Getting involved in my local community while abroad

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Hiking
Hiking on the West Coast

This past July marked my second year living in San Francisco. Looking back, I realized how much the city has grown on me.

Having previously spent four years in my college bubble, I was determined to spend more time exploring and attending events in the Bay Area. So I did. I went to Outside Lands, ran the SF half marathon, and hiked Half Dome, to name a few.

Tiffany and mum running SF Half Marathon
Ran the SF half marathon with my mom. Weekend runs the Golden Gate Park to train for the race were something that I really looked forward to!

Then, I decided to look into volunteering opportunities. I thought that being involved in the local community would give me the chance to see San Francisco from the perspective of a local (or at least long-time resident), and to get to know them. Almost everyone I knew at that time were transplants, and not a very diverse crowd too; mostly college new grads working in tech.

One day, I stumbled upon a post on a Facebook page shared by one of my school’s alumni. She works at YCore, an organization that pairs young professionals with participating nonprofits in the Bay Area to work on 4-month long projects. They also host public events 6-8 times per year on topics ranging from social entrepreneurship to corporate social responsibility. They were accepting applications for the upcoming fellows cohort. 

I figured that it was a perfect fit for what I was looking for. With 12 hours left to apply, I quickly sent in my application. Long story short, I was luckily accepted to the program.

I was assigned to a team that would work with La Cocina, a nonprofit working to solve problems of equity in business ownership for women, immigrants, and people of color. They do so by providing aspiring entrepreneurs with a lot of invaluable resources needed for them to be sustainable: commercial kitchen space, catering and sales opportunities, as well as business and legal assistance.

The first few weeks of the fellowship program were evening workshops. YCore partnered with a diverse set of organizations, so it was interesting to see the different issues that they were trying to tackle.

We started covering some basic things, such as defining what social impact is and how nonprofit organizations come into play. Later, we transitioned to a series of design thinking workshops that would help us to brainstorm and come up with a project plan that can most benefit our partner organizations.

Throughout the project, our team worked closely with La Cocina staff members. We interviewed different people in the organization and tried to understand their biggest pain point. These interactions really helped us refine the project direction.

Our team finally decided to help La Cocina set up a centralized database necessary for sales and press opportunities them and their participating entrepreneurs. At times, it was definitely tough to balance my work and fellowship obligations. After a long day of work, all I wanted was to lay on my couch and watch Netflix. I was lucky to have great teammates that are fun to work and hang out with!

Another big part of the fellowship program was fundraising commitment. Donation is a major source of revenue for nonprofit organizations, and this is also how YCore raises money to fund their fellowship programs.

It’s amazing to see how some fellows were really creative with their fundraising efforts. It was a great chance to get connected and collaborate with friends and local establishments in the city on a meaningful cause. For instance, one team hosted a bartending event at a local bar. One of my teammates had her friend host a yoga session at the Mission Women’s Building, and another one hosted a fundraising dinner. 

Tiffany at Bay to Breakers
For my fundraising effort, I ran the Bay to Breakers race dressed up as the Wonder Woman to represent all the women La Cocina supports through their initiatives.

Overall, I was glad that I decided to participate in the fellowship program. While living abroad, I personally think it’s important to have a new sense of home. Engaging with my local community helps me to keep myself tackle boredom and loneliness.

If you’re based in the Bay Area, keep your eyes peeled for the next round fellowship application here. There are also tons of other great volunteering and social impact opportunities. I might be able to connect you with some of them, so feel free to reach out to me if this is something that you’re interested in!