At 6:50 yesterday morning, the alarm on my phone went off. Admittedly, it was difficult. This is college–I don’t get up that early on weekdays let alone on a Saturday. But I had a duty to myself, my peers, and in a small way, the global community. Seven other students from the Honors Program and I were going to volunteer at SERRV for the morning, an experience that I find fun and rewarding.
SERRV is a nonprofit fair trade organization that operates in New Windsor, Maryland, only a ten minute drive from McDaniel. A major catalog and online business, SERRV finds hand-crafted goods such as scarves, jewelry, and home wares from all over the world to help underprivileged artisans and farmers lead sustainable lives.
I’ve volunteered at SERRV three times, and every experience has been a little bit different. That’s because volunteers are primarily responsible for inspecting, properly packaging, and counting goods so they can be sold to consumers in the U.S. My day volunteering yesterday was spent working with olive oil, rugs woven from bands of fabric, wind chimes from India, and heart-shaped wooden puzzle boxes. Last semester, I got to help inspect and gift box dozens of beautiful scarves. The work is simple, but it’s made fun by the fact that volunteers get to see so many pretty items and that in going with the Honors Program, I’ve gotten to interact with Honors friends and get to know people in Honors that I hadn’t previously known all that well.
Another perk of volunteering at SERRV is a 20% discount at their retail shop, located above the basement where volunteering takes place, which makes buying unique, fair trade items a little more fit for a college student’s budget. (So if you have a bit of a thing for retail therapy, this is one volunteering stint that might actually cost you money.) Last semester, I bought a beautiful jewelry box that was discounted because a small piece of its black-painted wood was chipped off. (Coloring the chipped off area in with a black marker made it almost as good as new.) And this semester, it was with great joy that I was able to purchase one of the scarves I had helped inventory last semester, a scarf that my fellow volunteers and I had spent half an hour gushing about how pretty it was. It was also on sale, so I bought another one in a different color for my cousin, whom I got to visit at College Park later in the afternoon.
I also treated myself to two bars of my favorite variety of Divine Chocolate–milk chocolate with toffee and sea salt. I can’t wait to have an excuse to break into the latest editions to my chocolate stash!
Overall, I had a wonderful morning at SERRV. I got to work with some great people and play a small role in making a difference in the lives of people from around the world, both by making their products ready to buy and by buying a few of those items myself.