Most of you know about the journey we are currently taking as a family of four traveling in our RV. Before leaving, we thought a lot about the things we wanted to gain from traveling. One of the topics that always seemed to come up was giving back. We really wanted to immerse ourselves in the communities that we were visiting and search for ways to contribute.
Even though our kids are only toddlers, we have a strong desire to foster in them a feeling of compassion and empathy toward others as well as cultural sensitivity. One of the ways we were hoping to do this was through various volunteer opportunities.
These opportunities where much easier to find in the communities we grew up in, where as, life on the road has made it more difficult. My first two jobs took us to small, rural towns in Texas with fewer resources, making it harder to find volunteer opportunities. We had the chance to take some time off between work assignments, which lead us to a much bigger city in Texas…Austin. Tim and I had heard from several people that, “you do not want to go to Austin, they’re weird there.” Believe it or not, we actually fit in with weird right now. And after researching Austin, we knew we had to make the trip.
One thing that drew us to this fantastic city was how different it was from nearly all of the rest of Texas. It seemed to be a city on the forefront of the “Go Green” movement, with multiple levels of promoting sustainability and providing ways to encourage the environmentally conscious person.
While researching volunteer opportunities, we stumbled across this great organization, Keep Austin Beautiful (www.keepaustinbeautiful.org). We happened to be in Austin during their Clean Sweep event, where the Austin community comes together to clean-up multiple locations throughout the city. According to their website, the event had 4,200 volunteers contributing 8,300 hours of service to remove 27 tons of trash from the city.
After a lot of kid-centered volunteer research, we found an organization called Little Helping Hands (www.littlehelpinghands.org), which focuses on community service opportunities for children. We participated in a “garden day” at a local church’s community garden, where they have volunteers come and manage small garden plots, and then harvest their goods for a local food pantry.
Through Little Helping Hands, we were also able to help out another worthwhile Austin organization, Meals on Wheels and More (www.mealsonwheelsandmore.org)
Our time off also gave Tim a break from his role as stay-at-home-dad, which he had been embracing over the last four months. He was able to spend Tuesday and Thursday mornings volunteering at Urban Roots (www.urbanrootsatx.org), which is an amazing organization that helps to empower youth as leaders, and hopes to instill in them a love of vegetables and an appreciation for the earth along the way.
Over Easter weekend we were lucky enough to be able to witness an unconventional Easter church service. This church happily and humbly takes their role of “being the hands and feet of Jesus,” to literally serve their homeless brothers and sisters. It was a moving experience to be part of an event that served meals and shoes to hundreds of Austin’s homeless.
We were first introduced to this church via my “obsession” with Jen Hatmaker (check her out on Facebook) and how much respect I have for her books “Interrupted” and “7”! She and her husband, along with their friends, planted the Austin New Church (www.austinnewchurch.org), and how they do church is inspiring.
These were just some of the ways we were able to give back while in Austin. During our travels, we have lost that secure feeling of a community, and volunteering is one way we feel we can gain that sense of community while on the road.
I would highly encourage you to find various ways you can make a difference in your “community”, no matter where you are.