Exchange Students Giving Back
Every January for the last 10 years, Fort Wayne area exchange students have been involved with a national conservation group, The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), in a service project. The last Saturday in January is always the Three Rivers Chapter of the NWTF’s fundraising banquet in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It takes hours of manpower to set up for this banquet. The initial setup is at the banquet facilities on Friday afternoon and our ICES foreign exchange students are excused to take an afternoon off school to volunteer their services. Our local schools have been very supportive and cooperative in this endeavor.
Local Coordinators, host parents, host siblings and students have all been involved. Students are picked up at school or meet coordinators at designated spots to coordinate rides. The students meet at a local restaurant for lunch and a time of hanging out prior to heading over to volunteer.
The project itself involves lots of different aspects. It begins, almost like Christmas, opening lots of boxes. These are filled with items that are eventually sold on live auctions, silent auctions, won on games or are giveaways. The students help assemble items, set up the auctions, put together games, haul away recycling, put together ticket packets and much, much more. All the while they talk and interact and get to know one another better. Following the project, students also eat dinner together, so the project is combined with lots of social interaction among students, siblings, host parents and local coordinators.
NWTF Northern Indiana Regional Director, Grant Schimmele, says their help is invaluable. He would love to have this crew for all of the banquets he runs. It’s a win, win for everyone. The Three Rivers Chapter gets much needed help setting up and the exchange students get their required 5 hours of service as they work from noon to 5pm. ICES gets advertising space on the screen and in print during the actual banquet on Saturday, with over 350 people in attendance.
Field Manager Jill Bonin, who has coordinated this since the partnership began, says this has been a favorite day with the kids for years. They love getting together, giving back and having fun in the process. Chapter President, Andrew Niedermeyer loves getting to talk to the students about their home countries as they work side by side. Some students have even returned the next day to help out at the actual banquet itself.
This year students involved in helping were, Diego, Maria, Candela and Celia from Spain, Nicolo and Giacomo from Italy, Morgane from Belgium, and Malte from Germany. We also had host siblings, Parker, Tate, Holly, Brady, Gloria, and Eli participate. Host parents Missy, Jason and Mike, along with Local Coordinators Sara and Jill also pitched in. It was a great day. The volunteers accomplished so much. The NWFT is very grateful for the help and this contributed to a successful banquet. We plan to continue making this an annual service project with ICES students, families and coordinators.
ICES Field Manager, Indiana