My mom grew up extremely poor in Taiwan, and since I was little she and I would volunteer together. On Sunday mornings, she helped with writing and grammar for people in the community who only spoke Chinese. She would bring my sister and me with her. Those Sundays had a profound impact on me. Eventually I was spending much of my free time running two community nonprofits. I made eco-friendly jewelry whose proceeds went to children suffering from cancer. In college I ran a nonprofit for low income youth living in the local mobile home community. The organization was started by my friend who grew up in that community and experienced the effects of rural poverty. I still keep in touch with the kids I mentored.
When I started working I stopped volunteering. I didn't have the time. I didn't make it a priority. I found the number of organizations available to volunteer at in NYC overwhelming to sift through and commit to. I kept telling my manager Jooe I was going to leave early one day a week to volunteer, but I never did. I started to feel really depleted. I even quit. I told Jooe I'm leaving for a job where I work 9 - 5 and do things outside of work. She asked me to stay... At the same Charlie, our Founder and CEO, told me Summer Search was moving into Next Jump's Manhattan offices. Summer Search is a nonprofit that mentors low-income youth, helping them develop skills and character traits they need to get into and succeed in college and in life. Almost all of these students are the first in their family to attend college. Summer Search was moving into the Next Jump offices under a Human Capital Engineering program called: Adopt A Non-Profit, where they would be offered $1 rent and our environment of fitness, nutrition and learning to help their staff grow.
Charlie asked if I'd like to captain the initiative. I was really excited that I could reconnect and do something that I felt I lost. I always thought if I wanted to volunteer and get back to tutoring youth, I would have to do it outside of work. Now, in addition to my marketing position, I'm a career coach for a Summer Search student at the office. Giving back is part of my job.
What we are doing is very cool. It's very Next Jump. We do the little things that make people's lives better, easier, and more fulfilled. My friends struggle with the same problem -- carving out time to volunteer. I feel very lucky volunteering fits seamlessly into my job and my life. I thought about what we're creating here, what if this was a movement? What if other companies adopted this model?
People often ask our CEO what benefits do you see from all your giving back initiatives? Are employees encouraged to use weekends and evenings or is it really part of their job?
For me, I went from quitting to the most engaged I have been at work and leave every day a happier more fulfilled person.
Crystal Chen is a Senior Marketing Associate and runs the "Adopt-A-Nonprofit" program at Next Jump, a technology company headquartered in New York City.
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