When a friend told me that his friend’s son was in New York City for university and was interested in nonprofits, I immediately agreed to be connected. After our first coffee date, I was energized and inspired about service and community. Later, when my new friend’s father visited the city, I had the same experience, only amplified.
Amir Samandi, of San Antonio, Texas, is the Founder and Executive Director of Summer of Service (SOS), an inspiring nonprofit that believes in both service (obviously) and community.
Time spent with Amir and his son Gabe has been a continual breath of fresh air. Their passion for the world around them and their drive to serve others reminds me of all the reason I stumbled into nonprofit work in the first place.
I am so excited to share this week’s #ServiceSpotlight with you: an interview with Amir Samandi.
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a “Happiness is..”
Amir: Happiness is....a reflection smile: the smile on someone's face when you can do something kind for them, then it makes you smile too.
Liz: What is Summer of Service?
Amir: Summer of Service (SOS) was founded in 2014 with the belief that helping young people find new perspectives of themselves and the world around them will empower them to become positive change-makers in their own communities. We are a completely volunteer organization; our volunteer staff are dedicated to fostering informed citizenship and engaged leadership in San Antonio’s youth by providing students with the opportunity to travel abroad. The students then utilize what they have learned by bettering their own communities through volunteer services.
By expanding understanding of the global community, and bringing that new understanding back to someone’s life, we see a world in which all young people - no matter their background - believe in their power to make a positive difference in their communities. In a world that is undeniably hurting, it is crucial to build up our youth in becoming strong, courageous, and compassionate human beings with the capacity to see the interconnectedness of others and emerge as global citizen leaders.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Amir: I'm driven by a desire to make a difference to as many people as possible. I believe that the more positivity and kindness that is put into the world, the more that will reverberate and, thus, leave the world a little brighter for my three sons. I believe this is the best inheritance that I can leave them.
Liz: What does service mean to you?
Amir: Service means acting on the ability to do something kind for someone else, without expecting anything in return, and doing it with joy and a sense of empowerment.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Amir: Learn more about our work here. Sponsor a student in need, we have low-income students who want to participate in our EXPLORE programs abroad but cannot afford it. You can donate here.
Liz: Do you have a favorite quote?
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime."
- Mark Twain