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Volunteering: A Life’s Inspiration

BY MAVEE PARK AND MIKE JAMES

April 6, 2022

Secrets to a long life? Pick your poison or passion: from drinking whiskey, eating bacon(!), exercise, hanging out with friends,… As Ralph Burgess Tarrant, a 110yr old British man, once said, the secret to a long life is “enjoy your vices as much as virtues,” and “stay active and  interested”…I interpret this as a nice way of saying, “Do bad shit, have more fun.”  https://coolmaterial.com/feature/10-secrets-to-a-long-life-from-people-whove-lived-to-100/

Volunteering has been a way for both me and Mike to stay “active and interested.” We both found activities which have meaning for us and motivate us to make a difference. And time is not a limitation. We can choose to do a one-time event of one/two hours, a longer commitment, in-person or virtual (thank you COVID!), etc… This is what we have done over the last 12 months:

Mavee: I actively work with Back on My Feet (BOMF), a nonprofit that seeks to revolutionize the way society sees homelessness. BoMF builds members’ self-confidence with the goal of achieving employment and self-sufficiency. Interested? Join a run/walk, donate to BoMF in our WBG Community Connections Program. More information:  https://backonmyfeet.org/about-us/

Mike and Mavee:  Sports and teaching have motivated us both. [Mavee] As a graduate student, I was pulled into teaching as part of my studies. Surprisingly, it seemed to come naturally to me and is something I  enjoyed while at the WBG. I now teach virtual, one-on-one English through the Fairfax county volunteer program. These are virtual sessions via Zoom; 1 hour/per week per individual. I also serve as a resource for anyone who needs help preparing their resume and practice mock interviews. Find a full list of volunteer opportunities at   volunteer.fairfaxcounty.gov  (e.g., trails & historic area maintenance, bluebird nest monitoring, arts/crafts, exercise, education)

Mike: A few months before I retired I received a call from Maria Malca, an already retired WBG colleague who is fitness manager at Virginian Residences in Fairfax. Part of her work involves working closely with The Virginian Outpatient Therapy clinic where physical therapy is provided for residents as well as outpatient care for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. The owner of the clinic read about the benefits boxing had on patients with Parkinson’s.  Having taught boxing based classes at the World Bank Fitness Center, this was really an ideal transition for me.

My boxing coach and dear friend Australia Olympic representative Des Duguid suffered from Parkinson’s in his later years and died from its complications in 2008. So assisting people with Parkinson’s in any way I could was one of my life goals.

After a positive response from the PT staff I was asked to teach some classes to actual Parkinson’s clients.  After 8 weeks and great response from the participants I was asked to teach on a regular basis with a 6-8 week structured program. The success of the program is clearly seen iny the following video: https://youtu.be/MJE2wWZEfZU . Unfortunately after 2 years of regular classes, the Covid 19 crisis has curtailed our efforts. Hopefully we will be able to in boxing parlance “get ready to rumble again soon.

My advice to anyone seeking to volunteer in the community is to apply the unique skills you developed at the World Bank, in a setting that is close to your heart. I know that my dearly departed coach and mate Des Duguid would be looking down with a smile seeing his kind and irascible Aussie Spirit lives on in my teaching Parkinson’s pugilists boxing skills on the other side of the world.

Mavee: Don’t have time for a long term commitment? No problem! I also volunteered at the Vaccination Centers and wrote postcards encouraging people to go out and vote (non-partisan). All these were one-time events (or more if you choose to continue).

Mavee: But my Fun Fun Fun activity was volunteering as a photographer for the American University Women’s Soccer Team.  I attended all home games and took plenty of photographs which I uploaded for coaches and players.  To capture the emotions of the players while on the pitch gives me joy and brought back fond memories of my own kids playing soccer, basketball and baseball.

We both agree that volunteering isn’t just about giving back to the community but also a means of increasing our happiness factor.  It is “Priceless” to know you helped someone get a job, literally get up on their feet (literally and notionally), or when you give a parent pics of their daughter playing when they couldn’t make the game, or when your student thanks you for helping her speak with confidence in a large group setting. Even just knowing you gave clear directions to a confused vaccination applicant.

Give volunteering a try!


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COMMENTS

  1. Gail Davenport

    What an inspiring post!

  2. Lesley-Ann Shneier

    Terrific post! Thanks to you both, Mavee and Mike

  3. Susan Dubas

    Great article and great to hear from you both.


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