As we approach our best-loved holiday, Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to write a little something about giving, as in giving back. As kids we were involved in scouts and in our faith communities. As adults, we’ve served with a variety of organizations from the Red Cross to Touch of Relief and more faith communities. Over the years, we’ve also been fortunate to create links between woodworking and giving back.
In the early 2000s, Sean received an opportunity to volunteer with an organization in India. The Apne Aap Women’s Collective helps trafficked girls, women and their children transition out of the red-light district. One pathway out of that life is education. Sean was invited to the organization’s Calcutta school to teach woodworking skills to children.
With a bare-bones budget, he formed a classroom, designed a teaching program, sourced materials and tools, and taught foundational math and design skills to more than 20 boys and girls. They learned how to use hand tools to saw, plane, shape, carve, and more over the course of six months. After completing their studies, four of the boys successfully formed their own furniture-making business!
The Apne Aap program was so well-received that Sean was invited back to India for another three months. The second trip was to the Himalayas to aid the Society for Integrated Development of the Himalayas in establishing a trade school in Kempty. Sean assisted in physically building the school as well as setting up another foundational course in woodworking.
Here in the Shenandoah Valley, we are enjoying new volunteer opportunities with the Staunton Makerspace. Being next-door neighbors (literally) makes it an obvious partnership. We’ve been helping the Makerspace team set up shop in their new-to-them space—building walls, setting up woodworking equipment, prepping the pottery space, and more. We’re really looking forward to teaching classes once they’re fully up and running.
We’re also extremely excited about the chance to offer apprenticeships now that we have a big enough space of our own. We are exploring the possibility of a partnership with Valley Career and Technical Center. More to follow as that vision unfolds!
Giving back is such a wonderful way to connect with people in our communities. It’s also a blessing to be able to pay it forward. Our families are big on service—teachers, public servants, providers of medical care, and volunteers. If you’ve never had the chance to volunteer in the long-term, we highly recommend it. Studies show that volunteering is good for your health! Even if you only volunteer a handful of times each year, have some fun with it. Your future self will thank you for it!