United Way of King County

A Global Citizen: Charyn's Volunteer Spirit Knows No Bounds

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Charyn Pfeuffer


She's braved Dengue Fever, mudslides, and giant insects all in the name of volunteerism, but Charyn Pfeuffer wants everyone to know that "big change doesn't require a hero's effort." As the founder of The Global Citizen Project (TGCP), Pfeuffer will be spending 12 months volunteering in 12 different countries, with the hope of raising awareness of global issues and volunteer tourism. While TGCP is a huge, inspirational and international undertaking, Pfeuffer doesn't overlook the importance of engaged and compassionate volunteers right here in King County.
While Pfeuffer's love for travel and awareness of international issues has taken her across the globe for  TGCP, she chose to spend the month of December close to home, volunteering five days a week at local hunger organization Food Lifeline processing, sorting and repackaging food donations for distribution to local food banks. "It's been great to stick close to home and support my local community . . . and has provided an opportunity for my friends to get involved and volunteer with me for 2 to 4 hour stints throughout December." Some of her friends' employers have even rallied around the cause, giving employees paid time off to join her in volunteering. Of her experience volunteering with Food Lifeline, Pfeuffer says "It is very humbling to play some small part in feeding more than 600,000 people in Western Washington – my neighbors – and there's really no way to convey the feeling of providing instant relief to people you very well may know," adding that she has also reaped some physical benefits during her time at Food Lifeline, "I'll take strenuous volunteering over the gym any day." In addition to her work with The Global Citizen project, Pfeuffer has also volunteered with United Way of King County and Seattle Works at Solid Ground's Marra Farm Giving Garden and Food Lifeline.
Pfeuffer's passion for service was sparked in 2000 when she began volunteering with the Women's Cancer Resource Center in Berkeley, California. After her move to Seattle, Pfeuffer has continued to give her time to causes and organizations that are important t her, even though "an increasingly crazy travel schedule (more than 100 flights annually) has made it next to impossible to establish a regular volunteer schedule". For the past decade, Pfeuffer has been working as a freelance travel and food writer and has spent significant time traveling through impoverished parts of Latin America covering stories. Faced with the current economic climate, Pfeuffer found herself wanting something deeper, "Something had to give, so I made a conscious decision to repurpose my career and intentions, swap my BlackBerry for a backpack, and give back with what I've called The Global Citizen Project." She launched a fundraising campaign for The Global Citizen Project on Kickstarter, a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands, and raised $20,000 in just 90 days. This money, along with a $5,000 Travelocity Travel for Good grant, is helping Pfeuffer to realize her vision for The Global Citizen Project.
Nine months into her year of service, Pfeuffer's volunteer experiences reflect her diverse interests. From collecting sea turtle eggs in Mexico to wrangling preschoolers in Ecuador, she has been hard at work raising awareness around a variety of causes. Currently Pfueffer is in Costa Rica volunteering with Globe Aware, a trip that was chosen with the Travelocity Travel for Good grant she was awarded in November. Through the Global Citizen Project, Pfeuffer has become somewhat of a volunteer icon, receiving media attention both locally and nationally. However, Pfeuffer stresses that volunteering does not require a passport, or the ability to give hours and hours of time, and is something that everyone can and should be participating in. Says Pfeuffer, "Volunteering is not just for grown ups. . . There's really no excuse to not volunteer" adding that online tools, like the United Way King County volunteer site make it "ridiculously convenient" to connect volunteers with projects. No matter what your cause, Pfeuffer knows first that that "Just one small act of kindness can provide some comfort, transform communities and make you a hero to someone else."

Inspired by Charyn? Find volunteer opportunties with hundreds of local organizations at www.uwkc.org/volunteer 

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