By: Dave Chamberlin, VISTA Volunteer Coordinator
After starting as a volunteer myself in the summer of 2015 I’ve had an interesting 9 months of helping others get involved with the variety of opportunities that we have at Athens Land Trust. Whether someone is asking about volunteer opportunities through a posting I made to a website, stopping by the garden at random, or getting involved through a UGA outreach event, I take pride in being the first point of contact for helping someone get involved.
Early in my VISTA term I had the opportunity to meet with a woman who was ready to make a transition from teaching public school to becoming an integrative, holistic health coach. She wanted to learn more about growing her own food as part of her training, and we were able to find days and times that worked with her schedule so she could work alongside myself and our farm manager to get the hands on experience she was looking for.
It’s rewarding to meet people who are following their interests and motivated to learn new skills. I feel I’m able to relate to and encourage people in that way, because I was welcomed in the same way by the VISTA who was in the position before me, and then encouraged me to apply.
It’s also been an interesting experience to work with the vendors and volunteers at the farmers market this past summer. It takes a very committed and special volunteer to want to set up and take down tents on the blacktop every Saturday in the middle of the summer, but the few people who were up for the job made a huge impact on the operation and formed a sense of community in the process.
The close proximity to UGA gives us access to the willing and able students who are either looking to fulfill service requirements, or just interested in getting involved in the community. I’ve had my eyes opened by the selflessness of groups that are willing to help clean up trash or pull weeds in beds full of fire ants in preparation for how they plan to spend their spring break serving others all over the country and abroad.
It seems like the current generation of college students are eager to help with projects that have an impact on the greater good in society, some would say they’re only doing it because it looks good on a resume, but whatever their motivation, my experience has been almost 100 percent positive when working with students on volunteer projects.
Overall, the variety of people that I get to meet and help learn about the mission of Athens Land Trust has been a rewarding experience. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve as a VISTA and the experiences and relationships I’ve made, and look forward to take those skills with me into the future as I continue to pursue opportunities in organic agriculture.