Route J-1


J-Day Reflections: Volunteering in Action

Posted on Friday, September 22nd, 2017 at 1:00 pm.

By Samantha Dille, Program Director at International Culture and Career Exchange (ICCE)
A version of this story was originally published on ICCE blog

Exchange Visitors reflect on giving back to their local communities for J-Day,(https://j1visa.state.gov/eat-play-give-international-exchange-community-celebrates-j-day/) a nationwide event that raises awareness about cultural exchange and diversity. It also gives participants of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) the opportunity to give back to their communities and experience volunteerism in the United States.

J-1 participants with local volunteers and staff at L.A. Kitchen

In Los Angeles, J-1 participants joined forces with L.A. Kitchen. This inspiring local organization believes that neither food nor people should ever go to waste, and as a community, they should provide and give healthy meals to any Los Angeles community member who is in need of help. J-1 participants worked alongside local volunteers and chefs, chopping fruits and vegetables, to prepare meals for the hungry. After the community service activity, staff and J-1 participants gathered at nearby Los Angeles, historic park for pizzas and games. Later, participants broke into teams and made posters to share and express their opinions of what they have learned through community service.

Lyra Rose Buenaflor with her teammates and the poster they created at Los Angeles Historic Park

From Lyra Rose Buenaflor (J-1 Intern from the Philippines):

“It was a memorable experience, because I had the chance to help the homeless people. It feels good when you help someone even though they don’t know me in person. It was a great feeling that I’ve been a part of something that is meaningful. In that simple way, preparing food can have a special impact for somebody. They would feel that there’s someone out there that cares for them. It was a great help for me to discover that within my inner myself I have the heart to make someone happy.”

SWT participants engage with local youth in pre-school and Girls Inc Program

In Rapid City, South Dakota, Summer Work and Travel participants from Jamaica and China visited Youth & Family Services to engage with local children. Participants joined pre-school classrooms and the Girls Inc. program for a range of fun activities including playing games, doing arts and crafts, and teaching the children how to write their names in Chinese. A fun time was had by all involved, and both exchange visitors and the American children learned so much about each other’s cultures. After volunteering, staff and program participants visited the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, went bowling, played laser tag, and drove go-karts before finishing the day with a BBQ party at the beautiful Canyon Lake Park.

Kwane Thomas with pre-school students at Rapid City Youth & Family Services

From Kwane Thomas (Summer Work and Travel participant from Jamaica):

“This experience taught me some valuable life lessons, in that just a word of encouragement can brighten someone’s day. Volunteering is not only about giving, it can be simple interaction with people from which you can benefit too. The part of my volunteer experience I enjoyed the most was getting to know what these children wanted to become and why. The responses were very interesting. These children have big dreams.”

J-1 Summer Work Travel participants at Canyon Lake Park in Rapid City, South Dakota In recognition of J Day’s theme, “J-1 participants were able to “eat, play, and give” back to their local community.

Categories: Program Spotlight

About G. Kevin Saba

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange


G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.

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