By Robert Necci
Instead of picking up an extra shift at her job Amanda Gamaldi, a College liberal arts student, decided to become a professional chainsaw operator by joining AmeriCorps, a volunteer organization which engages adults in intensive community service work. Amanda Gamaldi will receive a monthly stipend for her service in AmeriCorps as well as having her food, lodging, and medical needs taken care of during her service with the organization. During her first month of training with AmeriCorps she received her CPR, First Aid, and Red Cross certifications.
With her training complete, Amanda Gamaldi has been in Mississippi for 5 weeks, answering the call for help after a tornado devastated the area by assisting Habitat for Humanity. While helping a woman whose home had been destroyed by the tornado one of the members of Amanda Gamaldi’s team accidently broke one of the few remaining possessions of the victim. “It was a really emotional experience; she broke down and started to cry. She explained to us this was the 5th tornado she had survived and she had no family to turn to for help. Her whole life was in that apartment, and half of it was destroyed,” said Amanda Gamaldi.
Becoming a volunteer for AmeriCorps is not without significant risk. Being in an area that has just experienced a natural disaster can result in injury if one is not careful, the stories from Long Island following Hurricane Sandy can attest to this fact. Sadly, nature is not the only danger that exists for these young volunteers. In New Orleans, LA Joseph Massenburg was shot to death while exploring the city. Amanda Gamaldi met Massenburg during her training phase with AmeriCorps. “I had not realized what an impact AmeriCorps actually makes for people until he was killed. His story went viral and the organization received so much recognition for our mission,” said Amanda Gamaldi.
Another organization which has attracted another member of the Gamaldi family is African Impact, an organization that has created a rehabilitation project for lions in Zimbabwe. Breanna Gamaldi, a College liberal arts student, has been looking forward to volunteering for African Impact for a long time. “I decided to go to Africa because I wanted to travel where wildlife is at its finest. Since I would like to become an animal behaviorist, this volunteer project is perfect for me,” said Breanna Gamaldi.
African Impact requires volunteers to pay for their own plane ticket, food, and lodging during their stay in Zimbabwe, roughly $3,500 dollars for their month long program. Although it is a hefty price, Breanna Gamaldi is willing to pay for the experience. “I will get to observe the animals all day, how they communicate, their hierarchy, and how they live and survive in their natural habitat. I also think I will gain a better appreciation for the life I have here in the U.S.,”
said Breanna Gamaldi.
Without letting our imaginations run too wild, we can imagine some of the dangers that Breanna Gamaldi may encounter during her time with African Impact. She will be observing and handling wild animals in their natural environment which is an obvious cause for concern. In addition to these dangers she will also be nervous about the political situation in Zimbabwe. According to the U.S. Department of State “The political, social, economic, and security situations in Zimbabwe are unpredictable and could deteriorate quickly without warning.”
Through all this, have you thought about what their mother might have to say? “I think they are crazy. These are my babies and they are running off risking their lives,” said Maria Gamaldi. “I never should have let Amanda go to Nicaragua with our church a few years ago, this is what started all of this, now I will probably have to worry about both of them for the rest of my life” said Maria Gamaldi.
There are many organizations in need of people willing to volunteer their time to a cause. A quick search on the internet will show organizations like the Special Olympics, Save the Children, and American Red Cross are looking for help. More locally, Catholic Charities of New York is looking for volunteers to help in the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Both of the Gamaldi sisters needed to take time off from school and also have an adventurous spirit which sought out these opportunities. If you find yourself in a similar situation or even if you are ready graduated and don’t have a job lined up yet, why not consider volunteering? According to the New York Times, employers view volunteering as an excellent addition to a resume. Volunteering will even give you a leg up on your competition to get into the college you apply for according to Education.com. Perhaps best of all you will “…fill a hole in your life. I went to school, church, and work but still felt as if there was something I was supposed to be doing that I couldn’t put my finger on. Watching the joy on someone’s face that a simple act of help can create after they have lost everything is the most amazing feeling in the world” said Amanda Gamaldi.