Volunteering through the eyes of the intern!

A little bit about me

My name is Philippine David and I am the current Belgian Intern at atlasGO. Since 2015, I have been studying Business Engineering in Brussels. When I was told that I had to find an internship abroad to complete my year, I directly thought about applying for atlasGO. Coming to San Francisco and getting to know the social business/startup world sounded like an amazing opportunity for me. I have been working for atlasGO since April and I’m already sad thinking that I only have two months left.

Why I wanted to volunteer with atlasGO

Before I joined atlasGO, I had heard that they would sometimes volunteer together, as a team. When I finally arrived in San Francisco and read some of their blog posts, I saw that it was actually something that they were doing quite often. It didn’t only seem « fun » to do as a team, but an educating experience too. For example, one of their volunteer experiences with Project Homeless Connect helped homeless individuals receive hygiene packages. As you might have noticed homelessness is pretty significant in San Francisco. Since I have been here, it’s a social issue that has touched me a great deal (when compared to how it’s handled in Belgium). Hence, I was really impressed and glad to be part of a team that gives back to their community, going the extra mile.

Where we volunteered with atlasGO

So, when I heard a volunteer opportunity was canceled last week, you could imagine how upset I was (as the new intern that is really impressed by the engagement of her colleagues and that wants to grasp any occasion to spend time with them!). Thankfully, we found a place that was looking for volunteers: Alemany Farm. Alemany Farm is the largest urban farm in San Francisco, with an amazing community of volunteers that are involved either by passion or for therapeutic reasons. In addition to being an educational and natural space, Alemany farm also gives part of their harvests to food banks, which, according to me, gives an additional reason to be motivated to volunteer for them.  As a city girl, it was really impressive for me to see how urban farmers managed this ecosystem. On one side of the farm, you have Bernal Heights and on the other side, you’re facing the highway. As you can imagine, it’s a stupefying contrast.

What we actually did

Once we arrived, we were directly put to work. As a team, we were in charge of refreshing and rebuilding one of the paths of the farm. It was an interesting team building activity since we had to work hand in hand and do our best to complement each other. As one is exhausted from pushing the heavy wheelbarrow back and forth, someone always came to take over. I thought it was quite interesting to see my new colleagues in an environment that differed a lot from the one that we are used to. I was proud to be there with them, doing my part! Personally, I learned the importance of recognizing which plants were weeds needing to be removed to leave room for the Californian native plants to grow.

What I took from volunteering

To conclude, I would say that this afternoon taught me a lot, as a team member impressed by its team’s determination to always deepen further the social component that makes them who they are, as an individual by learning gardening tricks and, finally, as a European foreigner by learning that a lot of parasite weeds actually grow in America because of our presence here … I am really grateful I got to experience this with my team and to help Alemany farm that has created an amazing socially-responsible ecosystem in the threatening environment that a city can be.


Philippine David

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