This past Saturday, 37 Thunderbird students gathered together at the Pub as early as 7am and 8am, to meet up before heading to either the Japanese Friendship Garden or St. Vincent De Paul for the ThunderCares event of the semester.
At St. Vincent De Paul, the students volunteered by putting together and packaging peanut butter sandwiches for the homeless, while those at the Japanese Friendship Garden helped keep the area beautiful by cleaning one of the main buildings.
“I thoroughly enjoyed spending my time working alongside fellow Thunderbirds for a greater cause. I volunteered at the Japanese Friendship Garden, and it was my first time there. We cleaned and re-treat the wood on one of the buildings. I love volunteering, and I was excited to do it with Thunderbirds. I am looking forward to next time.”
Erin Lunsford (MAGAM ’19), ThunderCares volunteer at Japanese Friendship Garden
Judging by the numbers of students that turned up this was one of the best turn out of ThunderCares this year. One of the reasons might have to do with how the TSG views the events they organize and the steps they have taken to ensuring better organized events. Vishal Bhardwaj (MGM ’17), the current TSG President, explained that the TSG team made a commitment that as a team they would help and support all initiatives. This was emphasized in every meeting that all TSG members were required to attend events, and as Vishal said, “I found that TSG members were also aligned with the idea of supporting each other’s initiative.”
Apart from working as a team, it was also important for TSG to figure out what had failed to work in the past. In the previous semester, only a few students showed up at the past ThunderCares events. According to Vishal, “Focusing on what did not work in the past events helped. Finally reaching out in-person to fellow T-birds about the event helped getting more people. Kaitlynn [Wilcoxson] and Hisham [Habdoh] organized the ThunderCares event well and the support to the entire TSG team and all attendees made it successful.”
And in case people might be wondering why Thunderbird should take volunteering seriously, according to Kaitlynn (MAGAM ’18), the Community Outreach Chair, “Volunteering is one of the best ways for Thunderbirds to engage in the community we live in and make a positive impact on that community. We also hear about Thunderbirds wanting to change the world, and I believe that starts with small impacts at a community level.”
Kaitlynn asks us to imagine if everyone occasionally volunteered, how much cleaner would the Earth be? How many more people wouldn’t go hungry?: “We always have this misconception that we need to do something profound to make an impact on the world, but that’s not true. Change starts at a microscopic level, and it can have its beginning in something as simple as getting a group together to volunteer. It’s so simple and meaningful yet not enough people participate because they don’t believe they are making a difference.”
The idea that by making a difference in small ways, reflects on the character of who we are as individual and as a community was reinforced by Della Killeen, the curator of the Japanese Friendship Garden, who after the event said, “They were the easiest, most pleasant volunteers ever. Truly represented the best of Thunderbird.” To Kaitlynn that is a testament of why volunteering is important for Thunderbird as it represents the best of us. For just a short few hours 37 Thunderbirds could create an impact on our community that is profound.
This sentiment is one that is shared by others, for Vishal, looking forward, Thunderbird needs to market the volunteering opportunities that ThunderCares provides as a chance for the school to give back to the community, and they can encourage staff and faculty to join students in participating in these outreach programs.
ThunderCares seems to be a perfect opportunity for the Thunderbird community to give back to the community at large, and for many international students, this gives them an opportunity to experience volunteering in the US for the very first time.
“This my first-time volunteering in the US. It’s a nice opportunity for T-birds to contribute to the society and to help others. Thank you, ThunderCares, for arranging this amazing event.”
Yun Chen (Jenny) Li (MAGAM ’19), ThunderCares volunteer at St. Vincent De Paul