smp volunteer opportunitiesAaron Pylinski | Community Writer
There’s no better way to describe our men and women in uniform other than selfless. But if you’ve served more than a day, you know the old adage: Don’t volunteer for anything. You raise your hand and the next thing you know you’re on a 10-person detail painting rocks. So, you hide behind the newbie and you’ve saved yourself from the fun times.
Even though some may try their best to shy away from the mundane rock painting details, they are more than willing to step up when it comes to the summer volunteer opportunities offered by the Single Marine Program (SMP). These summer volunteer opportunities offer our young servicemembers a chance to venture outside the gates and put a face to their stewardship here in Japan.
One of the primary volunteer opportunities are the beach cleanups that SMP offers. These put our servicemembers on the beaches that we share with our Japanese neighbors and clean up trash left behind and items that wash up from the ocean. This is a great chance for us to show that we can police ourselves after using public beaches and continue to build that healthy bond between us and the Japanese.
The SMP volunteer opportunities aren’t just relegated to cleaning up beaches, though. On a more personal level, our single and unaccompanied servicemembers also visit children’s homes and nursing homes. With the children’s home visits, volunteers participate in outdoor activities like basketball and baseball. It’s a great chance for the children to do something active with their day and have that big brother or big sister time with a servicemember. With the nursing home visits, volunteers spend time helping the elderly with the day-to-day activities such as cutting grass and handling heavy items.
A long-term volunteer opportunity that SMP started last November is a gardening and landscaping project in Hiroshima at a special needs home. This ongoing, robust project is creating an outdoor space for the residents that has a pond, multi-level gardens for both flowers and vegetables, and a picnic area.
Volunteer opportunities like these are welcomed by the servicemembers who participate. According to Oana Ivanoff, who coordinates the SMP volunteer programs, “They love it. They want to do it more often. They want to do these volunteer opportunities every weekend.”
These volunteer opportunities are not for those who are not single or unaccompanied, but they can keep up with what is going on through the SMP Facebook page. These projects are chronicled on the SMP Facebook page and can be monitored throughout the summer. Ms. Ivanoff has helped other volunteer organizations on station in the past though and can give assistance or direction on what to do to have a successful volunteer event.
Though the cornerstone of selflessness is to do without recognition, these volunteers are recognized every year in the spring with SMP’s Day of Service Ceremony where volunteers are acknowledged for outstanding service and celebrate with a barbecue and games. This fellowship brings both the U.S. and Japanese communities together on and off station.