We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
Today, on International Volunteer Day, we celebrate the contributions of volunteers all over the world to improving our communities, whether those efforts are focused locally, nationally, or globally. 62 million Americans volunteered last year, that’s close to 25 percent of the population over the age of 12! But, why do all of these Americans volunteer? Conventional wisdom tells us that volunteering is a selfless act of helping others in need. Yet, studies show that volunteering leads to better physical and mental health – so is it really selfless? And are we actually helping others when we volunteer, or creating shining but fleeting moments with strangers who we’ve judged to be in need?
There are no one-size fits all answers to these questions. In the first of a five part series, I grapple with these challenges and explore the big question of “Why Volunteer?”
Impact in the Community: Giving Children a Voice … in Yemen
It is a Wednesday afternoon in July of 2010, and the summer rain which floods Sanaa’s streets has yet to begin. At the Safia Community Development Center, Matthew Stackowicz stands before his photography class of 19 students. “Yesterday,” he says, “we talked about how pictures tell a story. Every picture we take tells a story about us or maybe the city or maybe a person.”
Matthew is a 30-year old teacher from South Bend, Indiana, with glasses, longish hair, and several days of stubble. He came to Yemen to study Arabic for a month and to volunteer as a photography teacher. His students are among the roughly 250,000 refugees (most from the Horn of Africa) in Yemen today. Some of these kids were born in Yemen and others fled with their parents from Somalia or Ethiopia. The youngest of the group is a doe-eyed six-year old boy with long curly hair, and the oldest is an 18-year-old girl with crooked front teeth, a big smile, and a toddler little brother in tow.
To read the full story click here.