The TCS New York City Marathon Teaches Volunteerism to More Than 1,400 International Visitors
Given the global spirit of the TCS New York City Marathon, which draws runners from more than 125 countries, it’s fitting that the largest volunteer group at this year’s race comes courtesy of the J-1 Exchange Visitors Program.
An initiative led by the U.S. Department of State, the J-1 Visitors Exchange allows people from around the world to visit the United States on special visas, work or study for a period of time, and learn skills to bring back to their countries. Volunteerism has become a key part of the program, and that’s evident today, as more than 1,400 exchange visitors don ponchos and man the water stations at miles 5 and 6 in Brooklyn and mile 18 in Harlem. Together, they make up more than 14% of the race’s total volunteers.
This is third year the U.S. Department of State has helped exchange visitors to volunteer at the TCS New York City Marathon. According to Jenny Eisenberg from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, 93% of those who pitched in during last year’s race said they’d be more likely to perform volunteer service when they return home.
“We’re seeing a growing interest from exchange visitors in volunteering and in civic engagement as a way to become involved in the community and experience American culture,” says Eisenberg. “The fact that so many participants are volunteering at the marathon demonstrates that our participants are here for the cultural experience.”
That’s certainly true for Nastja Foraus, 26, who hails from Trieste, Italy, about two hours from Venice. She’s spent the last 10 months working as an au pair just outside New York City, and she says she “can’t wait to participate in the world’s largest marathon.”
“I’ve watched the marathon on TV and online, but I’ve never seen it in real life,” says Foraus. “This race is one of the biggest events in NYC, and I feel so lucky to have the chance to experience it—even if I don’t run it. I’m really proud to support such a big event where people from all over the world work together, help each other, collaborate in a multicultural environment, and celebrate a sporting event.”
Cipactli Rodríguez, a 27-year-old au pair from Campeche, Mexico, was drawn to the J-1 program because it’s an “amazing opportunity to learn about American culture.” She’s not a runner, but she visits New York City every weekend and knows how special the race is.
“I grew up watching movies and shows, and they always talk about the New York City Marathon, so I’m excited to be there,” says Rodríguez. She’s hoping today’s volunteer experience will enhance her patience, positivity, and social skills.
Fellow au pair Kate Geraghty, 24, first learned of the J-1 program when it popped up in her Facebook newsfeed. The native of Mayo, Ireland, thought it might be a fun way to spend her “gap year” after college, and she wound up stretching her stay into two years. The trained elementary school teacher is hoping her time on the TCS New York City Marathon sidelines will strengthen the communication skills she’s already honed by visiting NYC regularly and exploring other nearby spots.
“On race day, I’m looking forward to meeting new people and being a part of something so big and well known,” Geraghty says. “It will be interesting to experience the atmosphere among the volunteers and the runners. It’s a cool event to be a part of, and I probably won't get the chance again, so I thought, ‘Why not!'
“This race means that many people come together to share in this experience,” she adds, “and to show a united front to people all over the world."
Inspired to volunteer at the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon? Registration opens Monday, November 6, 2017!