Page 12

Good Works encore

‘Authentic’ Volunteering

FOCUS Kalamazoo aims to treat volunteers ‘like royalty’ Olga Bonfiglio

Courtesy

by

When Tinashe Chaponda set out to connect college and high

school students with community service opportunities, he knew better than to reinvent the wheel. Instead, he created the organization FOCUS Kalamazoo, using the same model as Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation. Chaponda, who moved to Kalamazoo from Zimbabwe in 2001, was a member of Jeter's Leaders, the youth leadership program of the Turn 2 Foundation, from 2009 to 2012 and says it was a Jeter's Leaders conference in 2013 in New Orleans that inspired him to create FOCUS Kalamazoo. Upon seeing the suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina, “I committed myself to helping others through volunteerism,” he says. The result was FOCUS Kalamazoo, an organization he describes as a “community service network.” Chaponda, who is now 20 and a sophomore studying marketing at Western Michigan University, says one mission of FOCUS Kalamazoo is to alter the way youth view volunteering. “Young people across the country have participated in volunteer service projects as part of their school curriculum,” he says. “However, this approach has become more obligatory than authentic and ‘free.’” 12 | Encore NOVEMBER 2015

FOCUS Kalamazoo members build a garden at Woodword School for Technology and Research in the Stuart neighborhood.

This obligatory approach has created negative stereotypes about volunteering, he says. FOCUS Kalamazoo seeks to change that, he says, by “treating our volunteers and partners like royalty,” giving them an experience they enjoy while helping others, making an impact on the community and developing their own skills and confidence. “What we mean by treating them like royalty is that we put volunteers first,” he says. “The events and nonprofits that we partner with are based off what the volunteers want to do, instead of pushing random events for them to participate in. We are also researching new ways to volunteer that are more connected to students’ majors and careers.” FOCUS Kalamazoo began in fall 2013 with 16 volunteers who cheered for participants at the Bronson Children's Hospital 5K Walk & Run. “We decided to make this first event social in order to have something easy to start out with,” Chaponda says. Since then,

Profile for Encore Magazine

Encore November 2015  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine: Is road salt ruining our urban lakes? Also: crazy for kombucha, Felix Brooks works for diversity on campus, W...

Encore November 2015  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine: Is road salt ruining our urban lakes? Also: crazy for kombucha, Felix Brooks works for diversity on campus, W...

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded