Volunteering is a unique and important part of the American culture.  This is the way Americans give back to their community.  We asked au pairs to tell us in an essay about their volunteer experiences in the U.S.  We were so happy to read about positions in hospitals, schools and libraries. 

First place went to Karina E. Monteza for her essay about volunteering at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC.  Karina had not had a volunteer experience in her  own country (Peru), and she was thrilled to see just how important giving back to the community is to Americans.

Karina won a one-week Sun Trek tour as well as a donation of $250 made to Smile Train in her honor. 

Runner-up was awarded to Elani van de Venter in MA.  Elani  shared her experience as a volunteer at the Lahey Clinic.  For her essay, she received $100 Amazon gift card.

Everyone at Au Pair in America says a big “Thank you” to all the au pairs who are volunteering in the U.S., sharing their culture, and learning about ours.

Below are the winning essays:

Volunteering at Sibley Memorial Hospital


“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

-William Arthur Ward


It has been an amazing year for me. I am an au pair fromPeru.  I’ve been living in the States for 13 months now. I met a lot of new friends from all over the world, and so far it has been a great experience that I will treasure in my heart for the rest of my life.  Living this journey I wonder:  How can you not be thankful with our host community?   They receive us with a happy smile and they welcome us with so much joy and expectation.


Volunteering is a rewarding experience.  When I decide to volunteer I knew that I want to help this community who so kindly welcome me.  I knew from my counselor when I came here about volunteer inSibleyHospital.  I am a nurse in my country and I saw this as an opportunity to know more aboutAmerica’s culture, help the staff and practice the language.

I had been volunteering atSibleyMemorialHospitalinWashington,DCsince April to October for some seasons during 2010.  This hospital has a volunteer program that is part of the hospital’s team.  It is very well organized and there are a lot of people volunteering that have different ages.  I was volunteering in the 5 east floor.


I was receive by the nursing staff nicely and happy.  I also received my assignments and I was so happy to help the patients and the personnel there. Some activities that I did was helping the patients if they need to walk around, bringing them something they cannot reach, reading to them, cheer them up, spending time with them, helping them eat everything with the authorization of the nurse and under her supervision.  Also you can help the staff with some activities like refilling the gloves, helping them taking the patients in wheelchairs to discharge.  If the patients’ needs something specific you tell the nurse about it.


This experience is priceless cause for me is amazing to get the opportunity to help people and be part of their life even if it just for a minute.  It is also a perfect way to say thank you to our host community because you can help giving a little bit of happiness that we receive here.  I observe also so much good people giving their time to volunteer just to help.  It is a good example to follow and to learn from.


Learning about volunteer work for me is new because I didn’t see in my city people doing volunteer work in the hospitals.  This shows me how can people be part of the hospital and help others.


Also, what I learn about American life is that through volunteer they take care their community and they get involved init.  That there is nothing enough you can do to be part of your community and that help other is such an amazing experience that give you so much happiness that you can’t buy.

 Volunteering also teach us that you can help people and be part a little moment of happiness in their life’s and by this you are helping the world be a little bit better.

 Karina E. Monteza

Counselor: Diane Wallace

 2. ) I am close to completing my 2nd year with my original host family, and the thought of leaving them is sorrowful. But not only will I be leaving my host family and friends but my new ‘family’ at the hospital that i have become so close to.

 My host family was kind enough to offer a little more towards my studies in my 1st year and i was able to fulfil a dream of mine to complete and receive my qualification as an EMT (after high school in South Africa, i wanted to study paramedic but circumstances didn’t allow, so ventured into spa therapies) My commitment to the course at North Eastern University in Boston Massachusetts was rewarded with my Massachusetts license in EMT-B. With my schedule as flexible as allowing me 7hrs during the day to commit to other activities, i enquired about volunteering as an EMT, but unfortunately, due to the insurance matters with our visas, this was not an option. I settled in a volunteering position at Lahey Clinic,Burinlington,Massachusettsas the family waiting room receptionist and i look forward to my Thursday mornings at the hospital every week almost as much as i do a weekend off!

I started in June of 2011 at Lahey Clinic as the OR/PACU family waiting room receptionist volunteer. This was a full time paying position but was handed over to volunteers, so i take this work quite seriously and truly feel a part of society! When patients go into operation their families check in with me at the family waiting area and i ensure their comfort throughout their wait. Liaising with the nurses and doctors, i take the families through to their patients when indicated to do so. Any details or correspondence from either party is communicated via the family waiting room volunteer.


The relief on the families faces when i vocalise that its time for me to escort them to their patients bedside, their expressed gratitude for bringing them an extra blanket while they waited, and checking in on the status of their loved one, making notes on each individual when they sign in so i can associate them with their patient and communicate directly to them not a general call out, which again has been recognised and vocally appreciated, this makes the volunteering special and rewarding to me.

 Having been in hospitality for a number of years, a reception position like this was truly fulfilling and i feel i have a lot to offer with the finer details. Everyone wants to feel special and appreciated, no matter what your culture is, its nice to be attended to. A hospital is a place for patients but their families and friends and support system aids in their healing and i feel its important to take care of them too under these difficult circumstances.

 My volunteering partner at the clinic is an 85 year old gentleman, David. ( i am the only volunteer,after the summer vacation,under the age of 60!) He, as do i and all the other volunteers, have the time to dedicate to something other than ourselves and we all chose to volunteer at the clinic.  We all feel the need to belong to society again and volunteering allows us this opportunity. The $4.80 on our ID cards for the cafeteria doesn’t hurt either!

 Elani Van de Venter

Counselor:  Melinda Brooks