Geri Espy of Clearwater Beach, Florida said the Russian invasion of Ukraine motivated her to help however she could. As a Global Volunteer alumna in Poland in 2003 and in Montana in 2013, she felt we offered a reliable avenue for appropriate support. Geri also knew that the needs were great in Poland with an influx of three million Ukrainian refugees, so she decided to reach out to her friends and family to offer the opportunity to donate. She was overwhelmed by the support she received, a total of $4,450 in donations from 25 people. Read on for Geri’s own words about her astonishing results.
Why did you feel inspired to ask your friends to support Ukrainian refugees?
I knew people in the U.S. were horrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine – we saw it on TV every day. The devastation and profound needs were obvious. I decided to send an email to some friends and family members to inform them of my upcoming trip and to offer them an opportunity to reach out. I am absolutely NOT a salesperson, but I thought this was different. I saw this as a chance to help others through the Global Volunteers website or through myself, someone they knew and trusted.
I emailed 45 people. I received a total of $4,450 from 25 people, including seven who did not receive the email, but heard about the venture and wanted to contribute. Individual donations ranged from $35 to $500. I also know at least one person who donated online. In addition to the financial support, I was able to personally deliver $450 worth of over-the-counter medicines, school supplies, and other daily necessities (when I returned to Poland in June, 2022).
How were the donations immediately put to work?
(The community decided) the best use of that gift was to offer a children’s summer camp for the first time. In a follow-up and thank you letter to my donors, I said that the team “provided week-long, fun-filled summer camps for children who are still living in Ukraine, as well as local Polish children.” I mentioned that Reymontówka, with its beautiful grounds and facilities, is a perfect location for a camp, adding: “I couldn’t be happier knowing that those Ukrainian children will now have the opportunity to enjoy being children again, at least for their week at summer camp!”
Did you expect to see such an outpouring of support when you started your fundraising efforts?
Absolutely not! I was – and remain – so touched by the generosity of my dear friends and family! I cannot tell you how often I had tears in my eyes and a twang in my heart as I opened those checks received in the mail.
How did you personally contribute to the partner community?
I was asked to sort the items donated through volunteers (medicines, school supplies, toiletries, etc.) and to mentor a young Polish woman through conversational English chats. I was also part of the volunteer group present with adults in our afternoon sessions, which featured dance, meditation, and Reiki. And we all enjoyed spending time with the families during our dinners, field trips, and a cook-out. I was pleased to think I was helping in some small way, though it doesn’t feel like I did much.
“I couldn’t be happier knowing that those Ukrainian children will now have the opportunity to enjoy being children again, at least for their week at summer camp!”– Geri Espy, Poland volunteer
What would you say to other people who might consider supporting Global Volunteers’ work this way?
Helping others through action or fundraising enriches the giver as much as the receiver. By going to Poland, I felt like I was doing something beyond sending a check. I also felt so happy and so proud of my friends and family when I was able to offer those goods and funds, through Global Volunteers, to very deserving people. It is personally satisfying.
“Helping others through action or fundraising enriches the giver as much as the receiver.”– Geri Espy
How is volunteering different from other types of travel?
Meeting and talking with local people in another culture helps me to KNOW the country in a more authentic, non-touristic way. I also think the people we meet there are pleased to know we are interested in and care about them. Listening, sharing histories and hopes, and learning from and about others makes travel so much richer than just going to “see the sights.” And I love the fact that I can give something back to the new culture or country that I am exploring. I love traveling around the world in many different ways, but there is something unique and meaningful about volunteer travel. This is my third experience with Global Volunteers, and I am looking forward to the next time. The other volunteer team members are always people I enjoy meeting and working with, people who enjoy travel and helping others as I do. And the people we meet through volunteering have such stories to tell, yet we discover just how much we have in common. Leaving only footprints and a little help behind is a great way to travel! And, as I am fond of saying, “Travel is the best education you can get.”
What advice do you have to other retirees about “active aging” and volunteering?
Being active and involved and reaching out to others helps keep us young and relevant! And it’s good for the heart!
“I also felt so happy and so proud of my friends and family when I was able to offer those goods and funds, through Global Volunteers, to very deserving people. It is personally satisfying.”– Geri Espy
Geri’s thank you letter to her friends and family:
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