By:  Nadezhda Koksharova, an AYP student and Greenheart Club member. Nadezhda is from Russia and is currently spending her year abroad in Wyoming.

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Hello, everyone! Hopefully, your exchange year is going amazing as mine! I would like to share a bit of my volunteering experience in the United States. Here it comes.

Living in the United States taught me how to be independent, helpful, and responsible. Volunteering is one of the best teachers for these qualities. When I came to the United States, I had some idea about how to be a volunteer and how can it help our community. But, of course, new opportunity, new friends, new place to live, even new family made me change my views and expectations about volunteering.

In my country, Russia, I was helping at the shelter for homeless animals. We have different kinds of them, once we even had a small bear, and I felt so good after a couple hours of hard cleaning of cages. I felt that I brought some kindness, brightness and help to this world. In the United States I had an opportunity to volunteer at the shelter too, but it was so different. People here did not let me work with animals, do cleaning or teaching the dogs. They just play with dogs. Well, giving some fun time to these little dogs, I would make them happy and not lonely, but I found some places where I can help people and get a lot of smiles, to get their gratefulness, it is making my life full of shining.

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First time I started to work at school for Spanish Club. We organize a lot of activities. One time we made piñatas and came to the elementary schools, we played games, gave them smiles and good mood. I wish you could see their happy faces when nobody lost the game, everybody got a candy. I am sure those kids had a lot of fun as I did. But the most important part of it: one kid came to me at the end and said: “You are so kind and beautiful! Will you come to us again? I will be happy to see you!” These words made me tease. It made me smile and all I could say: “Yes, I will come back and we will have more fun than today” Her smile will stay in my heart for the rest of my life. Also, working concessions during school basketball games helps to be fast, how to count change in your mind and helps to find a lot of new friends.

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Volunteering became a part of my life. I cannot imagine my usual day without working concessions during basketball games at school, or gong to the YMCA to referee for dodge ball games with children from Junior High Schools. It is not only working and getting a good feeling from helping people that need help, but also it is a lot of fun. You can meet many new friends, you can experience American activities, you can make your life bright and interesting.

Have a great experience in the United States of America and enjoy your volunteering time!