We are always amazed at how many of our au pairs donate their time and volunteer in their communities during their time in the USA. German au pair Hannah tells us about her experience of volunteering with Dress for Success in New Jersey!
My favorite part about volunteering? Meeting lots of interesting and new people and giving back to the community I live in.
I can remember my first day in the boutique like it was yesterday. My first client was a woman who had lost her job and was getting back into the work field. She gained weight and that’s why she needed a new wardrobe. We found her a great suit and some nice accessories to go with it. I remember that she walked out in her new clothes because she felt so confident and happy in them. This was the moment I realized why people say helping out others and giving back to the community pays back and leaves you feeling happier and better about yourself in return – and this is exactly what happened to me that day at Dress for Success.
My most memorable moments are uncountable and they always involve happy clients. It’s always the best feeling to have them walk out in tears because they are so grateful or in the outfits we got them. Some clients write thank you notes to us after they got the job we prepared them for. You can’t describe that feeling doing something good and giving back.
But it’s not only the clients that are genuinely nice people, it’s the other volunteers that are all sparkling and interesting people each with their own story. Through volunteering I meet so many new people from young to old, educated or not and all kinds of different backgrounds. I made lots of good friends by working there, and I am so grateful for that.
What I also really like about Dress for Success are the possibilities of fields I can volunteer in. I work there on a regular basis of six to 10 hours a week. Once a week I work as a personal shopper in the boutique, where the clients get a new outfit and a boost for their confidence. This is my favorite part about working there, as I like the direct contact with people. I also work in their office once a week for a couple of hours. There I take phone calls, write emails and just do whatever kind of work they need me for. This is a great way to do something totally new. I’ve never worked in an office before, and it’s another step to improve my English.
But there are other options as well. Once a week they have “donation day” where people from the area can donate clothes, shoes and jewellery. This is always a busy day and they need lots of volunteers for that. I am helping out on these days once in a while, depending how much time I have. Another event I love to help out is the sale. About four times a year Dress for Success is having a sale where they sell clothing we can’t have in the boutique because they’re inappropriate for work, not right for the coming season or there’s just not enough space for them in the boutique. This is always a big event and it needs weeks to prepare for this. The first days it is only open for clients so they can get the best deals. After that it will be open for the public.
Last time we had a client coming in who is blind, and it was a total new experience to me. I walked her and her dog around the sale and had to describe every item exactly. She wanted to know about the material, the color, the length and had to trust in my opinion if it will fit together. It was fascinating to see how she knew exactly what she wanted and had in her mind how the outfit would look in the end even though she couldn’t see it. Those are the moments where I realize how blessed I am being here.
Even though I don’t feel like I do that much, it is amazing to me how much the clients appreciated my help. I felt honoured that some people are also genuinely interested in talking to me. I was surprised how open-minded most people were, which gives me the great opportunity to teach them something about my culture and home country.
All in all, I can recommend volunteering and doing something for the community to everyone, and I already introduced some other au pairs to Dress for Success and told them about my experience.