By Anan Afrida (YES 2019-2020, Bangladesh, placed by PAX in Renton, WA)
It was in mid-March and because of COVID-19, schools were closed. After schools were closed, I was feeling so inactive because, since coming to the U.S., I had always been volunteering and organizing club activities. So I started looking for opportunities to serve the community.
Then, I thought to organize something by myself so that I could help my community in Renton. An idea came up in my mind. My idea was to help people self-isolating by picking up their groceries, posting urgent mail, and making phone calls for free, especially for the seniors.
I shared my idea with my host parents and they were so happy to hear it. My host mom gave me the idea of making postcards including my name, address, my email address (so that people can email me if they need help). and the work I can help with. I named my project: "I Am Here: Helping For Self-Isolation". The aims of my project were to help people to stay in their house and lessen the possibility of spreading COVID-19, ensure the health and safety of my host community, build deeper relationships with the people of my host community, eradicate the loneliness of the senior people of my community, and bring happiness in their life by making phone calls.
My host mom helped me to reach the most needy people of my community and the senior centers. I walked door to door and put my post cards in their door steps and in the mail boxes. It must be mentioned that social distancing was highly maintained during these activities.
When I talked with the seniors over phone, they were interested because I was from a different country. It felt really good to share my cultural foods and dress up with them. They even asked me about the seniors of my country and the condition of senior centers there. Some of them shared their fear of getting the virus and they cried, which made me feel so sad for them. Some of them were frustrated about their children. At the same time, we also made jokes over the phone.
When I put the emails in their boxes, the people didn't come out to maintain social distancing. But when I was far enough from their house, they told me "thank you" from far away, which made me feel so proud. I always like to be active like this. My host parents were also proud of me because people started calling my host parents and praising me. The most interesting part is: I didn't know my neighbors that much here because I didn't get chance to talk to them.
With this activity, not only did I come to know about them, but also they came to know about me and my country. It was so interesting to know the perspective and lifestyle of senior people. I also created a Facebook page to help and reach out to more people.
This activity made me realize: "Don't wait for the perfect moment, take the moment and make it perfect.” Also that “opportunities are always there, you just have to grab them!” I did this project because I feel happy helping people. I submitted this project for PAX's GYSD contest and it got selected as a finalist project and was published in the PAXPress. Thank you YES program and the U.S. Department of State for giving me such a platform for making myself feel worthy by helping others.