Photo: Bay Bridge, San Francisco
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
― Rabindranath Tagore
In 2012, I graduated with my masters and made the move from Los Angeles to Guam, where I became a volunteer project coordinator for the Ayuda Foundation, an international nonprofit medical aid provider focusing on meeting the needs of people living in the Western Pacific. In the short time I volunteered with the organization, I applied for grants, built the organization’s website, and raised hundreds of dollars for the foundation’s program Island Girl Power.
After a few months of living on Guam, I decided the island would be the best place for me to hone the skills I’ve acquired throughout my life and perhaps make a difference.
My career in service work began ten years ago while getting my undergraduate degree in creative writing at the University of Southern California. I joined in a production of the Vagina Monologues with a group of other students. The production raised more than $10,000 in donations for the Downtown Women’s Center, the only shelter for single women in downtown Los Angeles.
Once I discovered the Downtown Women’s Center, and learned about the issue of homelessness in the city particularly along Skid Row, I always seemed to have the facility in my mind. I started to ask myself how I could treat people with more empathy and if there was anything more that I could be doing to make life better for others.
In my down time, I volunteered at soup kitchens where I talked to homeless clients coming in for a hot meal or I would give manicures to the staff at domestic violence shelters.
In 2010, I decided that I’d try to to turn community service projects into a career path. I went back to school to pursue my masters degree at Pepperdine University, studying Social Entrepreneurship and Change.
What is social entrepreneurship?
Social entrepreneurs drive social innovation and transformation in various fields including education, health, environment and enterprise development. They pursue poverty alleviation goals with entrepreneurial zeal, business methods and the courage to innovate and overcome traditional practices. A social entrepreneur, similar to a business entrepreneur, builds strong and sustainable organizations, which are either set up as not-for-profits or companies.
A social entrepreneur identifies and solves social problems on a large scale. Just as business entrepreneurs create and transform whole industries, social entrepreneurs act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss in order to improve systems, invent and disseminate new approaches and advance sustainable solutions that create social value.
In creating my body of academic work, I emphasized the importance of storytelling as a public service and the need to place empathy at the center of every story to inspire change.
I volunteered in Belize for an organization that sought to conserve the vital ecosystems on land and sea, as well as the rare species of plants and animals found there. I created public service announcements for a farmers market and for an educational nonprofit organization that taught children to become fluent in either Mandarin or Arabic as well as their native English.
Currently I’m serving on the board of advisors for a local nonprofit organization, Compassionate Friends, which provides support to families who have experienced the death of a child.
Which local nonprofit and community organizations do you volunteer for and how do they make a difference?