Guest post by Amy Yost, Director of Development and Marketing, Iowa International Center
I’ll never forget my first experience meeting several of our international professional visitors, just days after starting my job with the Iowa International Center. Our organization had just welcomed nine journalists from countries around the Middle East to Des Moines, to discuss U.S. press and foreign policy with local leaders. Our volunteers and staff hosted a potluck to welcome and engage them in some delicious citizen diplomacy. It was amazing. Here’s a group shot from the event:
I’m not in this picture because I got to stand back and watch my 7-year old, who insisted he be the one to take the group photo. Witnessing him share lunch and conversation with these wonderful new friends from the other side of the world quickly made up for any parental frustration.
Annually, our organization hosts 130+ international delegates visiting Iowa on a professional exchange. The interactions provide an eye-opening experience in citizen diplomacy without the price tag of an international plane ticket.
I feel my personal interaction as a young(ish) nonprofit professional provides some of our international visitors with a unique perspective on the United States. While talking with recent guests from Kazakhstan, I was asked why companies and organizations give so much back to the community through volunteer hours and donations – through cooperative efforts to build houses for the less fortunate, or initiatives to include disabled individuals in the workforce. It dawned on me that philanthropy as we know it can truly be a “foreign” concept outside the U.S. The world actually has much to learn from central Iowans – specifically from those who keep our non-profit community running. Enter: YOU.
As a non-profit professional, you might not be able to afford twice-a-year transcontinental trips. One way to satisfy your wanderlust might be serving as an Explore Des Moines volunteer. You will welcome international visitors, show off our community and share your life and work with them – with no long-term or overnight hosting commitment. Think of it as a night out with friends from around the globe that you just haven’t met yet.
Explore Des Moines volunteers work with our staff on details before planning dinner and an outing. A friendly, flexible attitude and access to transportation are the simple qualifications. Explore Des Moines volunteer outings with visitors generally last 2 to 3 hours, and opportunities are available year-round. More information, including a volunteer application Form, can be found online here.
Through Explore Des Moines, you’ll help build a positive perception of Iowa on a global scale, and may even have the chance to share knowledge to encourage community-building through philanthropy in another part of the world. I promise you’ll come away feeling more open-minded and inspired about how just how small the world can be, as well as more aware of the awesomeness of your work in our community, too.