Interviewing Commonwealth Corps Members about the Importance of Volunteering

Published on
Thursday, April 25, 2024

Our Commonwealth Corps program, a 10-month service year experience, has volunteerism woven into the fabric of its existence. Every service role has some aspect of recruiting and managing volunteers, and through this experience, our Commonwealth Corps members witness first-hand the impact of volunteerism for nonprofits and volunteers alike.

Rosemary Barnett-Young is a Commonwealth Corps member serving as a Culture and Career Guide at the International Institute of New England (IINE), an organization that "creates opportunities for refugees and immigrants to succeed."

"In my role," Rosemary says, "I oversee workforce and cultural orientations, as well as work within the advancement department to match volunteers with clients in a number of activities, as well as to support volunteers along the way."

Rosemary volunteering!

"Volunteers," Rosemary emphasized, "are central to what we do here at IINE. So much of what we are able to accomplish is due to their support. I think volunteering is such a positive experience all around, for organizations, volunteers, and clients."

"We had a volunteer who had been working extensively with a client on a number of things including job support, and he invited the client to join… his family on Thanksgiving. This placed [the client] among a multi-generational gathering, celebrating one of America’s longest traditions. They were able to share in this experience, a traditional Thanksgiving meal, and the ideals of the holiday." And, Rosemary said, the client enthused about the experience of being welcomed into the volunteer's home. "It was perfect," the client noted. "There was a great atmosphere, and the food was very good.'"

"The ability to connect with others is a humanizing experience," Rosemary asserts, "and while it is always important, it is even more so for many of the individuals we serve, who may find themselves far from family, friends, and community."

Abhinav Ahlawat is a Commonwealth Corps member serving as a Farm and Market Specialist at YouthGROW farm with REC Worcester, an organization working towards environmental sustainability and social justice in Worcester.

"I am passionate," Abhinav says, "about leveraging urban farming to empower youth and foster sustainable development." And, just like Rosemary, he's realized how important volunteers are for that goal. "Volunteers play a crucial role in supporting various aspects of the farm operations, from cultivation to marketing. By integrating volunteers into our programs, we not only expand our capacity but also cultivate a sense of community ownership and investment in our mission." After observing how one dedicated volunteer showed up weekly to support REC Worcester's "Mobile Markets" that distribute fresh produce to local communities, Abhinav says that he realized just how much "volunteer contributions directly enhance organizational impact [and foster] a stronger sense of community engagement and support."

When asked about what he'd say to someone considering a year of service with Commonwealth Corps, Abhinav says, "I would encourage them to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Embrace the opportunity to immerse yourself in the community, build relationships, and make a tangible difference. Be proactive in seeking out opportunities for growth and collaboration, and don't hesitate to leverage the support networks available through programs like Commonwealth Corps. Most importantly, remember that your service has the power to catalyze positive change, both for yourself and for those you serve."

Abinhav serving!

Rosemary adds: "I have always had a passion for volunteering and an interest in the nonprofit field so Commonwealth Corps seemed like a perfect fit, it offered me a chance to get some experience and engage in both fields. If you are thinking about doing a year of service with Commonwealth Corps, I would say go for it!  Whether you are looking to shift in your career path, or are just starting your professional journey as I was, Commonwealth Corps will give you the support and structure to do so successfully. The organizations MSA works with are varied so there is certainly something that will interest you, and you will get to spend a year making a difference!"

Sign up for MSA's Newsletters
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.