Held in June for the past 15 years, Volunteers' Week is celebrated in the United Kingdom to recognize the nation's 21 million volunteers.
In the spirit of this national observance, Sarah Anderson, originally from Cambridgeshire, England, is now volunteering at Genesis Development in Storm Lake.
After college graduation, Sarah worked at Granta Housing, a Cambridge-based company that offers housing opportunities to low-income families, the elderly, people with mental health disorders and people with mild to severe learning disorders.
Sarah discovered that she really enjoyed working with adults with learning disorders and was offered a post at a group home for adults with severe learning disorders with challenging behavior. She was eventually given the project worker's post, which involved supervising staff, preparing staff schedules, and running the day-to-day tasks of the house.
In July of 2001, Sarah became engaged to Jeff Anderson, a Rembrandt, native who was in the Air Force and had lived in England for 12 years. At the end of 2001, Jeff left the Air Force and returned to America. Sarah followed in January and they were married in March.
Non-U.S. citizens are required to apply for a work visa in order to be employed in the U.S. "As I was unable to be employed when I first arrived," Sarah says, "I decided the best thing to do was to look for volunteer work until my work visa was approved."
Sarah talked to Cindy Wiemold, administrator of Genesis, and now volunteers three days a week working with clients, answering the phone, filing and helping out wherever needed.
"I love it," says Sarah. "I don't think I could ever thank the people at Genesis enough. They have helped make Iowa feel like home to me."
"Sarah has been a great help to both the staff and the people served here at Genesis," said Wiemold. "She's very dedicated to her volunteerism. It's been interesting to learn the differences between support services for persons with disabilities in the U.S. and in England, but it's what we have in common that's really important - people who work to make a difference in the lives of others."
Wiemold added that Sarah "is just the kind of staff we want, bright, caring and dedicated. We very much hope that she makes Genesis her future."