Most volunteers find HOOP on their computers, surfing the web thousands of miles away. But every now and then, we find a great volunteer in our own back yard. This week, we hear from Melania Cannon – a Canadian expat in Arequipa – who tells us how she (and her kids) got involved in HOOP.
I first got involved with HOOP through music. Tom, the Director of Communications and Development, was looking for a singer to help out with a fundraising event for HOOP, and I volunteered. Soon after we formed our band, I started spending more time with HOOP volunteers and learning more about the program. I offered to be a liaison between my own children’s school and HOOP, to explore opportunities for our school to help out through volunteering or fundraising.
I was extremely impressed during my first meeting with the HOOP executive when their immediate response to suggestions from our school was “that sounds great, but we’ll have to see what the HOOP moms say.” It was the first of many moments over the past year when I have seen first-hand how committed HOOP is to partnering with the parents of its students, listening to their needs and preferences, and making its programs truly useful and effective in the community. I knew then that I wanted to volunteer at HOOP, but because of my schedule I was not able to go to the HOOP school on weekdays. However, HOOP began a Saturday enrichment program a few months later and I was thrilled to be able to help out. We started with a science club, which my own children were able to volunteer in with me. When our Saturday basketball clinic began for the older HOOP students, I helped out with preschool music classes.
Through volunteering with HOOP, I became directly involved with a whole side of Arequipa and Peru that I might never have known, no matter how long I lived here. Over the past year I have seen the benefits HOOP brings to the community it serves, as well as the education and experience it gives to its body of volunteers. The volunteers are amazing people from all around the world, ranging from 18-year-olds on a gap year to people approaching retirement age. I even got to climb a mountain and break a world hula hooping record at the top with some of these people last December, which was something I never dreamed of doing before I moved here!
My two kids, who are both in middle school, love volunteering at HOOP and have gotten so much out of the program. Just last week when I told my kids we would be starting our Saturday program again, the youngest responded with an enthusiastic “yesssssss!!” My eldest, aged 13, talks about coming back to Peru when he is finished high school to volunteer again with HOOP. HOOP has taught us so much, and has given us some remarkable friendships and experiences. I am thankful and proud to have been a part of the organization’s work.
Written by Melania Cannon