Volunteer of the Month

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Volunteer of the month - MAY 2019

Meet Helen our May 2019 volunteer of the month.

Helen is a volunteer at Cinnamon Trust. The Trust, which is located in the UK, helps relieve the stress and worries of the elderly and/or terminally ill by looking after and caring for their best friends, their pets whether it’s by walking their dog, cleaning a cats litter tray or the birds' cage.

Cinnamon Trust and Helen's work for the Trust truly spoke to us as we would feel absolutely heartbroken if we were no longer able to look after our beloved pets.

To learn more about the Trust and Helens work as a volunteer please read our interview below:

  • Can you please tell us a little about the 'Cinnamon Trust' where you volunteer?  
The Cinnamon Trust is a UK charity which helps relieve the stress and worries of the elderly and/or terminally ill with looking after and caring for their best friends, their pets. Whether it’s by walking their dog, cleaning a cats litter tray or the birds' cage, these little things can help and provide so much peace of mind for the owners who otherwise could potentially risk having to give up their beloved and sometimes only companions.
 
The Cinnamon Trust also provides a fostering service for those owners who face a spell in hospital and even if the worst happens, they can also provide long term care for pets whose owners have sadly passed away. These issues can often be overlooked so it is really amazing what they do.
 
  • If someone wanted to donate to the trust, where would they need to go to do so?
If you would like to donate to The Cinnamon Trust you can do so via the following link: https://www.everyclick.com/thecinnamontrust
 
  • How long have you been a volunteer for, and what made you get into it? 
I found out about The Cinnamon Trust via social media outlets, and I’ve been a volunteer for nearly 6 months now, and I give between 4-5 hours a week at the moment.
When I saw the posts on both Facebook and Instagram regarding the work The Cinnamon Trust do, and I instantly knew I wanted to get involved. I have such an overwhelming love for animals and have always had some sort of pet in my household since being baby! Even now, I have two crazy dogs and a cat of my own. I couldn’t imagine what life would be like without them or what would happen if I was no longer able to take care of them as well as they deserve and need.. the thought is actually quite upsetting! I think this level of empathy is what pushed me to get the application started.
 
  • What do you like most about being a volunteer?
The best thing about being a volunteer for me is you can instantly see the big impact you are making to others. The pets are overjoyed to see you when you walk in, as are the owners! Knowing that your help and time relieves so much worry and anxiety between the owners and their pets really just speaks volumes. The whole process in itself is really enjoyable and rewarding, you get to meet new people and experience different situations which has actually really helped me with my personal development too. Despite the head office being at the other end of the country to me, the support network and staff there are incredible. If I have any questions or concerns they are always there to help, they have made the whole volunteering process a breeze.

 

  • Can you please tell us a little about yourself, what motivates you, and what your ultimate goal is?
I’ve always considered myself to be quite introverted and made excuses not to do things or back out of them for fear of feeling uncomfortable or doing a bad job. Volunteering has really helped me come out of my shell, be more confident and approach new experiences in a completely different way. My passion for animals is what really motivates me. I believe this is why I connected with The Cinnamon Trust so much. Most of my time is taken up by a 9 – 5 job and don’t have much money to give. This is my way of making a difference in the world. Going forward I’d love to be able to help in fundraisers and also recruit more volunteers for this very important cause.
 
  • Do you have one memorable moment while being a volunteer which you would like to share?
One of the dogs I walk, Milly, lives close to a lovely park, so we manage to go on quite long walks, which is great for fitness if nothing else! I often get stopped when people see me wearing the Cinnamon Trust polo shirt asking me more about what I do and who they are. It’s great to be able to spread the word and also meet new people in the process. Watching Milly grow in confidence around other dogs each and every walk is really lovely to see. When I arrive at her house she bounds over to see me all excited to go on our next adventure.
Another dog, Sam, is an old boy at 14. He’s still so full of love and again, I can see his face light up when I walk through the door. His owner is unable to walk him anymore which I can tell breaks his heart as he cares so much for that dog! There is a team of us who call round to see Sam throughout the week to make sure he’s still getting out and about and loving life.
 
 
  • What advice would you give someone who was looking to become a volunteer?
No time is too little. Even if you can just offer an hour a week it would make a huge difference to someone else's life. Try to look past the excuses you can come up with such as being too busy, too tired, not enough time and give it a go, believe me, I made them all myself! You’ll be surprised how much it really lifts you up as a person. If you don’t feel like you could commit to something regular, try seeing what fundraisers there are in the area? I also volunteer for another charity by being a marshal for a fun run they do. This event only happens locally once a year but again, makes so much difference to them on the day.
 
  • Do you have a favourite quote, which motivates you that you would like to share?
A quote I live by is “Everything you want is on the other side of fear”. In the past fear has controlled my life and my decisions. I find by remembering this quote it really empowers me to push the fears to the side and at least TRY. This can be applied to volunteering, day to day jobs, family, friends and general life situations.
 
  • Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I hope this can inspire at least one person to make the steps towards becoming a volunteer for something they believe in. In the meantime, If they would like to know more about The Cinnamon Trust they can visit:
 
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Meet Sukhmeet, April 2019 volunteer of the month. Sukhmeet brings joy and laughter once a month to a special needs school /orphanage in India. 

Sukhmeet started volunteering after going through a rough time in her own personal life. Through her experience as a volunteer, Sukhmeet has learned that helping others can also help you fight your own internal struggles and heal.

To learn more about the amazing work Sukhmeet is doing, read her story below:

  •  Can you please tell us a little about where you volunteer?

I volunteer at a school/orphanage for people with special needs. The school/orphanage is located in Bhilai Chhattisgarh, India and focuses on helping children and adults with special needs develop through dance, music and games. Although these children and adults may have special needs they are very much like the rest of us, they like to chat and play games!

  • How long have you been a volunteer for, and what made you get into it?

I started volunteering at the school/orphanage around 4-5 months ago when I was going through a rough phase in my life (calling off my wedding). 

My friend, who has become a type of brother figure to me came to me one day during my rough patch and said,‘’ come on, let’s go and volunteer and find peace through helping out those that need it’’. So we both put our money together to purchase a whole bunch of groceries and sports equipment which we then took to the school/orphanage. It has now become a big part of our lives, and we visit every month.

  • What do you like most about being a volunteer?

What I like most about volunteering is the peace it brings to your soul and the happiness you get to see in the faces of those you are helping. It also allows you to forget all your problems for the time being and you feel great knowing that you have cheered someone up. That feeling will also help you fight your own current battles.

  • Can you please tell us a little about yourself, what motivates you, and what your ultimate goal is?

I am a very emotional, spiritual person and truly believe in karma, you reap what you sow. I love dogs, and after my beloved dog passed away last year, my love for dogs, specifically stray dogs, grew stronger. I now have a bunch of stray dogs who come and visit me daily to get food, which warms my heart.

I am also very much into fitness, which started off as a hobby, although I am now turning it into a career. I am currently in the progress of becoming a fitness and nutrition consultant. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't take their health seriously, and therefore I want to make more people aware about the importance of health. My main goal is to establish myself in the health and fitness field and prove all those people who doubted me wrong.

  • Do you have one memorable moment while being a volunteer which you would like to share?

Yes, I have many! Although one that comes to mind is this one time at the school/ orphanage when we had finished up playing games and were getting ready to leave, and one of the girls at the school came up and hugged me and said, "thank you, so much and please visit soon, don’t forget us”. That moment I will cherish for life!

  •  What advice would you give someone who was looking to become a volunteer?

My advice would be, if you are thinking of becoming a volunteer, don't think too much about it, just do it! I know there may be people who will not believe you and make fun of you, but just start, start doing small things here and there! You never know your actions may encourage more people to join you.

  • Do you have a favourite quote which motivates you that you would like to share?

Yes, one quote that sticks with me every day, "Be happy with what you have, while still working on what you want".

  • Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Yes, a few things. I want the readers to know that your mental health is just as important as your physical health, therefore don’t forget to give yourself a rest.

Be kind and if you come across someone who is fighting an internal battle, go and help them. Words have the power to heal wounds and helping others will also help you as I have learned from my experiences as a volunteer.

Doors that are closed were never meant to be yours, and you should thank god for that. 

Lastly, if anyone needs any help with fitness and nutrition, I am willing to help, and you can contact me via email sukhmeetbhatia07@gmail.com

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We interviewed Chloe Rits, a director of a nonprofit foundation, who strives to leave a legacy of goodness, selflessness, and leadership for change in social justice.

We hope her story inspires you to take action and do some good in this world, every chance you get. As Chloe puts it ''You don’t have to change the world, just your corner of the world''.

  • Can you please tell us a little about 'Be Like Brit' the non-profit foundation which you are a director for. Including where and when it was founded and the mission and vision for it?

Britney Gengel was a beautiful, fearless and compassionate 19-year-old when she decided to travel to the country of Haiti with her college, Lynn University in 2010. Upon her arrival, Britney was overwhelmed by the devastating poverty visible everywhere. Despite their living conditions, the children she met gave her so much love she was inspired to send the following text to her mother just three hours before the earthquake ''They love us so much, and everyone is so happy. They love what they have, and they work so hard to get nowhere, yet they are all so appreciative. I want to move here and start an orphanage myself.''

Shortly after sending the text, a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing an estimated 300,000 people, including Britney. Her family could not let her die in vain. In loving memory, they started the 'Be Like Brit Foundation, Inc'. During the course of two years, a 19,000 square foot earthquake-proof, non-adoptive orphanage was built in Grand Goave, Haiti — the town where Brit was supposed to travel to the day after the earthquake.

Today we have 33 girls and 33 boys living and thriving at Brits Home. The number 33 is symbolic of the 33 days Brit was missing in the rubble at The Hotel Montana. The majority of our children are true orphans or came from such horrific conditions that we couldn't say no.

Our mission is to continue the compassion of Britney Gengel by serving the children of Haiti through sustaining a safe, nurturing home rooted in the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love while developing a sense of social responsibility, community involvement, and unconditional love. All of our 66 children each have a bed to sleep in at night, three meals a day, an amazing education, a connection to their faith and, most importantly, a loving and caring family. 

As well as helping the 66 children we also help the community surrounding our Children’s Home in Grand Goave, Haiti. Our organization employs over 110 Haitian staff, we provide 1,000 gallons of filtered water to the community each day, and our outreach program (our Britsionarys) have built over 125 homes for some of our neighbours who were still living in temporary shelters.

  • How long have you been a volunteer for, and what made you get into it?

Two years ago, I was working as the Director of Youth Ministry at my church in South Florida, when our church proposed a service trip to Haiti. I vividly remembered the earthquake in 2010 and my great desire to go; however, immediately after the tragedy, a cholera outbreak occurred and prevented us from travelling. So when this opportunity arose to travel to Haiti, my husband and I eagerly accepted the opportunity and actually used the service trip as our honeymoon!

I fell in love with the long-term mission, commitment to leadership in our children, and positive impact on the community. A few months later, I made a choice to transition from ministry into full-time nonprofit management and met Brit’s father, Len. I proposed myself as a volunteer and presented multiple ideas on how I could be of benefit to the organization. Long story short, the meeting turned into an interview, and I was hired as the Florida Director – hosting events, fundraising, public speaking, club formation, donation drives, and leading multiple groups into Haiti each year.

  • What do you like most about being a director for the 'Be Like Brit' foundation?

My favourite thing about transitioning from a volunteer to a staff member for this organisation is that my “job” feels nothing like a “job.” It’s honestly more of a lifestyle being able to represent our mission of raising the next generation of leaders. The “work” part of what I do causes little to no stress for me because I truly believe to my core that this nonprofit is changing our little corner of the world and beyond. That incredible burst of happiness that you feel after volunteering or giving back is something that I experience every single day.

  • Can you please tell us a little about yourself, what motivates you, and what your ultimate goal is?

As the oldest child in my family, I had a natural leadership role growing up. Partnered with my parents’ early divorce and being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 5, you could say I had to learn autonomy from the get-go. I was extremely involved in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation by 6 years old and became the Youth Ambassador for JDRF in Palm Beach County. Thrown into a world of volunteering, fundraising, public speaking, and advocacy, my “disease” or “chronic illness” truly became my life’s greatest blessing, as I was given opportunities to choose hope over daily struggles.

As a teenager, I participated on yearly service or mission trips and began to fall in love with helping others in sorrow-filled situations OUTSIDE of Type 1 Diabetes, and I quickly realized that my problems were miniscule in comparison to poverty, abuse, homelessness, lack of resources, or misunderstood lifestyles. My Diabetes was nothing in comparison to children who hadn’t eaten in 3 days. How can I complain?

It is my current life goal to leave a legacy of goodness, selflessness, and leadership for change in social justice. You don’t have to change the world, just your corner of the world.

  • Do you have one memorable moment in Haiti, which you would like to share?

Each time I travel to Haiti, I lead a group of individuals to build a home in our local community. We work tirelessly, side by side, with our team of Haitian construction workers. We build for 4 days, and on the 5th day, we hand over the keys to the family we are giving the home to. It’s a magical celebration as the family embraces the safety, security, and opportunity that this home will provide.

One week, in particular, I will cherish forever. A woman named Nadine has 4 children, and one of them is a little girl who is severely mentally and physically disabled. That week, our group built her a home, the rain no longer seeping through the mud of her old shack. She and her children received the first mattress they ever owned, and no longer slept with all 5 of them on a twin sized cot. We even gave her disabled daughter a wheelchair. The dedication that 5th day was emotional, impactful beyond words, and changed all of our lives.

As special as that week was, I’ll never forget what happened a few months later. I had returned to Haiti on another trip, and our group was touring through a little hillside neighbourhood on a hike. One of our coordinators pointed to a woman across the road and said, “Look! It’s Nadine! Remember her?” Nadine and I locked eyes, and she yelled, “Chloe!!!” We ran into each other’s arms, both smiling and crying that we had been reunited. I can still feel that hug as I type this now. These are moments I will never forget, and pray that I never get desensitised to the raw beauty of the people of Haiti.

  • What has been your proudest moment while being a director for the 'Be Like Brit' foundation?

My proudest moments as our director have been watching people have epiphanies or revelations as they understand why our mission to raise future leaders in Haiti is such a unique model.

I truly believe that offering “thoughts and prayers” is so important, but “thoughts, prayers, AND action” is a motto I live by. Walk it like you talk it. Actions speak louder than words. So when we aim to merge 2 worlds – modern American society and standards, with a country who has been fighting for their freedom and basic rights – my proudest moments are when people truly understand how they want to be a part of this vital change. Brit, especially, was a beautiful representative of not just compassion, but action.

  • How can someone apply to be part of your Foundation?

If you’d like to get involved, the first thing to think about is what your philanthropic love language is! There are so many different ways to embrace your passions when discovering how to give back:

-If “Words of Affirmation” is your love language: follow us on social media, share our stories, engage with our staff members, and help us inspire others to raise our beautiful children

-If “Acts of Service” is your love language: visit our offices in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida or Worcester, Massachusetts to help our donation centres

-If “Gifts” is your love language: donate funding to our many programs that include staffing, construction, water distribution, education for children, sustainable gardening, psychology staff members, home building in our community, and more

-If “Touch” is your love language: reach out and touch the life of a child by sponsoring one of our 66 young leaders at Brit’s Home! For $33, $66, or $99 a month, you can contribute to our children’s education, meals, housing, English classes, medical and psychological growth

-If “Quality Time” is your love language: spend a week in Haiti building a home for a family living in impoverished conditions, tour around town on excursions that immerse you in culture, and spend time with our children at Brit’s Home playing, tutoring, and dancing

  • If someone wanted to donate to your foundation, how would they go about doing this?

Contact me, Chloe Rits, at Chloe@BeLikeBrit.org or 561-523-0160 or donate directly at www.BeLikeBrit.org

  • What advice would you give someone who was looking to become a volunteer or start a nonprofit organization?

The most well rounded and happiest decisions I have made in my life were in situations where my head and my heart agreed. Effective, action-charged choices should not just be based on emotions of the heart, but with mental clarity as well.

When I became involved with the Be Like Brit Foundation, by heart was locked in by the children and people of Haiti – their smiling faces, appreciation for the small things in life, so rich in spirit, and full of culture and community. But my mind also engaged with the concept of the potential they were being provided for their future – 1st world resources in a 3rd world country. And what more, we have 110 employees locally in Haiti who pour into our children and are also able to bring home wages to their families.

So when an opportunity arose for me to potentially become a staff member with this incredible organization, I went in prepared. I had multiple programs, ideas, and proposals on what I could bring to the table. I believe that the founders recognized my value and knew that I could bring progress and engagement to our Florida community.

If you have a philanthropy you are passionate about, GO FOR IT! Know your strengths and research how to highlight them, all while working to better your weaknesses. (Try theStrengthsFinders 2.0 quiz and book!)

Show confidence with humility and tact. Prove your commitment, show innovation, and take a leap to show the world your potential!

  • Do you have a favourite quote which motivates you, that you would like to share?

Ok so I have two – I can’t pick just one!! “The time is always right to do what is right.” – MLK Jr. “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” – Anonymous

Both of these statements embody my core focus to live intentionally and build a legacy every single day. Age does not define experience, and we have to be courageous to fight for our passions every single day. Just like Brit’s story, life can change or be taken away at any moment, so spread goodness TODAY.

 
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