Tuesday, April 23, 2013

World At Large

Friends and Family,

"Consciously or unconsciously, every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger and will make, not only our own happiness, but that of the world at large."

Mahatma Gandhi

The night I opened my acceptance email,
a friend told me I was going to change the world.
That had been my goal.

I wanted to be part of a community helping communities and I had been selected to serve communities up and down the magical West Coast as an AmeriCorps member. For 10 months, I was part of a team, Green 7, and we were just one of 20-something National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) teams based in Sacramento, California for the year.

AmeriCorps NCCC is a team-based service program for 18 to 24-year-olds to build leadership skills through hands-on experiences with non-profit organizations across the nation.

Every day was a new experience.

I lived in a tent for six weeks in the desert. I mentored 1,800 fifth and sixth graders with my team. I gained confidence by leading volunteers. I helped restore a historic building, create a community garden, clear trails, prevent soil erosion and run a wood chipper! I learned how to become a team motivator by sharing personal experiences and emotions and, as a team, we learned how to maintain team dynamics, work hard, reflect, grow, set and achieve our goals.

While in Portland, Oregon, my team had the opportunity of serving with Habitat for Humanity for eight weeks. We finished homes and prepared for new construction. We learned that Habitat aims to eliminate substandard and poverty housing. We also learned that Habitat does not give homes away. Habitat forms partnerships with diverse, hardworking families who buy their houses. Habitat provides safe communities and stable homes worldwide and, with no experience necessary, Habitat for Humanity runs on volunteers.

I am now a second year AmeriCorps member, serving as a Construction Crew Leader with Habitat for Humanity Portland / Metro East. I am assigned to the largest Habitat site in Oregon, with the expected completion of 45 homes in the Summer of 2014. I lead volunteers daily and coordinate construction tasks on the worksite. Also volunteering on the Homeowner Selection Committee, I assisted in the selection process of our 23 new partnering families.

Building homes in over 100 countries, 90% of Habitat's homes are international and Global Village Trips are another great way to get involved. Habitat's Global Village program provides team-based opportunities for people of different cultures to live and work together in the spirit of partnership, travel and community service.

This Thanksgiving, I am traveling to South America for 10 days to serve in Argentina. Nearly 35% of Argentina's population lives below the poverty line, leaving almost three million children in poverty housing. In 2001, Argentina suffered an economic collapse that left 50% of the population under the poverty line. In 2003, floods worsened poverty conditions, initiating “Rebuilding Santa Fe One House at a Time.”

Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina (HPHA) builds in Buenos Aries, Lujan, Santa Fe and Canada de Gomez. The affiliate stresses the importance of the education and empowerment that helps partnering families work toward solving their own housing problems. Community members come together with families and volunteers, using their skills to achieve the self-construction process. In the past, Global Village teams have helped HPHA families restore their roofs, rehab homes and aid in progressive improvements in which housing is seen as a process and not a product. Through motivation and full participation, dignity among individuals in the community is restored.

I plan to learn about Argentina's culture, language, history, context-adapted solutions they use to build and the customs of the community, but I need some help from you. My trip has a cost. Part of your donation goes to Habitat for Humanity International and a portion goes to Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina. The rest of the donation funds food, housing, travel medical insurance coverage and transportation for the week. Today, a third of Argentina’s population still resides in inadequate housing. Join me in serving these communities. It doesn't take much and donations add up fast, so please, donate what you can.

I will continue to travel, grow and do my part to help change the world. AmeriCorps hasn't changed my life; my service experiences have provided me the tools to shape my life. These experiences make me happy. I just hope that, by paying it forward, the good will someday outweigh the evil. Keeping close to my heart all the offerings of goodness I've received from folks along my way, I hope you join us in serving our world.

With love and thanks,


Or contact me at Cprogen@gmail.com for mailing address to send personal check.

*I also want to give an extra special thank you to my friends and family who in 2009 donated to the Centro Victoria build in Mexico that I participated in. I raised a generous $700.00 for the boy's dorm project and the kids couldn't have been happier to see us! We finished the structure of the dorm while we were in Juarez and the roof was completed after we left. The orphanage continues to flourish with children and I hope to return someday to see the familiar faces and serve their community.*

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