Valentin Miafo-Donfack, a Cameroonian immigrant serves as the Director of international relationships for Community Renewal International and the national coordinator of Giving bak to America.
“Giving back to America is a movement that we have started and the whole idea is to bring together members from the diaspora community to get involved in volunteering and to give back to the community where they live here in the United States.” — Valentin Miafo-Donfack
For Miafo-Donfack, while it’s important for his organization to help celebrate the accomplishments of diaspora members in their countries of heritage, he said it is equally important for members to, “stop and think about how most of the members of the diaspora community are able to accomplish what they have been able to accomplish overseas because of the resources they have, because of the support they have from this community. So it’s just fair for them to give back to that community that has given too much to them.”
The group started their Saturday morning packaging food for families in need with the Share Food Network , prepared breakfast for men and women staying in Catholic Charities shelters through the Cup of Joe project and picked up debris on the campus of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital 801 East Men’s Shelter. Volunteers there said it’s important to give back, not just for themselves but also for the community that has welcomed them.
Baudelaire Aghomo was among those volunteers who said he welcomed the opportunity to give back. “When i heard about it, I was very excited because sometimes we as diaspora or as immigrants, we don’t really realize how deep it is to come in one country without nothing and after five or ten years, be settled, have your family here, have a new life. I feel that it is very important at least once a year, i can give one hour or two hours of my time just to do something as little as it can be to give something back, do something to say thank you to America.”
Ornella Miafo also volunteered at the shelter and said what was important to her was the chance for all people living together in a community to help one another. “You never know what somebody goes through in life. You don’t know the decisions they made that put them in that situation, so I always feel it’s important to help other people who needed my help, just be caring towards one another.”
At the end of the day-long project, what volunteers said they agreed is most important, is being able to do something to change their part of the world. Mack McCarter, a coordinator at Community Renewal International said he volunteered because, “every little bit helps, I volunteered to help clean the grounds at the homeless shelter working with Catholic Charities. It was a wonderful experience just to see the lives that are being given hope again and if we can all clean up the world a little bit where we live, then our world would be a clean, healed world”.
Many organizations took part in the Giving Back to America volunteering movement during #GDW2015: Lemou-Bafou , Catholic Women Organization CWOCCC, Village Future Foundation , Friendly Menoua Foundation , Lenan USA, Renaissance Center for culture and Education, FAGRIB and Community Renewal International .
More on Global Diaspora Week
Global Diaspora Week is one of the signature events sponsored by the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance (IDEA) to help engage members of the diaspora community. Sara Gallagher, a program officer at IDEA, highlighted the reasons why she said she believes more events like global diaspora week are needed.
“Our goal is to engage diaspora communities all over the world to contribute to development in their country of heritage. We do this a few different ways, mostly we try to connect diaspora communities to each other and opportunities to engage back home. One of the biggest initiative of the year is global diaspora week and that’s when we recruit diaspora organizations, development organizations and others who are working with these communities to hosts events all over the world, in any format, any topic they want, under the broad theme of diaspora.” – Sarah Gallagher, Program Officer, IDEA