On January 22nd - January 28th 2020, we were happy to welcome our first 2020 IVLP delegation of visitors from Bangladesh, Dominica, Latvia, Nepal, Paraguay, South Africa and Turkey for a multi-regional project entitled “Volunteerism and Civic Action." This program was planned to provide participants with the opportunity to examine the impact of volunteerism in U.S. communities and how volunteers are inspired to foster a culture of service, civic involvement, and responsibility; to demonstrate best practices in volunteer recruitment, retention, and management; and the effectiveness of social media in volunteer efforts.
The IVLP guests started their program with a meeting at the Martinez Street Women's Center, where they learnt about support women and girls get as they achieve empowerment, equity, and justice. The staff of the organization explained the issues affecting local women and girls. They also shared about their approach to empowering women and girls and strengthening communities.
Later that day, our guests had a meeting with the representatives of Migrant Resource Center. The City of San Antonio’s Department of Human Services (DHS) coordinates the Migrant Resource Center to support migrants arriving in San Antonio as they continue their journeys to sponsors across the country. The IVLP group learnt about the variety of services that aid over 25,000 migrants from volunteers who greet families as they arrive, translate information, serve food, and connect individuals to available resources. This group also met with these volunteers and coordinators and discussed the collaboration and public-private partnerships between community organizations, faith groups, and the City that enables the Migrant Center to operate.
In the afternoon, our delegation headed to the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio, where they learnt about an array of social services provided to disadvantaged families and individuals through advocacy, education, and direct service. The staff shared about the programs and services focused on youth education initiatives. The IVLP participants were impressed with the tour of the Guadalupe Community Center, which provides emergency assistance while addressing food insecurity, reducing poverty, and preventing homelessness. The highlight of the meeting was the discussion on the different roles that volunteers play across Catholic Charities’ programs and how the organization recruits, trains, and manages volunteers.
On Friday, the group began with a morning meeting at The San Antonio Food Bank which takes pride in fighting hunger, feeding hope in their 16-county service area. The delegation learnt about the history of this organization and the way has grown into its current model, which serves 58,000 individuals a week. Participants also discussed various programs that address the needs of families, individuals, seniors, children, and military members in need. The visitors also enjoyed a tour of the Food Bank facilities and learnt about the best practices in volunteer recruitment, retention, and management on a large scale. Finally, the IVLP guests took part in a community service activity in their Warehouse with other volunteers.
After lunch, these visitors met with the representatives of MOVE Texas. The group learnt about this non-profit, grassroots organization which works to ensure youth voices are heard and considered in the policy-making process. The discussion was mostly focused on the organization’s efforts towards civic mobilization among youth through a meeting with their staff, in addition to challenges and obstacles every country faces regarding civic engagement.
On Saturday and Sunday the visitors took part in several cultural activities, including a tour to the Hill Country, an evening of conversation and home-cooked meals with local dinner hospitality hosts, and of course, relaxing along the Riverwalk, which gave them an opportunity to experience one of San Antonio’s main attractions.
On Monday, they met with a much-valued resource in San Antonio’s effort to address the needs of asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants. The Interfaith Welcome Coalition (IWC) collaborates with a variety of other community organizations to support these populations. Representatives shared how they have operated primarily through volunteer efforts, and the way that the coalition garners the support from its members.
In the afternoon, the delegation met with representatives of the Texas Organizing Project (TOP). During this meeting the IVLP group learnt about the ways how this organization promotes social and economic equality for low- to moderate-income Texans through community and electoral organizing. It was valuable to hear about various issues the organization focuses on, including voting, immigration, health care, jobs, education, and neighborhood standards.
Through these varied and impactful meetings, this global delegation was able to explore San Antonio’s successful efforts to engage youth in volunteerism and civic action and to learn about best practices in volunteer recruitment, training, and management. Each one of them found the appointments useful in improving their own efforts to grow civic engagement back in their home countries. #ExchangeMatters