Impact Volunteering is Ageless
Celeste Torrens , 77 and Nathalie Weeks, 73 are two sisters that showed the world that you can make an impact at any age through Cross-Cultural Solutions. Both sisters were Peace Corps volunteers who shared a love for assisting communities throughout the world, and learning about humanitarian issues. As the refugee crisis was continuously brought to their attention, they both knew they needed to do something, and decided to make their difference together. They only get the opportunity to see each other a few times a year and wanted to make their time together memorable while making an impact. They decided to volunteer on the ground, where their help was needed the most--at Ritsona Refugee Camp in Greece. For both, the experience was life-changing. They shared the same sentiments that it was incredible to be able to share such an impactful journey with someone so close.
Nathalie: Volunteering is our favorite activity to share. My sister has influenced me for my entire life in terms of my profession and the way that I view and interact with the world. On my office desk, I have a photo from the NY Times of a stack of backpacks that portray the refugee crisis. It was so powerful to see that-- and understanding the perilous journeys that they face. CCS has allowed me to be inspired by giving me the opportunity to make a difference in this exact crisis. We can feel so helpless at home seeing everything on the media, but it is difficult to find an outlet for how you can help. To know that we can actually come here and make a little bit of a difference is an inspiration.
I provide mental health counseling to people seeking asylum in the United States. They have as many stories as there are people, in terms of the horrible conditions that they have fled from. I am constantly moved by these stories of hardship and humbled to be in the presence of these resilient people. We never really know what a person has gone through. I feel inspired every day to try to make a difference.
Being here, it’s about the education you can recieve. To really experience this crisis is as real as it can get instead of an abstract image we see in the media. We are constantly flooded with images--we can become inured to these images-- and that scares me. When we come here, I feel like it’s a responsibility to help move this crisis in the tiniest way that I can.
It has felt to me that I am a small part of a valuable process. I am not here to do something grandiose. It is fine for me to use my hands t to do something small that is part of a larger scheme. It feels good to be part of this incredible program, helping to provide clothing and food.
Celeste: This has been an incredible, rare opportunity to be doing something meaningful with a sister that I love. The refugee crisis has been so present in my life. I live with a UNHCR poster of a boatload of people on their way to Lesbos in my kitchen. Every day as I reach into a fridge that is full of food, and a home that is of comfort, I am reminded of how lucky I am and of how courageous people on the planet are to leave everything material to live and protect their elders and their children.
The fact that I work with people who have fourth stage cancer has provided me with great empathy. This is situation is similar in that trauma creates a need to dive deep within to meet the needs of that crisis. To find courage, to find hope and the possibility of recovery and of a better life is two in the same.
Nathalie’s words about responsibility really resonates with me. There are human beings that are watching this crisis and who care. It’s not really about what we do, it’s the importance of being present and being here. We are giving countenance to the reality of the situation and the reality of this trauma. The responsibility that we have is to show that humanity isn’t all dark and indifferent; there are some of us who care to make a difference.
Overall, my experience was so valuable. With the residents, we had a shared understanding that wearing clean clothes, and being cared for is a universal desire. The residents haven't had choices or control in multiple aspects in their life. That is a basic need that we have as human beings. It has been truly an honor to be able to give back in the little ways that we can, to make a difference.
Nathalie and Celeste’s motto is: “been there, not done yet.” They recognize that anyone can make a difference regardless of what age they are and it is a pleasure to give back. From doing small things to big gestures, anyone can make a difference.
Are you ready to make your difference?