Religious Understanding and Feeding the Hungry: My Volunteer Experience in America
By Gulnura, CCI Greenheart Exchange Student
Gulnura is a CCI Greenheart exchange student from Kyrgyzstan who is now living in Athens, Georgia. She is a Greenheart Club member and has volunteered a total of 167 thus far this academic year. It is exciting to see how much good Gulnura has done in our world so far and to imagine all the amazing things she will do in the future. Read about Gulnura’s experiences volunteering in the United States below.
I never learned about volunteering in my home of Kyrgyzstan. Now that I have learned about volunteering, it frustrates me that most Kyrgyz people have never heard of it. When I return home, I would like to share my experience and organize a meeting with other FLEX students to help educate our countrymen about the benefits of volunteerism.
I have volunteered at Athens Church, at an ice-skating rink, at a Soup Kitchen as well as other places. I like volunteering at the church because there I am able to work with children. We usually sing, dance and read books. I am Muslim and I work in a Christian Church. I enjoy learning about this religion different from my own and sharing what I learn with other Muslims. You may know that in our world today, there is a lot of ignorance between Muslims and Christians, and this ignorance breeds fear. By encouraging understanding I would like to help create world peace. We are all equal and we can choose what religion is best for us.
I am also a member of Interact club at my school. This is a volunteer club. Some of our activities include cleaning up our school, rivers and forests. Small environmental problems become large global problems; I am doing a little bit to help solve environmental problems in our society. I suggest future exchange students become involved with the Interact club at their high school. It is a great way to meet new friends and change the world one step at a time.
When I volunteer I learn new information and ideas. I learn about American culture, history and life style, while practicing my English skills. Also, I understand that we can improve our community by just doing the little things. Mother Teresa (a Catholic nun) once said: “If you cannot feed a hundred people, then just feed one”.
Volunteering has taught me a lot of new things. I am thinking of opening up a Soup Kitchen when I get home. Our new free market economy has had a slow start which has been difficult for many people in Kyrgyzstan. It is causing the growth of the homeless population. Eleven percent of Kyrgyz people live in poverty. Every few days approximately 10 people die from the freezing temperature or hunger. They live outdoors and they find their daily meals from the trash. It is harmful for their health and the environment too. It would be wonderful to feed them with a hot meal everyday. We have no idea why some many people are homeless, but it is our moral responsibility to help people in need.
When I was volunteering at the Soup Kitchen in America, I had breakfast with homeless people. They were interested about my country. One thing really surprised me; I said to one man you know where Kyrgyzstan is? He said your country is boarding with Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. He was a very intelligent man because most people don’t know Central Asian geography. Working at the Soup Kitchen taught me a lot of things; most importantly to not judge people by their circumstances. Volunteering here in America has inspired me to open a Soup Kitchen when I return to Kyrgyzstan.