top of page
  • Writer's pictureAbby Fowler

The Role of NGOs and Volunteerism in Civil Society: A Regional Project

We recently said goodbye to a group from Latin America who were in eastern Iowa for an IVLP project titled, “The Role of NGOs and Volunteerism in Civil Society.”

The delegation meets at The Green Bar, a local botanical bar, for Sip and Socialize.

This delegation consisted of 10 cultural leaders and non-profit workers representing Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. While in Iowa, they met with various nonprofits to understand the impact of volunteerism in local communities.

On Sunday, May 21st, volunteer Horacio Borgen greeted them upon their arrival at their hotel in Iowa City. After dropping off

their luggage, Horacio accompanied them on a walk around the city to help acquaint them with the area. As a native Spanish speaker from Nicaragua himself, Horacio did a great job at making the delegation feel welcome and comfortable.

Afterwards, Horacio, Executive Director Amy Alice Chastain, and her Estonian host daughter

Maria Õunap, with Spanish student Alicia Manzanal walked the delegation to The Green House, a local botanical bar, for Sip and Socialize. This event invited all members of the community to meet and greet this delegation over drinks. We had a great time getting to know each other and were able to connect despite some language differences.

The next day, the delegation met Ken & Gayle Royar in Cedar Rapids for a meeting with The United Way of East Central Iowa. Karey Chase, Vice President of Community Impact, discussed the organization’s management structure, how it integrates into the national governance of United Way, and how it incorporates volunteers into its ongoing efforts in Iowa communities.

The delegation meets with the Free Lunch Program.

Next, they met with the Free Lunch Program in Iowa City. Accompanied by Amy Alice, they met with Administrative Director Kai Kaiser, who discussed the history of the organization, the wealth of community support through volunteerism and donations, as well as the importance and uniqueness of their “no questions asked” policy within the community.

Afterwards, they had the opportunity to enjoy one of the free meals served by the program. The participants found this meeting to be “very inspiring and humbling.”

After lunch, the delegation went on a 25-mural bicycle cab tour of downtown Iowa City. Conducted by Ben Snyder and his team at Pedal Power, they learned about the backgrounds of the murals around the city.

The delegation outside of the Englert Theatre where they met with volunteer Steve Merkel-Hess.

The tour ended outside of the Englert Theatre, the venue for their final meeting of the day, where they met volunteer Steve Merkel-Hess. There, Senior Production Manager Keegan Christopher Colletta Huckfeldt gave them a tour of the theatre and discussed how the Englert has designed its management structure to incorporate significant contributions from volunteers.

The rest of their evening was free for them to enjoy their final full day in eastern Iowa. They departed the next morning for San Francisco with good memories.

“Our stay in Iowa has been wonderful in every aspect,” commented one of the visitors.

Members of the delegation on a 25-mural bicycle cab tour of downtown Iowa City.

Thank you to our volunteers Horacio Borgen, Amy Alice Chastain, Maria Õunap, Alicia Manzanal, Ken & Gayle Royar, and Steve Merkel-Hess for volunteering to greet and guide this group! The connections you created truly made this group’s time in Iowa special.

Thank you also to The United Way of East Central Iowa, the Free Lunch Program, and the Englert Theatre for being our professional resources for this group. Our work would not be possible without you volunteering your time to share your organizations and important work with your international peers.

bottom of page