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Congratulations to Myriam, Olena and Sandra!

Congratulations to the 2007-2008 Community Service Contest Winners! The Ayusa headquarters office received over 60 applications for this contest and from this extremely qualified pool, three winners were chosen. Each winner had an organized and inspiring submission that exemplified the amazing work that they did. Read about how Olena Zakopets, Myriam Aziz, and Sandra El Daccache volunteered this year! Each winner has received a trip to San Francisco to see the sights!

Myriam Aziz: "Thank you for opening my heart"

Myriam is originally from Lebanon and is placed in Washington State with the Lynch family. Myriam completed 100 hours of community service and dedicated her time to many different activities. Most impressively, she has volunteered her time teaching the French language class at the high school that she attends. In order to do this, Myriam completes all of the work for her Science class in half the time in addition to creating her own lesson plans and curriculum for French language instruction. Myriam's service projects were described as having a "tremendous impact" on her community.

"I simply cannot describe the good feeling you get when you see a smile on somebody's face, when you go to bed at night knowing you did something today, when you see eyes full of questions, wanting to know more. I got more than just hours of volunteering, I got a part of myself who loves kids now, who can hug an old lonely man without hesitating, I got a new human being who realizes the world is not all about her: me, that human being is me! I know now that I can make a change."

Olena Zakopets: "Your life becomes more valuable when you are helping others"

Olena is originally from Ukraine and is placed in Washington State with the Kleingarter family. Olena completed over 130 hours of community service and focused her efforts at the Canyon Lakes Rehabilitation and Restorative Center. During her 62 hours at the center Olena helped with a variety of activities such as playing bingo, helping with the mail, singing, playing the piano, painting the residents' nails, and assisting with meals. She also formed an especially meaningful bond with one of the residents name Pauline who was always greeting Olena with a "warm smile and a big hug." Olena also dedicated hours of her time to tutoring classmates, working with children, serving her church, helping the environment and sharing her culture. Olena also created a 7 minute video that showcased her community service projects and how they have changed her life.

"I began thinking more about my life, what I'm doing and what I should do in the future. Now I definitely know that I want to help people who need our support and love. I know that we should not only think about ourselves but about other people too. This is a world full of beautiful people, but sometimes we don't notice them. I'm glad I gave my love and warmth to the people I met and moreover, I received a lot of love back from them. Each of them will always be in my heart and mind."

Sandra El Daccache: "I believe that my community service taught me the American point of view"

Sandra is originally from Lebanon and is placed in Washington State with the Greene family. In addition to spending numerous hours working with children, serving her church, and sharing her culture, Sandra dedicated nearly 200 hours of volunteer time with an elderly couple in her community. Sandra spent time entertaining the couple with pictures and funny stories, helped them around the house, and even helped with their finances! The couple express their affection for Sandra when they said, "Sometimes we wonder if we can keep her longer because she actually cares about us and had already helped us a lot!"

"This experience made me feel that I am actually able to make a difference in someone's life by just giving them a helping hand. I learned so much from them and also about myself. Patience was very important in this case and I believe that I did a nice job. I never knew that I could be so motivated and responsible. I think that seeing them go through rough times made me understand the importance of taking care of your parents no matter what your situation is. I had so much passion for what I did and I hope I really did make a big difference in their lives just like they did in mine."