Acting Upon Needs in My Community

By: Johdinann Hartley, Summer 2018 Participant & Ambassador Scholar

For my Greenheart Service Project this summer, I organized a park cleanup and was assisted by two local coworkers and fellow Summer Work and Travel participant. This was carried out on our day off, Thursday, July 5th. We picked up trash along the bay at Clinch Park during the 2018 National Cherry Festival. There were a lot of people here for the event, so the town had a garbage issue. I saw a need and acted upon it.  We worked for one and a half hours. This event got me closer to my coworkers, who took the time out to help me give back to Traverse City for this memorable summer. After the event, I made thank you cards for my friends.

I planned for my service project to go alongside a major event within the community and that was the National Cherry Festival. I email Ms. Ericka Pauly the coordinator of the National Cherry Festival. After a week of waiting for a response I called and was told that my email was forwarded to the person in charge of gaining a permit for cleanup during the event. I was also told that I will receive a call soon. However, after two weeks, I still had not gotten a phone call or email. Despite the obstacles I encountered, I decided it was best to do my project anyways with those closest to me at that time. I continued planning, and then learned that the festival would be a week earlier than usual! I was planning to get media coverage but decided it was better to do my event, even without having the media on board. But I did not give up! After the event, I emailed the Traverse City Record-Eagle and was told that my message would be brought to the attention of the editor. I realized that my message was not direct and to the point, so I sent another email, but there was still no reply.

This experience reminded me to work on my usage of time and event planning to ensure that future events will go according to plan!

Despite the obstacles with my first volunteer project, I have continued volunteering in my community. I also volunteered at the National Cherry Festival and was mentioned in The TraversCityty Record Eagle (page 8) on September 7, 2018 in the list of Cherry Festival Ambassadors!

Another significant occurrence during my Summer exchange program was the privilege of attending the Greenheart Global Leaders Conference (GGLC) in Washington D.C. The GGLC is a scholarship-based conference which provides selected participants the opportunity to become global leaders. It also brings together Greenheart participants from all over the world.  The first Greenheart conference was held in 2014 with eleven participants, while four years later (2018) the conference brought together 40 participants from 20 different countries. I am fortunate to be counted within that number.

The conference lasted four days (July 29 to August 3rd) and had three tracks in which we were divided based on our passions. These tracks were the International Mission-Driven Business Track, Environmental Sustainability Track and lastly the Social Justice track, in which I was placed. Within our tracks, we had workshops, site visits and as a group we volunteered. In the social justice track, we visited Amnesty International and volunteered at Food and Friends in D.C. The information provided during our site visits, panel discussion, and leadership workshops helped me to challenge beliefs and think critically about global issues such as climate change, the worlds refugee crisis, food scarcity, poverty, and political instability. I learned how to develop a community-focused service project and gained tools to moved forward in my mission-driven life.

The conference also provided me with the opportunity to visit the Department of State and Congress, where five participants made a powerful speech about their experience on the cultural exchange program.

The cultural exchange experience and the lessons I have learned this summer are priceless. I have met some of the most high-spirited and courageous people, and I am rich in memories and stories!