We couldn’t do this critical work without your help and continued support for our clients whether that be helping Chef Terrance in the kitchen to sorting mail and everything in between, the impact is helping us better serve the community. We are sharing stories that resonate with our clients, staff, and volunteers though our Stories of Hope and our Volunteer Spotlight series.
Mariah, our Communications Coordinator, sat down with Chioma Iheanacho to learn more about why she got involved with us and how others get get started. She is a strong supporter of all things Thrive DC. Chioma dedicates her time to both our morning program and helping us with administrative work at the front desk. She has a passion for helping our clients and is an incredible young leader in the community, read the full interview below!
Tell me a little bit about yourself & what made you interested in volunteering at Thrive
I’m a Strategic Communications Major at Howard University and I was really into it because I’m from Jersey. I knew I was going to be here for the summer at school and I’m the Freshman leadership Academy so there’s an emphasis on doing community service, we’ve done work with Kip who helps kids with mental disabilities, we’ve worked with DC Central Kitchen, and gardening activities.
I didn’t want to sit in DC for 3 months and not do anything. I found Thrive and thought it was really cool. I do something similar back home and thought, this is more my game and what I really like to do so I just kinda showed up!
I don’t like it when group activities turn into a big photo shoot, we don’t have to do that. I like doing work by myself, feeling really productive and it’s just better for me. You can be truly present.
Usually I do the Morning Program but I also do admin work in the office, it’s really cool getting to know people and see everyone while working at the front desk!
I’ve noticed that a lot of the guys would come in and since there’s more during the women’s program, they wouldn’t necessarily have a lot of things for guys so being the person that I am; I helped run a clothing drive at my school and I’m still seeing the impact of that. My friend donated a bunch of his professional clothing and I was able to give that to someone. I thought, wow; this could help him be prepared for an interview and get a job.
I would definitely start with the Morning Program and be a greeter. It’s simple, get people’s names and give them their number but it’s a great way to get to know people and talk to people. If you’re looking to be around for a while it gives you that initial face to face interaction where as admin you get more people who are focused on getting their mail or talking to a case manager. People will talk to you and it’s a really great way to tie yourself to the community, especially if you’re not from here.
There’s a client here who’s around my age, maybe a year older than me. It was really cool talking to him, there was another volunteer next to me then straight out of nowhere he breaks out into speaking full Mandarin Chinese. Then we were talking some more and I found out this guy knows three languages and he does Tai Quan Doe. I was like wow. There’s another client here who is a YouTube star and I was talking to another volunteer and she was telling me about him. He has a whole fan base, he has a website, and has been traveling the world. He went to somewhere in South America and then got deported back here, he’s a super motivational speaker. There’s a whole interview with him on YouTube where he’s talking with someone in a park about everything from astrology to politics. That’s so cool to me.
One thing that I personally got out of it is that this gets me out of bed. On Fridays, I don’t have classes but I do have work. If I don’t get out of bed early then I don’t get up til 4pm and that’s ridiculous! If I have to be up at 7am then I’m up at 7am. Howard is right near Thrive and a lot of students don’t know about it. There can be more student outreach so we can get more involved and we’re only one Metro stop away. So many students don’t know and they’re always looking for community service work but they’re going halfway across the city. Some of us do go to Maryland to do it plus we’re always doing clothing drives and food drives.
My friends and I from all over, raised a bunch of money and made sandwiches for over a thousand people. We went to Pathways, walked around Anacostia, did some walking around Columbia Heights. We could have donated to Thrive but we didn’t know about you guys at the time. There’s so much you can do and so many students want to do service work. We’re looking for places to volunteer for an upcoming day of service.
I am still trying to get to know people here and recognize clients by name. If I can name everyone who comes in, that would be my goal by the end of the summer.