OpenEXRESS: Do you / have you volunteered?

Meena Kadri
posted this on May 17, 2011 05:36

Do you / have you volunteered? OpenIDEATORS are a collaborative bunch and we know many of you give your time and energy to great causes across the globe. Tell us + show us where, how, why. If you're replying via Twitter, use the hashtag #OpenEXPRESS so we can track your gems and add them here.


Image: Rooftop gardening initiative, nurtured by hearing-impaired youth, at the SAVE School in Mumbai.



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Arjan Tupan

Well, I just started volunteering. See the video I made for Open Planet Ideas: 
Currently, it's keeping me quite busy.

Before, I organised a fundraising challenge. Twice. Among colleagues of a global consulting/technology firm. On a given day, the challenge was to run a 10K distance, log it in NikePlus or something a like, and share photos etcetera online. All the while raising money for the Nanhi Kali project that aims to send as many girls in the poor parts of India to school as possible. For more, see  

May 17, 2011 06:19
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Kirk Soderstrom

I wrote this in 2007, but I think you'll enjoy it. It took me back in time.

“If architecture is going to nudge, cajole, and inspire a community to challenge the status quo into making responsible changes, it will take the subversive leadership of academics and practitioners who keep reminding students of the profession’s responsibilities.” -Sam Mockbee
During my second semester as an­ architecture student (2000), I learned from my History of Design professor about the late architect Sam Mockbee’s community-oriented projects. Both an inspiration and a challenge, the quote above captures the leadership spirit and humanistic values that Sam Mockbee exhibited through his life’s work. His dedication to benefiting underprivileged communities through his craft left a lasting impression that motivated me to apply my passion for design towards volunteer opportunities.

In the fall of 2002, less than a year after the September 11th attacks, I welcomed the challenge to volunteer my time to the development of Memorial Park, a non-profit project in New York City. Designed in association with 1100 Architect and with the direct involvement of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, this project pays homage to the 2,823 people who tragically perished in New York and also provides families of the victims a peaceful place to grieve. The remains of the many people who lost their lives in the collapsed towers will stay at Memorial Park for a number of years until they are moved to the permanent memorial at Ground Zero.

My commitment to Memorial Park was extensive. I immersed myself in the project and often worked late into the evenings to ensure that the team would meet the project goals. Over a period of five months, I created 3D renderings, prepared presentations for Mayor Bloomberg and Dr. Hirsch (the Chief Medical Examiner), conducted site observation, engaged in discussions and collaborated with other volunteers during all design phases. Throughout the duration of the project, my team members and I connected through our shared goal of infusing humanity and honor into an unspeakable tragedy that sought to cripple America.  

The journey from a curious student in North Carolina to an active volunteer in New York City was a defining progression in my personal development. I learned both the power and collective responsibility that individuals possess in shaping tomorrow’s world. The most rewarding aspect of this experience was having the privilege to meet many of the families who were directly affected by September 11th, blocks away from where the events transpired. By conversing with the families and hearing their stories, I was able to witness firsthand the hope that Memorial Park came to symbolize.

After several months of dedication, the shared efforts of our team were brought to life not by the timely completion of the project, but by the sincere gratitude that the families expressed. Through my avocation, this invaluable opportunity allowed me, like Sam Mockbee, to realize my desire to have a positive impact on society. Ultimately, I was able to put my career objectives into perspective as I discovered in myself an urgent concern and awareness for issues larger than my personal ambitions.


May 18, 2011 21:45
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I was working as a technologist at Merrill Lynch when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Having just visited New Orleans the year prior, I felt a personal connection with the tragedy I saw on television. My mind raced with ideas of what I could do to help. I wanted to directly help those suffering. In the news, I heard about donation opportunities with the American Red Cross. Rather than donate, the idea of being at the scene of the disaster and making a direct impact was more appealing to me. Knowing myself and what I could contribute, I knew I could be of service immediately, given the exigent circumstances. I reached out to various Red Cross officers and convinced them to send me down to Louisiana with minimal training. There was also the issue of abruptly leaving my job with little notice. I realized that this could negatively affect my career, but I felt more strongly that I needed to respond to the greatest natural disaster of my lifetime in the United States.

Once in Louisiana, I opted to help provide shelter to the displaced. I was dispatched to a shelter in Alexandria where evacuees of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans were placed. The shelter was a mad house with more than a thousand evacuees crammed together. There wasn’t nearly enough bathrooms nor privacy, but at least there was shelter, warm meals, a sense of security, and financial assistance.

In my career, I’ve worked with a diverse group of people, but nothing as diverse as the group of ARC volunteers in Louisiana. There were people from all walks of life united by a common interest to help those in need. I got to work with retired president of a company, a social worker, a minister, and others. Everyone had different skills to contribute, yet because of our diverse backgrounds, it was unnatural for many to work together. However, we quickly learned to work together as a team because of the great responsibilities of managing the shelter. Eating, bunking, and shuttling together every day, we felt like a family. The stories I heard from the volunteers mirrored my own values, and I found camaraderie and inspiration from them. I drew a valuable lesson from my experiences volunteering in Louisiana that today continue to serve me well: no challenge is too great to overcome with the right teamwork. Any problem when tackled head-on as a collective effort can be solved. 

May 20, 2011 01:59
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OpenIDEO User Forums

Wow Darin – great insight into voluntary work on the ground here, form a personal perspective. And we're loving your outlook!

May 20, 2011 04:59
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Sina Mossayeb

I grew up in a family that really put lots and lots of value in volunteering in community stuff. So from a young age my parents encouraged to do various things, like help out at schools, join youth groups, tutor, etc. One of the major spans of time was when I was in college, I volunteer as a youth coordinator for a performing arts groups that use dance/music/etc for social good messaging. It was a blast. We traveled across the country and even Europe. Working with youth as vibrant and optimistic agents of change was not only a thrill but a learning process. I have since done many other types of youth programs in various parts of the world, and love every minute of it.

May 26, 2011 06:17
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Meena Kadri

From Arjan Tupan via Facebook: 

Also nice: have a look at the Open Planet Ideas Facebook page.
They have a weekly series of short videos on volunteering :)

And we note that the series included a video from Mr Tupan himself. Check it out!

May 29, 2011 22:28
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Zuri Pommerenk

I have been volunteering on a weekly basis at W.O.M.A.N. Inc (Woman Organized to Make Abuse Non-existent) since November 2010.

I started my journey there as an Outreach Volunteer, which involved educating the public about Domestic Violence and the differences (as well as similarities) between Unhealthy and Abusive Relationships.

In February, I went through a 40 hour Crisis Counselor/ DV training so I could continue volunteering at WOMAN Inc as a Crisis Counselor on the Hotline. On the hotline, I speak with survivors as well as other non-profits and organizations that support survivors to help them access resources such as DV Shelters, Therapy Programs, Support Groups, Legal support, Immigration Relief etc.

Although this work can be extremely stressful and frustrating, it is rewarding to know that I've given hope and support to people that are in the most dangerous and challenging situations.

If you are passionate about ridding the world of domestic violence, please take a look at WOMAN Inc's website. We could always use more volunteers.

November 23, 2011 18:23
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Timo Higgs

I had founded an Environmental NGO in Taiwan

This is one of the marketing videos we made from our campaign Hunting Green People


March 06, 2013 09:43