A few months ago, when I told my peers that I would be spending the summer volunteering at a hunger-fighting non-profit organization, a number of questions came up in conversation……
Was I going to Sub-Saharan Africa or South East Asia? Would I be at an orphanage or a hospital? Were the people I’d be working with religious or secular? My response, that I would be living in Berlin, volunteering in an office, and working on the marketing team, took many people by surprise.
The topic of food security has always interested me, so when the opportunity to volunteer at ShareTheMeal - a global organization providing sustainable meals for children- I could not have been more excited to apply some of the knowledge I had acquired throughout high school. However, what I did not know was that the experience would teach me much more than I could ever imagine.
Something of a hybrid between a tech startup and non-governmental organization, ShareTheMeal has given me a lot of insight into charity in the digital age. ShareTheMeal’s mission is to make ending hunger as simple as tapping on your smartphone; download the app, press a button and feed a child for a day for just USD $.50.
Although the past decades have given rise to incredible development in digital technology, ShareTheMeal is the first and only app that serves to eradicate hunger. This position as a pioneer in a new giving landscape provides endless opportunity to expand and experiment with what is possible.
ShareTheMeal is constantly developing strategies to make sharing easier and more convenient and to implement new technologies in an age-old human desire to share. As an 18-year-old millennial just beginning my professional career, it is very exciting to volunteer in such an innovative environment and witness the transformation in giving.
Growing up, affecting change on a large scale seemed very difficult and distant; the structures of the most established groups fighting hunger were impersonal, and making a donation felt like throwing money into an age-old machine that would churn out results I would never really get to see. My experiences at ShareTheMeal have informed me that the future is going to be very different.
Although the amount one donates to ShareTheMeal is lower than the average donation to other missions (the National Council for Voluntary Giving estimates the mean donation to be £31), the sense of impact is much greater. You know that you alone are feeding one child for one day, and through the app, you know who that child is and how they are getting the food. At the same time, however, there is a sense of a global community as well; you are accomplishing goals with people from around the world who speak different languages, come from different cultures but are united around a basic belief of food for all.
To be able to contribute to the platform that enables this community is both inspiring and humbling. If we can accomplish so much with an app for hunger relief, imagine what similar platforms could do for clean water, forestry and sanitation.
I’ve found that the time spent developing the app, although not having as immediate of an effect as the work of those on the ground, is just as important. I like to think of it as a greater return on investment; by giving my time and efforts, I am making it easier for others to give as well.
The social media campaigns I help draft catch the attention of dozens and introduce them to our mission. The customer service inquires I respond to help make our customers more confident in sharing their meals. Although I’m not physically delivering meal vouchers or distributing food, I am helping to facilitate change. There is a ripple effect, and I am helping to create something sustainable.
It may not be the most typical volunteership, but it is one that I am certainly lucky to be a part of.