Sojern Gives Back was created with the idea of making a global impact on a local level. United Way of the Midlands has been a fantastic partner in that regard. United Way of the Midlands works to determine and respond to the critical human service needs of the community. Focused on three areas, Education, Financial Stability, and Health, volunteers work with United Way to determine the key issues facing the community.
Sojern Gives Back has been partnering with United Way of the Midlands in Omaha for the past three years. Here is what we’re accomplishing:
United Way of the Midlands Day of Action
The United Way’s Summer Reading Program helps inspire the love of reading for children who may not have access to books while they are on summer break. Because they do not have access to educational materials or activities, students often face the phenomena of the “summer slide,” which means they’ve lost the gained knowledge when school begins again in the fall. Year after year, students impacted by this fall even further behind their peers and it becomes hard for them to catch up.
For the third year in a row, Sojern took part in of the United Way of the Midlands Summer Reading Program. Around the world, Sojernistas donated children’s books and created the Summer Reading Kits for the students. Then in June, Omaha Sojernistas handed out the books and kits, reading with students during United Way’s Day of Action.
Sojern’s Day of Action by the Year
As Sojern has grown, so too have our contributions to the Day of Action. In 2017, 437 kits were created with the help of Sojern volunteers and Sojernistas raised $4,000. Last year, Sojern donated over 400 books, wrote 500 letters, had 450 kit volunteers and 39 Day of Action volunteers. At a corporate level, Sojern was also able to donate $10,000. This year, we’ve surpassed all that we’ve done so far. In 2019, Sojern employees donated 509 books, wrote 561 letters, had 163 kit volunteers, and 44 Day of Action volunteers. And again, this year Sojern donated $10,000 to cover all of the materials.
The 2019 Day of Action
On June 21, everyone’s hard work and donations paid off when Omaha Sojernistas handed out and explored the books and kits. 44 members of the Omaha team spent a Friday afternoon hanging out with first to third grade children from the Urban League of Nebraska, reading their new books and hearing about their summer bucket list.
This year’skits included a tote bag, library summer schedules, summer reading books, a note to parents, a pen, Sojern postcards, a frisbee, a bookmark, a water bottle, a summer bucket list, and a handwritten letter of encouragement from Sojernistas around the world.
Year after year it is great to see the excitement on the faces of each student and volunteer. I always have a handful of volunteers from Sojern tell me how eye opening it is to learn about summer slide and the importance of grade level reading. Many of them say, “I just had no idea that this was happening” and how grateful they are to participate in donating books, creating literacy kits and sitting down to get to know a student in the community. I think the volunteers learn more than they thought they would.
I am also a big advocate for mentoring and how that can benefit young students as they grow up. I hope this experience inspires the volunteers to do more, like sign up for Big Brothers Big Sisters or TeamMates Mentoring. Understanding how this small initiative has the potential to positively impact the future and raise all students up to have the same chances is the most rewarding part for me. I hope this event continues to grow and bring more awareness to summer slide and the importance of grade-level reading.
Interested in learning more about how Sojern gives back to local and global communities? Check out our Sojern Gives Back page.