Fighting Hunger Globally and Locally: Celebrating J Day


5 minutes

J Day: A day of fun, cultural exchange, and giving back

Participants had a great time at J Day
Participants had a great time at J Day
Image courtesy of Nancy Perry

From baseball to hot dogs to fireworks on the 4th of July, InterExchange participants experience many different aspects of American culture during their time in the U.S. This past August 1st, it was the American commitment to community service, volunteerism, and giving back to your community that took center stage.

InterExchange participants in our Work & Travel USA, Au Pair USA, and Career Training USA programs engaged in two community service events – one in Virginia Beach and one in New York City – that directly addressed the issues of hunger and poverty on both local and global scales.

We organized these events to mark J Day, a nationwide celebration of the power of international exchange. J Day offers a unique opportunity to bring together State Department J-1 visa Exchange Visitor Program participants, their American host communities, and their American friends, to share cultural diversity and American customs, to give back to local communities, and to have some fun.

Dear Friends, I am pleased to extend warm greetings to all who are gathered for the J Day Celebration. This event provides a wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas and customs while making a positive impact in the Virginia Beach community. It nurtures a collaborative environment where Americans and individuals with J1 visas can work side-by-side and learn from each other. InterExchange's efforts to facilitate this cultural exchange enriches the lives of community members. Your contributions have been extraordianrily valuable to the spirit and drive that makes our Commonwealth and this Nation great. On this important occasion, I am very pleased to join with your family, friends, and community in wishing you the very best for a fulfilling and successful celebration. Sincerely, Mark R. Warner, United States Senator.
Letter from Sen. Mark Warner

As Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said in a letter addressed to Virginia Beach volunteers, “This event provides a wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas and customs while making a positive impact in the Virginia Beach community. It nurtures a collaborative environment where Americans and individuals with J-1 visas can work side-by-side and learn from each other. InterExchange’s efforts to facilitate this cultural exchange enriches the lives of community members.”

This event provides a wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas and customs while making a positive impact in the Virginia Beach community... InterExchange’s efforts to facilitate this cultural exchange enriches the lives of community members.

Mark R. Warner, United States Senator

InterExchange participants around the country also joined the celebration by attending other J Day events and engaging in a variety of activities that support U.S. key foreign policy areas, including fostering environmental stewardship and supporting a spirit of volunteerism.

Packing meals in VA Beach for undernourished globally

In Virginia Beach, VA, InterExchange partnered (for the second year in a row) with Stop Hunger Now and hosted a meals-packaging event at a local community chapel. Our group of more than 80 international exchange participants and local volunteers packaged 10,152 nutrient rich meals for undernourished people globally.

Everyone was hard at work packing meals
Everyone was hard at work packing meals
Image courtesy of Nancy Perry

Exchange participants from countries like Russia, China, Turkey, Romania, and Ukraine volunteered side-by-side with their American hosts and learned creative ways to help communities worldwide. As Nancy Perry, our Eastern Regional Director and the Chair of the Virginia Beach International Student Outreach Program (VBISOP), told the Virginian-Pilot, this event was an opportunity to give something back to the community that has welcomed them for the summer.

“Our event really makes an impression on our summer work travel students,” Nancy said. “The American commitment to service is something they remember and take back with them to their home countries.”

Everyone had a fantastic time!
Everyone had a fantastic time!

Dear Guests, Welcome to the Virginia Beach International Student Outreach Program's (VBISOP) J DAY celebration, a part of the nationwide event to honor the J-1 Summer Work Travel program and other J-1 exchange programs. I would like to extend a special welcome to the International students; I hope the experience has been as rewarding for you as it has for our region. Thanks to VBISOP's hard work and strong partnership with the U.S. State Department, International students are afforded the unique opportunity to live and work in our community. J-1 students participate in cultural and educational exchange programs, such as the Summer Work Travel program. This summer, VBISOP held six orientations for arriving international students throughout May and June - these orientation are instrumental in welcoming J-1 students to the United States, informing them of local transportation, library, and banking resources, and so much more. My wife Teri joins me in welcoming all of you to today's event. We are grateful that so many of you have taken the opportunity to attend and share your support. Programs like the J-1 exchange truly make Virginia's Second Congressional Disctrict, and our nation, a better place. Mindful that I work for you, I remain, Yours in Freedom, Scott Rigell, Member of Congress
Letter from Congressman Scott Rigell

Honored guests who joined the J Day service celebration in Virginia Beach included Drew Lumpkin from Senator Mark Warner’s office, Esmel Meeks and Jaquelyn Murray from Congressman Scott Rigell’s office (the Congressman also wrote a letter welcoming and thanking the international participants), and the Virginia Beach Councilwoman, Shannon Kane. InterExchange is very grateful to have the support of these guests!

Our event really makes an impression on our summer work travel students. The American commitment to service is something they remember and take back with them to their home countries.

Nancy Perry, InterExchange Eastern Regional Director and the Chair of the Virginia Beach International Student Outreach Program

Serving meals and sharing stories in Manhattan

In InterExchange’s home community of New York City, a group of 15 international exchange participants and local volunteers engaged with the All Souls Church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to facilitate their “Monday Night Hospitality”, an event that serves quality hot meals to about 300 people in need each week.

All Souls told our volunteers how this weekly evening meal is often one of the few things that the guests – who are going through difficult times in their lives – can really rely upon. They also explained that this is not just a time for the guests to nourish themselves, but also a chance for them to relax, socialize, and have a good time.

Our group of volunteers in New York City
Our group of volunteers in New York City
Image courtesy of Nancy Yates, Monday Night Hospitality

They stressed that our job as volunteers was first and foremost to interact with the guests and help each of them have a great experience. The duty of serving the food came second to serving the cause by making eye contact and small talk and showing kindness. This mission paired perfectly with the goals of J Day, as our participants got to share their own stories and enthusiasm with the guests, all while serving them a hot meal.

Helping who is in need is always one of the best ways to feel closer to another culture, as conditions of distress can be found all around the world... You can discover many aspects of life that noise around you makes you pretend not to see.

Max, Career Training USA participant

We all enjoyed a hard-earned pizza dinner!
We all enjoyed a hard-earned pizza dinner!
Image courtesy of Jana Barcavage

After the dishes were washed and the tables and chairs were put away, InterExchange invited all the volunteers to a local pizza restaurant where we could get to know each other better and discuss the event. Everyone came away feeling great about J Day, Monday Night Hospitality, and the idea of giving back!

Tanya Burovtseva

An international exchange alumna originally from Ukraine, Tanya started her career at InterExchange in 2011. Tanya is passionate about travel and cultural exchange and enjoys meeting J-1 exchange participants at InterExchange events.

Work & Travel USA
Work & Travel USA

Experience American culture while working and exploring the USA

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