By Estrella Chan

Recently I attended a LENi Awards Banquet (Leadership Eastside Network Inspiration) at the Redmond Town Center Marriott, and was I inspired! Left and right, I met people who generously volunteer their time to increase the quality of life for someone else.

For example, Sammamish’s Teresa Bretl, Executive Director of Athletes for Kids, matches high school athletes as mentors for younger children with disabilities. The program began with Skyline High School, then expanded to seven high schools with more than 100 mentors a year. The experience help young athletes develop a more inclusive perspective toward differences.

Microsoft employee, Ahinsa Mansukhani, volunteered more than two thousand hours for the Children’s Response Center (CRC) and the creation and implementation of Bellevue’s Taste of Main event as well as Madison Valley’s Bastille Bash. Both events unite the community for a day of food, fun, and entertainment, and raise funds and awareness for abused children who receive services at the CRC.

Milenko Matanovic, founder of the Issaquah-based Pomegranate Center, helps low-income and high-density communities create gathering places, parks and public artwork through a process that builds true community ownership and input. The Center also trains community members and civic leaders to inspire and engage others to build stronger, healthier, more connected communities. In his acceptance speech, Matanovic shared a quote he found inspiring, “Vision should be more than an improved present, but rather a view of what ought to be.”

These are just a few examples of the wonderful work of individuals in the community. There are many many unsung contributions by people whose names we would not read in the news. For example, Dilek created a meetup group that provides an opportunity for Americans to learn about the Turkish culture and language, connecting the two cultures with each other.

Fara, who recently moved to Seattle from China, writes a blog in Chinese for those who are considering a relocation. She shares her cultural transition experience so newcomers know what to expect when moving to this country.

Guilherme started hosting dinners for Spanish speaking newcomers. When he hears of a new family who just arrived Seattle, he extends an invitation to come to the party. No one feels totally alone, knowing that there is a community here. That group now takes turns researching places to visit in Washington and is adding to the tourism revenue of our state.

What I observe is: you can take action anytime to contribute to one other person or a group of individuals. While benefitting others, we enrich ourselves. It doesn’t need to be a big act. Spending time with someone is a gift.

(Estrella Chan helps international professionals quickly increase their English fluency and adjust to life in Seattle. She hosts an International Gathering the 1st Friday of each month at Crossroads Shopping Center, with the intention of promoting understanding and friendship among cultures. See details

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