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“Everybody Has Something to Give”

Why I Volunteer – Jamila Veasley

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Jamila Veasley, MA, CMP has enough on her plate to keep her more than busy. Professionally, she works full time as the community and government relations representative for the Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles medical center. In her spare time, she is also the Southern California regional co-lead for the Multi-Cultural Business Resource Group and genKP.

Veasley has built a reputation as a consummate volunteer. She finds the time and energy to actively engage in and support numerous volunteer opportunities, both for Kaiser Permanente and community organizations in the area. One of her most recent efforts involved both volunteering and organizing projects for “Big Sunday” where she, and others, worked at Bethune Middle School in Los Angeles.

Big Sunday” is a nonprofit organization that works to build community through service. This year, the organization facilitated projects every day in May for “A Month of Big Sundays,” and provided dozens of community service projects to meet the skills of volunteers of all ages.

For her efforts to help build healthy communities, Jamila was recently recognized by State Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas as being one of the “Top 40 Under 40” Civic Leaders in Los Angeles. She was also appointed as a member of the Emerging Civic Leaders Committee (ECLC) which operates under the Empowerment Congress Umbrella. The ECLC engages leaders under the age of 40 in opportunities surrounding civic engagement, advocacy, and philanthropy.

We recently caught up with Veasley just before she received the “Top 40 Under 40” honor to get her thoughts on why she believes it is so vital to volunteer.

What are you hoping to achieve by participating in a Big Sunday event?

I’m just hoping to make an impact on the school’s environment so the students can take pride in their school and hopefully, in turn, take pride in their education.

Why is volunteering for this particular school important to you? What can you tell me about this student body?

The student body is primarily Latino – 86 percent to be exact, and 96 percent of the students are on the free/reduced lunch program which lets you know how big of a need there is here.

Why this school?

Bethune is a partner school with the Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles medical center’s Hippocrates Circle Program, so there’s that connection. But what really stands out about them is their Student Leadership Program. It was these students that actually organized the Big Sunday event for their school and all of the day of logistics. Knowing that despite the disadvantages the school and its students face, the students are receiving leadership training and experience means so much. And knowing I was a part of making their event a success really hits home.

Why are you so committed to volunteering?

Some of my earliest volunteer experiences came from my time as a Girl Scout. I remember when I was a Daisy, the youngest level of the Girl Scout Program, and we were out on the streets picking up trash. I can’t recall what neighborhood it was but I just remember beaming with pride because our troop leaders said “we were making a difference”. I did a lot of volunteering in elementary school as a Girl Scout and once I reached high school we were required to complete 40 hours of community service a year. It was a graduation requirement so I really didn’t have a choice, but that continuation really embedded the whole notion of giving back into who I am today.

What is the most rewarding experience you’ve encountered as a volunteer?

In 2008, I went on a volunteer mission trip to the Dominican Republic. It was an eight day trip and my group was there to host youth basketball camps and helps locals with their English. I'd traveled abroad before to Europe a few times but when we reached the small rural town of El Cruce de Arroyo Hondo, I was humbled beyond belief.

The weather was in the triple digits, electricity was rolling and came and went without notice, clean water was scarce and homes had dirt floors. After settling in to a windowless 10' x 10' room, I joined my group and we walked the streets which were full of barefoot children of all ages smiling from ear to ear because we'd arrived. Seeing how happy the people were and how grateful they were for us being there hit home.

That trip I ended giving away almost everything I came with because I honestly didn't need any of it. And what I thought I needed, I knew I could easily afford to buy replacements when I got home. Those eight days really changed my perspective on life in a positive way and for that, I'll never forget that trip.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a volunteer?

Everybody has something to give. As cliché as it might sound it’s so true and I’m constantly reminded of that when I volunteer. Even if you think you have nothing, you do and it could mean the world to someone else.

Why should others within Kaiser Permanente volunteer?

I think we, meaning KP employees, have a duty to volunteer in our local communities because we are all responsible for helping fulfill the mission of our organization – to improve the communities we serve. And though it may seem daunting, Kaiser Permanente makes it so easy for employees and physicians to get involved with resources like kpcares.org and initiatives like the Martin Luther King Day of Service and Big Sunday.

If someone isn’t inclined to volunteer because of what it can do for others, then at the very least participating in Kaiser Permanente volunteer opportunities allows you to expand your network by connecting with fellow employees and it improves your overall well-being

For more information on how you can volunteer, visit community.kp.org/be-involved. For more information on Big Sunday Volunteer opportunities, go to http://bigsunday.org/faqs