends. I am glad to say I have served alongside them. Without that year in my life, I would not have known things like Qinlan’s affinity for pickles, Barry’s constant hunger, Becca and Brian’s passion to put smiles on the faces of those around them, or Hannah’s peppy and positive attitude. It didn’t matter if we knew each other for eleven months or for a few weeks, we were still able to sing karaoke together in that rental van.


Guest Post from Andy Chek

I am a proud member of YVC Philadelphia and have been volunteering with Youth Volunteer Corps since my freshman year of high school. I love meeting new people and I am not afraid to get out of my comfort zone. While I enjoy going for that morning run or playing a game of badminton, there’s a chance you’ll find me snuggled up in a corner binge watching TV shows like How I Met Your Mother. After high school, I hope to study engineering in college and to continue to help out my community through service.







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How Volunteering Gave Me a Voice

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I was just an average, mopey, sixth grader. I was involved in nothing special. I partook in no sports and I wasn’t engaged in any after school clubs. I just went to school, came home, did my homework, and went to bed. My life was boring and uneventful. Then, one day I started to spend time at my local Boys and Girls Club. This was the moment where my life changed for the better. After going to the Club for a couple of months, the Youth Volunteer Corps coordinator talked to me and my parents about taking my time and going to projects.


Given that I had a shy personality, I had absolutely no interest in participating in spending time with senior citizens at the retirement home. However, my parents convinced me, and I decided to go.

It started off horribly. I ended up missing the van that gives us rides to the project, so they had to come back and get me. It was super embarrassing, and it made me even more shy to my fellow volunteers. I’ll be honest, the project was slow, but I could tell the difference that I was making. By the time we left the retirement home, I could tell that all of the residents’ days had improved. It made me realize the impact that little things can make.



I have now been volunteering with YVC for over four years, participated on three Youth Advisory Boards, and am now on the International Youth Advisory Board. It has led me in such a good direction for life. YVC has given me so many gifts, I cannot thank the program enough. I can now speak without being shy, and I have the knowledge to help when help is needed, and even when it is not needed. I have met so many new people and have made so many new friends. After going to YVC Summit, this last November, I expanded my idea of how many people this organization has impacted.


Youth Volunteer Corps has given me a drive to get work done that I would never have had without it. It has taught me that even when you miss the van, you can still get work done.


Hi my name is Brett Budnik and I am from Alpena Michigan.  I have been volunteering with YVC Alpena since I was in the sixth grade! I am currently a student at Alpena High School. YVC has really helped me be able to learn more about my community and its needs. I enjoy bike riding, swimming, and hanging out with my dog “Bubba”. Alpena is in Northeastern part of the lower peninsula in Michigan. I have lived here my entire life, but boy we sure do have cold winters! I am honored to be able to be a part of IYAB and have the chance to learn more about other YVC groups!





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