More than 1,400 participants who are in the United States on the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program– including students, interns, au pairs, and research scholars – are volunteering at the TCS New York City Marathon on November 5, 2017, the world’s largest marathon.
The exchange visitors will comprise more than 14 percent of the total volunteers at the marathon. They will stand alongside U.S. volunteers at miles 5 and 6 in Brooklyn and mile 18 in Harlem. As they provide water and moral support to nearly 50,000 runners from more than 135 countries, they will experience firsthand the American values of volunteerism and civic engagement.
“Cultural activities build individual’s confidence, their self-esteem, and contribute to cross-cultural understanding. They also often inspire participants to do more to help people no matter their backgrounds or where they may be from,” said G. Kevin Saba, acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Private Sector Exchanges. “Those that give, without expectation of anything in return, end up receiving the most.”
The strong J-1 volunteer presence at the TCS New York City Marathon highlights the benefits that American citizens receive from State Department programs. International participants make concrete contributions to communities across the United States as they come together to volunteer in local organizations, reinforcing the bonds that make America strong.
“Since 2015, New York Road Runners has welcomed the J-1 International Exchange Visitors, and we’re so happy that they’ve returned to volunteer at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon,” said Jim Heim, senior vice president of event development and production for New York Road Runners. “This group demonstrates the international diversity of volunteerism and the value of community engagement, which makes this event one of New York City’s greatest days.”
Several J-1 exchange visitors will also be running the marathon, including five au pair/host parent teams. Caroline, an au pair from Brazil, marveled at the determination of the marathon runners: “It is fascinating how [they] keep going and do not give up,” she remarked after volunteering for the marathon in 2015.
“It was the most beautiful experience of my life.” said Marie Liebschner, a former marathon volunteer and au pair from France. “I gave water to a mother who had lost her daughter, to a father who pushed his son in a wheelchair, and to a Syrian who fled his country and ran the 26.2 miles while wearing the hijab.”
“I learned that volunteering is a great experience and also a great responsibility. It is a wonderful way to meet new people while helping others,” said Amalia Nordaas, a J-1 intern from Sweden.
The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the New York Road Runners, and more than 60 U.S.-designated sponsor organizations that administer the Exchange Visitor Program are coordinating this volunteer effort.
You can cheer on the J-1 volunteers and follow their updates on social media using hashtag #RouteJ1. To learn more about the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, visit j1visa.state.gov.