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Impact

Continuing INSAN’s Mission

It gives us immense pleasure when our old volunteers or interns tell their stories how they are still continuing our mission of humanity after graduating and moving on their next phases of lives. One of our volunteer Isabelle caught up with some of them.

Kristin, INSAN Volunteer, Tutor/Mentor & Intern for 2+ years, graduated from Cal Poly, interned at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and now pursuing PhD at MIT

How did you hear about INSAN?  

I heard about INSAN through a leadership club at Cal Poly Pomona. At one of their first meetings, they mentioned a community service event of preparing and serving food to people in need. I decided to join some students and other volunteers at this event, and found it to be an eye-opening experience. I didn’t end up getting involved in the leadership club on my campus; instead, I got involved helping INSAN.

What was your first experience with INSAN?

My first experience with INSAN was preparing and serving food at a local church in Pomona. I later went on to continue volunteering to serve food, help at the homeless shelter, and tutor K-12 students all with INSAN.

Was this your first volunteer experience of this nature?

I had volunteered to serve food in the past, but we didn’t prepare it ourselves. This was my first experience of cooking and serving food, which to me meant a lot more. The fact that we prepared the food ourselves made the experience much more personal, and allowed me to feel even more connected to those I was serving.

What did you learn from INSAN?

As part of INSAN, I learned that our blessings are precious but not guaranteed. One man at a lunch event was muttering to himself rather loudly. Later in the day, I sat next to him and he told me he had been homeless for 20 years after losing his wife in a car accident. It made me think about how events completely outside of our control can dramatically change our lives.

How has it played an important role in your life?

That experience really opened my eyes to just how fleeting the comforts in our lives can be. From that, I learned to practice gratitude in every area of my life. We must always be thankful, and use our resources to lift up those around us.

Where you and what are are you doing currently?

I’m currently starting my second year of the PhD program in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  

How are you carrying out the INSAN mission?

There are a lot of homeless and hungry people in the Boston area. I’ve volunteered at several places, including the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) and Rosie’s Place. BHCHP offers treatment for chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and cancer, as well as short-term care to people on the street. Rosie’s Place is a building that offers shelter, food, and community to homeless women in the Boston area.

Any last comments or thoughts?

Working with INSAN has been an incredible experience and has opened my eyes to so many issues. It’s more than simply volunteering and leaving. The fact that INSAN offers a coherent schedule of events, often in the same places, you can get to know the people you serve and show genuine care. I also loved tutoring K-12 children and helping them get excited about education. I hope to continue carrying out the INSAN mission in the future.

Natalie, INSAN Volunteer, Tutor/Mentor & Intern for 2+ years, graduated from Cal Poly, interned at John Hopkins, and now pursuing PhD at U of Washington

How did you hear about INSAN?

I met Saba at Staples during 2012 when we were each printing flyers. He asked if I was a student, and then he explained what INSAN was and invited me to participate in their events.

What was your first experience with INSAN?

My first event with INSAN was feeding lunch to the homeless. What I really enjoyed about the experience was that we were providing food that was quite healthy, and something I would also like to eat. This made me even happier to share the delicious meal with others. I also liked that we prepared the meal from scratch, as this made it more personable than simply handing out food.

Was this your first volunteer experience of this nature?

Serving the individuals and families who were homeless was a great experience, and I had never been a part of such an event before.

What did you learn from INSAN?

Because Saba took the time to explain the context after each event, I learned about the complex difficulties relating to lack of education, poverty, and hunger in the US. I also found that connecting with people and developing a relationship with them is one of the most important ways to encourage and inspire people. Additionally, interacting with volunteers from different backgrounds was very beneficial, and I was able to further develop my understanding of different cultures. After being a part of INSAN for many months, I also was able to hear about the many aspects of leading a non-profit and finding a niche to help others.

How has it played an important role in your life?

INSAN and similar organizations gave me the opportunities to engage in the community and develop my passion for service. This led me to pursue a degree in Public Health, where I feel I can serve society and lead discussions and research about important health issues. I also gained from connecting with members in the community, becoming aware of the issues affecting people, and seeing how to take action to help others.

Where are you, and what are you doing currently?

I am in my first year of graduate school studying Biostatistics, which is the statistics side of Public Health. I am pursuing my PhD at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.

How are you carrying out the INSAN mission?

I have been able to engage in a few service projects throughout the quarters. In November I participated in a 4-day Seattle-King County Clinic with Remote Area Medical, a large-scale event that provided free dental, medical, and vision services to 3000 people without insurance. I was part of a survey team that asked participants about their experience, so that future Seattle-King County Clinics could be continued and improved. In February, I was on a panel to talk with undergraduates about the admission and application process to get into graduate school. Also that month, I collaborated with classmates to develop educational activities for visiting middle schoolers from across the state to learn about how they can use math in the future and why it can lead to an interesting and important career. As visiting students come to campus this summer we will lead the activities and encourage them to continue pursuing higher education.

Any final comments or thoughts?

Participating in INSAN has opened my eyes to how important it is to serve and be an active member in your community. Not only is it helpful to those in need, but I’ve found that I learn an incredible amount from those I serve and those I volunteer with.

Sarah, INSAN Volunteer & Tutor/Mentor & Intern for 2+ years, graduated from Cal Poly, and now pursuing Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis

How did you hear about INSAN?

I actually don’t remember! I was an undergraduate student at Cal Poly Pomona, so it may be from there. (Sorry!)

What was your first experience with INSAN?

My first experience with INSAN was such an eye-opener. I will never forget the little girl in pink that came up to me to ask for more milk. To many kids, milk is such a simple thing. But to this little girl, it’s all she wanted. My first experience with INSAN showed me that it is so easy to help others, and so why not continue to help others and inspire those around you to do the same.

Was this your first volunteer experience of this nature?

Yes, working with INSAN was my first time helping the needy and tutoring underprivileged children.

What did you learn from INSAN?

Saba is so inspiring in that he is not only a leader, but a team player. He always gave a little speech after the day was over and it was filled with thanks and encouragement. To see that he is so passionate about helping others and that he really believes in the organization that he works for really encouraged me to not only keep volunteering with INSAN, but to carry that passion of helping others with me.

How has it played an important role in your life?

INSAN gave me the push I needed to strive, to help others for the rest of my educational career and beyond.

Where are you, and what are you doing currently?

I am currently a veterinary student at UC Davis. This summer, I will be going to Nicaragua to help animals including dogs, pigs, and cattle. We will provide free veterinary services in several villages and educate them on how to better care for their animals.

How are you carrying out the INSAN mission?

In addition to volunteering in Nicaragua, I am also an officer for the Mercer Veterinary Clinic for the Homeless. At this non-profit clinic, students provide physical exams, vaccines, and medications to the pet population of Sacramento.

Any last comments or thoughts?

INSAN is an amazing organization. I am proud to say that I am a part of it.

Nick, INSAN Volunteer for 2 semesters, graduated from Pomona College, went to Cambridge, and soon will be starting at Medical School (decided at UCLA)

Hi Isabelle,

Happy to talk about INSAN!

I heard about INSAN through my work as a Community Engagement Coordinator at the Draper Center for Community Partnerships at Pomona College. I was involved with Food Recovery Network (formerly Food Rescue), which delivers unserved food from the dining halls to a shelter for families run by Inland Valley Hope Partners in Pomona, CA. As great of a program as Food Recovery Network is, it did not provide a significant opportunity for interaction and conversation. I wanted to find a way to give my volunteer drivers and other students an opportunity to prepare and serve food to homeless individuals in our community, and heard about INSAN’s Saturday lunch servings at the church (I forget what its name is…)

My first volunteer experience with INSAN, was bringing about 4 other Pomona students to INSAN’s Saturday lunch cook at the church for the homeless. We prepared salad, chicken, rice, etc., which was fun, but it was when Saba drove me and a couple other volunteers around to let the local homeless know about the lunch that I saw the true value in what Saba and INSAN provide. Through this and serving the food to people seated at tables and waiting on them provides a deeper level of interaction between students and their patrons than one would get at a soup kitchen line (not trying to hate on soup kitchen lines though, haha!). I also appreciated how Saba gathers everyone at the end and encourages people to share some thoughts on the afternoon. After my first volunteer experience with Saba, I set up a monthly program with the Draper Center to keep bringing students (I am not sure what is happening now since I graduated in 2013, but I believe Saba has said students from the Claremont Colleges continue to be active with INSAN).

This was not my first volunteer experience of this nature in regards to food justice in the homeless community, but it certainly provided a new element by encouraging more conversation through waiting tables for the homeless patrons.

(Both what I learned and how it played a role in my life) The stories I heard from some of our patrons provided me with a much better understanding of the diverse life paths and misfortunes that can lead to homelessness and provided a human element and emotional motivation which have clarified to me the necessity of working to provide housing for the homeless. Housing the homeless is the only way to end homelessness and is both the moral and financially-smart thing to do. After my time with INSAN I volunteered in a health clinic in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco working with homeless and formerly homeless individuals. This continues to be a passion for me as I move into medical school.

I am currently in between schooling. After graduating from Pomona College, I received a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue an MPhil in Biological Sciences (Pathology) at the University of Cambridge studying the parasite, which causes African Sleeping Sickness. While there, I helped in the development of the Cambridge Homeless Outreach Program (CHOP), which endeavored to find ways students could volunteer with the local homeless population. I am starting medical school in the fall and have yet to choose a school, but will be sure to let Saba know. I am not sure where my medical career will take me, but I know that I will always work in service to the underserved. (Also that’ how I am carrying out the Insan mission I suppose)

All the best to you and INSAN!!!

Nick

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