"When I am volunteering, I feel like a super hero."
Kat Howland, 15, of Dover, New Hampshire, U.S., volunteers for various projects and events through City Year, a service organization.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Kat: I really enjoy working with City Year on National Youth Service Day (NYSD) and volunteering as a Special Olympics athlete escort. NYSD is a perfect way to learn new skills: I've learned roofing, gardening and painting from the pros, and I've also learned how to organize projects. I invite my friends to help and we always have a fun day.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Kat: National Youth Service Day (NYSD) is part of Youth Service America in Washington DC, USA. The New Hampshire service projects are coordinated by City Year New Hampshire in Stratham, New Hampshire, USA.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefits from this work.
Kat: Our 2007 NYSD project was a Blue Ocean Society beach cleanup to protect marine life from debris in the ocean and to clean the shore. We collected over 100 pounds of garbage while contributing to scientific study. High school students invite and work alongside Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops.
What inspired you to get involved?
Kat: Through Girl Scouting I've always helped at our local Dover Clean Up Day.
How did you first get involved? Through school? Your parents?
Kat: Dover Middle School had a City Year after school program and everyone was invited to help paint Portsmouth Middle School for National Youth Service Day. There were teams of students from every school. We had a fun day working and saved the school $40,000. I've been a National Youth Service Day volunteer every year since then.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Kat: While volunteering at a City Year event a few years ago, a little boy grabbed my hand and asked, "Are you a mommy or helper?" I laughed and thought to myself, "Definitely not a mommy!" As I answered him, "I'm a helper. Do you need help?" I realized I really like being a "helper". When I am volunteering, I feel like a super hero: big, strong and ready to save the world. I love cheering on special athletes and especially giving hugs at the end of a race. It feels good to pack food at the food bank. I love that tired feeling of knowing you've worked hard and helped.
What is/was the hardest part?
Kat: I try to volunteer every weekend and wish I had more time.
What was the biggest surprise?
Kat: I am always surprised at how many people from school have no idea how to volunteer. They have never tried it, or they think it requires special training. National Youth Service Day is the perfect way to get everyone involved. Once they try it, they are hooked!
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Kat: I am more appreciative of my health and all of the people who work hard every day to keep the world safe, clean, and fed. I am so much more aware of the world around me.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Kat: Do Something. Try a few different projects and organizations to see what you like best. You'd be surprised at how strong you are and how much you can do in a few hours. Keep a service journal. And bring a friend!
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