Lea Spiralski daringly set out to find profound connection with others when she crossed an entire ocean to volunteer with HopeWest. Her story is a testament to the power of human interaction and the impact of volunteering. From her hometown of Leichlingen, Germany to the heart of Grand Junction, Colorado, Lea’s journey has been one of discovery, learning, and genuine connection.
Lea’s pursuit of a Bachelor’s Degree led her on quite an unexpected path. In order to graduate, students seeking to teach English and social sciences are required to seek real-life experiences or take a course of study in social sciences. Lea felt that she would gain so much more knowledge beyond the confines of textbooks. “It meant more to volunteer and learn from people, than to study facts in a book,” Lea shared passionately. With a desire to understand a different culture and form meaningful relationships, she planned a journey that would forever change her.
Lea’s path was not without its challenges. Getting a working visa in the United States proved to be a difficult task, so she chose a different route – volunteering. Through careful planning and determination, Lea connected with HopeWest, an organization that spoke to her values of caring for others in life’s most difficult moments. Learning her role from abroad served as a potentially difficult task, but the flexibility to complete her volunteer training online was the deciding factor for HopeWest over other options.
Lea’s time with HopeWest was more than just a volunteer stint or class to mark off the list – it was a deep dive into understanding the lives and relationships of others. Her involvement with PACE, HopeWest Kids, and Heirlooms exposed her to a wide range of experiences, sparking conversations that went beyond cultural boundaries. “You can only get to know another culture by talking to the people themselves,” Lea explained. Her passion for meaningful conversations became the most valuable part of her travels.
As a competitive swimmer and volunteer lifeguard at home, Lea explains that her passion to serve others comes from a place of desire to be her best self. She doesn’t believe in comparing herself to others. “If I can best myself, then I will have given everything I can. It would make me an awful person to try to be better than others,” she said.
During her time volunteering at Heirlooms for Hospice, Lea discovered a unique perspective on human connections. She found herself in charge of the jewelry counter, where each piece of jewelry carried a story. Lea enjoyed the opportunity to connect with customers on a personal level as they shopped. “I met lots of people who had stories about why they needed jewelry and why they were looking for something specific,” reflected Lea.
And throughout her volunteer experiences, Lea found camaraderie among her coworkers and fellow volunteers. The warm welcome and unwavering support she received eased her homesickness and reinforced the notion that, regardless of geography, human connections are universal. Her journey wasn’t just about giving; it was about receiving, growing, and embracing vulnerability.
As Lea’s time in Grand Junction came to an end, she faced the bittersweet understanding that she would not likely see anyone that she’d met again. Yet, she would be forever changed as a result. Through her time at HopeWest, Lea learned that stepping out of her comfort zone and investing time to understand others isn’t just about the destination; it’s about the profound impact it has on our own growth and the connections we build with others.
Interested in volunteering at HopeWest?
“It meant more to volunteer and learn from people, than to study facts in a book.”
Lea Spiralski, HopeWest Volunteer