Courtesy Compassion Week
The smell of glue wafts through the air as Compassion Week volunteers work, pink particles of glitter reflected in the glistening beads of sweat on their foreheads. As the last screw is fastened and the last spot is painted, the volunteers finally finish their project — an ultra-pink glitter playhouse for a 7-year-old girl whose parents were both deployed.
Seeing the little girl overcome with excitement and her grandma crying tears of joy made the volunteers’ work worth it, reminding Compassion Week Co-Chair Jan McDaniel of why she founded the organization in the first place.
“That feeling you get when you see the looks on the kids’ faces is priceless,” McDaniel said. “It’s one of those things that hits you to the core. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
McDaniel, along with many others, started Compassion Week, a week dedicated to accessible volunteer work for Los Altos United Methodist Church members. In previous years, Compassion Week offered in-person volunteering opportunities such as cooking and serving meals to the homeless. In light of the pandemic, though, Compassion Week is offering additional remote service projects including five non-profit options led by local teens this year. Over the years, Compassion Week has expanded with many volunteers having no affiliation with the church.
“I’m excited for my organization to work with Compassion Week this year,” senior Brooke Soobrian and Cards of Care founder said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for people to make a difference in the community through kindness and empathy.”
Kim Jackson, a member of Compassion Week, is an avid volunteer for the Days for Girls project, an international initiative promoted by Compassion Week. Through the project, volunteers aim to increase menstrual awareness and improve product accessibility by sewing reusable sanitary napkins for disadvantaged young girls.
“I feel like I’m able to save lives in some sort of way,” Jackson said. “These menstrual products aren’t cheap. In the United States, we have the privilege to learn about our bodies, but that’s not always the case in other areas of the world. I’ve also been able to make friends over the years from this project. We met through Compassion Week and catch up every now and then which is pretty cool.”
Even though there are some restrictions on volunteering this year, McDaniel hopes that the community aspect of Compassion Week won’t be lost and that volunteers can still connect with others.
“Last year, one of my friends sewed a set of masks,” McDaniel said. “One day she was just walking in San Francisco and saw a family wearing the masks she sewed, and it was such a transformative experience for her just to see the positive impact that she had.”
Compassion Week is also hosting three community forums around the topics of environmental justice, affordable housing, religion and racial justice in order to start a conversation about prevalent global issues within the Los Altos community.
“Especially during these times, it’s important to get out there and volunteer with your community,” McDaniel said. “People prefer just writing a check and calling it a day, but they have a real problem walking by and interacting with people facing homelessness, which is something that Compassion Week hopes to change.”
The smell of glue and glitter in the air is accompanied by the overwhelming amount of passion and determination you’re surrounded by when volunteering for Compassion Week. The relationships made will last a lifetime, and the feeling of gratification after volunteering is one that cannot be forgotten. And honestly, a little glitter never hurt anyone.
Compassion Week started last Monday, October 5, and lasted until last Sunday, October 11. To learn more, check out the Compassion Week website.