As volunteers respond to requests for aid in the construction of the Kiwanis Park community garden, the face of this project and community have grown with their service. Each group of volunteers has offered new perspectives on the value of service to food equality, the community, and to the sharing of lived experience and solutions.
Many students have traveled to the garden to lend aid and have left with new ways of viewing service and the community they temporarily inhabit for educational purposes. They apply this work to their educations, come closer to the community, and engage with solutions based on community expertise.
Yoselin Montiel is one such student. Yoselin studies nutrition at the University of Wyoming and, as a first-time volunteer with Feeding Laramie Valley, she has brought us one step closer to completing the Kiwanis Park Community Garden!
Yoselin brings a unique experience to Feeding Laramie Valley having also volunteered for the Laramie Soup Kitchen. When she compared this experience to that of working with the Laramie Soup Kitchen, she explained that while the Soup Kitchen has a general schedule and routine that becomes easy to follow and comfortable, she also enjoys the changes in volunteer work that come with each new event and project at Feeding Laramie Valley.
As she worked in the cold to stain the wood of the raised beds, with her sleeves rolled down to hide her hands from the icy air, she illustrated a new experience in serving nutrition-based non-profits as she rigorously grew into the role Feeding Laramie Valley asked her to fulfill.
In this way, Yoselin exemplified Feeding Laramie Valley’s diverse approach to service founded on not only past lived experience, but also on creating new and enduring experiences for volunteers at present. This community garden is a new way of providing nutrition to the community and as Yoselin talked about her education and worked with our staff, she has become a part of this community and gained new skills that will impact her educational future.
Yoselin is one of many students who developed a new understanding of service and how such experiences, though different, aid the community in purposefully unique manners to instigate growth. Another student with similar experiences took part in fence installation at Kiwanis Park.
Amanda Matthews is a student at the University of Wyoming in the Masters program seeking a degree in social work. She is part of the honors program and seeks many service opportunities throughout the Laramie community to enrich her university education.
Amanda is interested in programs targeting food equality and finds that this project gives diverse training that is directly applicable to creating food security and food equality. Like Yoselin, Amanda is gaining skills for her future and applying those skills to create her own lived-experience with food equality.
Amanda is particularly thrilled with this service opportunity because of its location in West Laramie. She explained that West Laramie is often left out of these community developments and achievements, making it difficult to grow as a community due to the divide in service destinations. For Amanda, this project brings to life her own hopes for a more united Laramie community both in terms of East and West Laramie, but also in terms of university students and permanent residents.
For these university students, service of this manner provides educational growth and development through Feeding Laramie Valley’s new ways of understanding and holding on to service experiences. Skills that remain permanent and applicable in the future allow the narrative behind non-profits to continue with volunteers and bring them closer to those they are assisting.
This re-evaluation of volunteers as a means of creating further lived experience, then allows for solutions to grow and spread among the community. In our service, we literally become an answer to the problem. When applied to the university, service enhances university programs and studies—making classroom educations open to adjustment, additions, or complete reanalysis.
These students demonstrate the value of the migratory population in becoming a part of the solution for food equality in the Laramie community and we are grateful for the work of these and all those dedicated volunteers who have brought the Kiwanis Park community garden to life.