Volunteering - Now This Is Livin'

Joseph Iacovazzi Start Date: Jun 18, 2017 - End Date: Dec 17, 2017
  • Costa Rica

My Travel Story

by: Joseph Iacovazzi Start Date: Jun 18, 2017 - End Date: Dec 17, 2017
"Now This Is Livin'"…a phrase I've heard time and time again referring to what makes people truly happy. For me, it's the change in environment I truly value - live outdoor music on a Sunday evening as the sun sets, the first skydive of the day from 13,000 feet, Thursday evening suppers and coffee with Mom. However, there is nothing more compelling and more moving than when I'm in an environment that involves giving my time to serve others. It's in that environment that calls me to shout out "Now THIS is LIVIN'!"  It is within the realm of serving others where I find true happiness. From serving Communion at Mass to building homes for Habitat for Humanity to throwing on a hair net and bagging food to be delivered to millions of families supporting Meals from the Heartland, there is no greater joy in my life than to know I can give back to a world of communities that has given so much to me.

It is this joy I find in changing my environment to serve others that has caused me to reflect on my current lifestyle, primarily with work and my career path. What is it that I actually do, and where and how am I providing value? Is this truly what I want to do and how I want to spend my time? How much do I work? Am I leaving enough time for others? Is my health in check? For the longest time, I approached these areas in isolation, as opposed to interconnected parts of the greater whole. Through serving others, I realized all these come into play together. By actively serving others, I'm able to focus on what I'm doing at the moment. I'm breaking away from work and utilizing my time in other value-adding ways, and, of course, my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health all improve each time I serve others. For these reasons, I believe I'm being called to do more.

After much time spent researching, praying and reflecting, I want to actively serve in a way I know I can add value by honing in my skills and talents. Among the vast opportunities available, I have decided to volunteer for three weeks in Costa Rica at a sea turtle conservation. Daily work involves beach patrolling, nest relocations, building hatcheries and releasing newly hatched sea turtles into the ocean. Additionally, I will support keeping the beach clean and free of debris, maintaining project site facilities, and serving local community-oriented activities, including serving meals to less fortunate people and families, and building and maintaining community shelters and homes. It is among the local community activities that peaked my interest most in this project. I speak Spanish as a second language and I would be given the opportunity to interact directly with locals, especially families in need of our service. If studying abroad has taught me anything, it's that locals absolutely LOVE when foreigners can speak their language, or at the very least give some effort. In Spain, I was told by my host family that it is a sign of utmost respect to take an interest in learning the language of another culture - the time, energy and resources - it shows the community that you truly care and support a culture significantly different from your own. Learning about this opportunity brought out a passion I once had: to become fluent in the Spanish language and teach English as a second language to children and adults, living abroad in some Latin American country.

So why, then, did I not pursue this route? I called it a "passion," but how can I be passionate about something and not pursue it? As I'm campaigning to fund my trip, you all have the right to know why. I was a dual-major in Accounting and Spanish. It wasn't until my fifth year in college - the "victory lap" as I liked to call it - I needed to decide my career path… and I followed the "almighty dollar." I was good in Accounting. I was given the chance to interview with Fortune 100 companies, worked a paid internship while attending school, passed the dreaded CPA Board exams and accepted a job offer a year before graduation at an attractive starting salary. With all of these events falling into place, I felt I was on the path to the "American Dream," and never gave my "passion" a second thought. I graduated, started working and finally living with the "finer things in life" – a fully loaded vehicle, a high-end apartment living with stylish furnishings and weekends constantly spent with friends and co-workers. Somewhere along the line, however, I let it all consume me. Weeks went by as I logged 80+ hours of work. I became complacent with my normal hobbies and interests - I was always exhausted. I stopped exercising, cooking at home and even stopped going to and serving at Mass. After three years of spending my life going through the motions, I finally said "enough is enough”. I traded in my previous job to work for another company in the same field; yet a company that truly does respect a work-life balance, flexibility and promotes gaining exposure in various fields – including international and relocation opportunities, both of which I've been fortunate to experience. More importantly, the company's Corporate Citizenship culture is none that I've ever experienced. It's within our structure that I have volunteered and served my community in ways I didn't even know existed. And that is how I've arrived at today, campaigning for yet another opportunity to serve and add value where needed.

I'm considering this opportunity as a trial run. My decision is based on discussions with program reps, program site coordinators, countless written and video blogs from current and previous volunteers, and, of course, my own experience. Assuming it is everything I imagine it to be, I look to target a timeframe in which I would take an extended leave from work to either return to the same project site or look to create a travel itinerary for me to serve at various location sites: Costa Rica, South Africa, Israel…to name a few. This is more than a service trip - it's a calling. I've passed up this opportunity in the past, for fear of leaving behind a job, a comfortable living, material possessions…all of the things I thought brought me true happiness. Want to know a secret though? Work will always be there; I'm nothing more than dispensable and will be replaced by someone else, and I can always find work when I return. I don't need material possessions to make me happy; in fact, I've been learning just how true it is that I can "do more with less." This opportunity is bigger than I could ever imagine and I'm not letting it pass by me again.

Your Part
So, how might you fit into this? Other than the implied financial support I'm requesting through this funding campaign, I like to believe that many of you have similar passions, similar callings; but for one reason or another; you have not been able to explore them as much as you'd like or in the way you'd prefer. By experiencing this opportunity first-hand, you will be able to share with me in this experience. I will be there, camera-ready at all times, taking pictures, creating videos and blogging the entire time. I will share the day-to-day work, daily living and activities with you. I will make sure your support does not go unnoticed; my funding goal includes program costs to maintain the conservation, as well as to serve the local community and families mentioned earlier. It's only right that I share with you the impact of your contribution and what value it will bring. I ask for one other thing, which I find more valuable than any financial contribution. I ask for words of encouragement and support, for prayers and blessings. As motivated and inspired as I get in gaining new experiences to add value, I can't reach my "peak" without knowing others believe that what I'm doing is to improve some part of the world; to leave a place better than when I found it. This kind of support reinforces the power of action and my own personal ability to inspire others to take action. If I can inspire and motivate you to take on an experience where you can add value, that's all the inspiration and motivation I need to be successful in anything I pursue.

I want to thank you for reading my campaign. Hopefully, you have a clearer perspective as to why I'm taking on this opportunity. And a huge thank you for any contribution, financially and/or through words and prayers of encouragement and support, your heart moves you to make. Many blessings to you all.

  • Costa Rica