CORCORAN — Corcoran will go international next month as Up with People makes a stop in town.
The nonprofit will bring about 100 volunteers from 17 countries to Corcoran in March to volunteer in the community leading up to a musical performance.
“Our main focus is community involvement and interacting with the youth here [in Corcoran],” Up with People Promotion Representative Kaitlin Anderson said. “In talking with our sponsors, they really want to bring this crazy idea of 17 countries and 100 people into the city.
The non-profit group, which was founded in the late ‘60s, uses the power of music and volunteerism to teach young adults how to interact in a multi-cultural environment.
The Up with People volunteers, hailing from countries such as Australia, China, Italy, Japan, Sweden, Nepal, Kosovo and others, will participate in more than 100 hours of community service in Corcoran throughout the week of March 16-23.
The week-long stint in Corcoran is part of a five-month tour that snakes through the United States, Canada and Europe.
In addition to other endeavors, the program will host school workshops that focus on diversity and the navigation and celebration of cultural differences.
“We like to discuss how to disagree with somebody in a positive way. You can understand where they’re coming from and then just walk away from the conversation. We all have differences in opinions but that’s OK and we can all still get along,” she said.
The organization’s trip is sponsored by several local agencies including the Corcoran Community Foundation, Corcoran Unified, CAST (Community and Schools Together), the City of Corcoran, Corcoran Chamber of Commerce, Corcoran Rotary Club, Corcoran 50/50 Club and RAC (Recreation Association of Corcoran).
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The volunteers will also participate in elementary school and after-school programs as well as partner with the City to enact beautification projects across town.
The week of volunteering culminates in a musical performance by the travelers.
“We like to call it a two-hour professional production put on by amateurs,” Anderson said. “Some of our cast members have an extensive background in theater while some have only sung in the shower.”
The theme of the show is “Keep Hope Alive” and in will feature well-known pop songs and international music as well as classic Up with People songs about the environment, racial and gender issues and other topics important to the organization and its volunteers.
“Our songs are just meant to start a discussion. We’re not trying to sway anyone’s opinion one way or the other. It’s simply about starting a discussion,” Anderson said.
Anderson said that in her experience, volunteers usually sign up because of an interest in one specific aspect of the tour, whether it be volunteering, traveling or performing. However, by the end of the tour, it’s the experience as a whole they look back fondly on.
“At the end of it, everyone enjoys every aspect of [volunteering with Up With People] because everyone has to do everything,” Anderson, a former cast member, said. “It’s very much a group effort.”
With over 22,000 alumni, the best volunteer recruitment tool is good word of mouth, Anderson said. Those who’ve had positive experiences while traveling with the program tend to recommend it to others.
Anderson is currently in Corcoran looking for volunteer host families that the members of the cast can stay with during the week. She said that the most notable part of her trip so far was catching a tractor pull contest at the World Ag Expo earlier this week.
“That was super fun. I’ve never seen anything like that,” she said.
Host families are asked to provide meals for the touring cast member and provide local transportation. Those interested can sign up at www.Upwithpeople.org/hostfamilies.
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