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Blogs / Professional Fellows Exchange Program / Volunteerism in American Context

Volunteerism in American Context

Seila Sar, Cambodia

Organizing Grantee: ICMA

YSEALI Theme: Environmental Sustainability

Host: City of Albany, OR


After spending almost three weeks learning and talking to people in the Albany City Hall, my greatest impression in the American culture in the spirit of volunteerism. I was quite surprised that all the committees, boards and commissions, the main body in leading the legislative and development of the city, such as City Council Committee, Community Development Commission, andAlbany Downtown Association, they all are volunteers. They work together for an effective government and to make sure that their city is safe with great neighborhood and healthy economic. There are many other local communities offering services for low-income and homeless residents. For example, the Heart Resource Fair which I attended last week, was an event that many volunteers work together to offer free service to homeless and low income residents including free medical screening, dental care, helping with employment searches, housing and more.


Volunteer was giving a free haircut at the Heart Resource Fair

It surprises me even more when I came to know that the Mayor of Albany is a non-partisan volunteer elected position with a small stipend of $200 per month. The current and first female mayor of Albany is Ms Sharon Konopa, who has won the selections for 4 consecutive terms and has been the distinguished Mayor of Albany since January, 2009. She has been working voluntarily for the City of Albany for almost 20 years. She was first elected as a City Councilor in January, 1997 and worked in various local, region and state panels until December 2008. I just had a chance to meet and talk to her yesterday and I asked her a question about what is her motivation to work for the city for so long with a very little stipend and requires her to spend between 20 to 30 hours a week working. Her answer was “I have lived in Albany since a young child. I want to contribute to the community which I care about. I love Albany and I want to continue making it better for citizens to be proud of the place they call home. I hope that people can enjoy their life while they can.”


With City of Albany Mayor, Ms Sharon Konopa


I am very honored and proud to know Ms Konopa and I salute her for the commitment and dedication she has made for the development of her home city. Volunteering has a meaningful and positive impact on our people and community. Volunteering can also help us find friends, reach out to the community, learn new skills, and even advance our career. By volunteering few hours a week, we could make a difference in our community and country.

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