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Experiencing America through volunteering

According to a report by the Corporation for National and Community Service, in 2015 62.8 million Americans volunteered 7.9 billion hours for an estimated service value of $184 billion.

More than just guests, your Work & Travel USA students want to live like a local throughout their program. They want to go grocery shopping, interact with colleagues, neighbors, and guests while experiencing life just as an American would. American culture inherently engages with volunteerism as a part of our lives and encourages a deep connection to the community and others. This altruistic commitment is an incredible attribute to share with your Work & Travel USA students, and perhaps many of you are doing this already!

1908185_939679116054293_2659557510527421363_nPhoto: Community gardening, Kings Dominion

Businesses are already engaging with their communities, and CIEE believes volunteering is a great way to include your Work & Travel USA students in learning more about this integral part of American culture. Our commitment to volunteerism is not to be taken for granted; it is something to share and show off! Giving back is something that makes us proud to be American, and we encourage you to introduce your international staff to your community in an impactful way. Below are a few ideas on how you can incorporate service-learning for your students:

  • Do you sponsor a local youth sports team? If so, how about hosting a party for that team and ask your Work & Travel USA students to help organize and run the event?
  • Do you donate your leftover food from your restaurant to a local food bank? If so, is there a way that your students can do more than just set the food aside? Can they help sort food or work at the food bank for a few hours on a couple of days?

Livingston IIPhoto: Animal Rescue League, Xanterra Yellowstone

CIEE asked a sample of our employers how students are engaging with their host communities in a meaningful way, and the response was incredible! Some examples included:

  • Volunteer days at the Animal Rescue League
  • Meals on Wheels deliveries
  • Trail maintenance
  • Food bank assistance

The students participating in these activities reacted with resounding appreciation for the experience-saying, “thank you” to their employers for allowing them to volunteer! Students felt they learned more about their communities and that it empowered them to “give back.”

DSC07522Photo: Meals on Wheels, Xanterra Yellowstone

Employers that have engaged with these opportunities have seen great results. It is an excellent occasion for team building, encouraging camaraderie among your staff through these shared experiences. More significantly, it helps your Work & Travel USA students to feel like they are a part of your community and sparks that neighborly experience of being more than just a summer visitor, while also fostering the overarching mission of public diplomacy.

Invite your Work & Travel USA students to thank the community that has also opened their doors to them by giving back. Please let us know what you’re doing already and what you have planned for the summer. We’d love to hear about it and encourage you to share your pictures on social media using the hashtag: #cieegivingback. We’re excited to see the impact you and your Work & Travel USA students are having in the community and to thank you for your efforts, we will pick a few lucky winners and donate to their charities of choice.

Thanks for all that you do!

- Jennifer Conway, International Recruitment Consultant