Gaining Job Experience While Volunteering
When Roja Sirna moved to the United States from India seven years ago, she knew that eventually she wanted to work again. But with two small children at home, working full-time was not an option at first.
Fast forward a few years later. Her oldest daughter is in school; her youngest will be starting school next year, making childcare more manageable and more time free for going back to work. Yet she still faced an obstacle—experience. While she worked as both a manager and an IT analyst in India, she didn’t have any experience yet working in the United States. Looking for ways to get started, Roja saw a volunteer opportunity as an IT Business Analyst at Second Harvest Heartland on a volunteer website. She knew she’d found her perfect match.
“As soon as I obtained my visa, I started looking for ways to gain experience here,” Roja said. “I was happy to find a position that was flexible and fit perfectly into my schedule.”
Roja has been a volunteer at Second Harvest Heartland’s Maplewood location for just a few months, but she already feels at home.
“I work closely with team members to identify inefficiencies and technology gaps,” she said. “The people I work with are very nice. I look forward to coming here, but it’s nice that I can also do my job from home.”
Roja is so proud of her work, she points out the Second Harvest Heartland building every time she and her family drive past.
“I show my daughters the building and tell them ‘this is where I volunteer,’ and they beg me to take them, so they can help too,” she said.
“It makes me so proud to help people and to show my daughters the value of volunteering,” she said. “I can’t wait to take them here this summer.”
Roja said she hopes to continue volunteering at Second Harvest Heartland even after she finds a full-time job. “This is such a great experience,” she said. “It makes me feel awesome to help people.”
While many Second Harvest Heartland volunteers sort and pack food in our warehouse, we have a growing number of volunteers who provide specialized talents for long-term projects or an ongoing basis just like Roja.