Cutter Dawes is an AMIGOS alum from the Marin Chapter in California. After completing the Chimborazo, Ecuador project in 2017, Cutter continued his volunteer work in his community in California. Because of his dedicated work, he won a Volunteer of the Year Award at the annual Heart of Marin Awards. Learn more about his AMIGOS experience and why volunteer work is important to both him and his community.
First things first. How did you hear about AMIGOS and what made you decide to do it?
I had heard about AMIGOS repeatedly from different friends and family friends, all of whom said it was a really fantastic experience. Those “reviews,” paired with the fact that I wanted to become fluent in Spanish, made AMIGOS very appealing to me.
AMIGOS sounds like it was the perfect fit! What was one of your most memorable experiences while you were volunteering in Latin America?
One experience that stands out to me happened in the first week or two of my trip. There was a wedding in the community next door to ours, and all of the neighboring communities went. Around four hundred people attended!
It just so happened that the other communities in my “route” (which is a group of around ten volunteers whose communities are close to each other) were all there as well. So there I was, in the mountains of Ecuador, attending a giant wedding with people who became close friends. It was fantastic.
That sounds like so much fun. You recently won the Volunteer of the Year award at the Heart of Marin Awards. Congratulations! Will you explain that award?
The Youth Volunteer of the Year award is given to five high school-aged students who have made a significant impact on their communities through volunteer service. I was a recipient for my work with multiple organizations. First, as an AMIGOS Marin Chapter board member as Spanish Coordinator. Second, as a volunteer for Canal Alliance, where I help Latinx immigrants with aspects of life in a new country that can be challenging without English fluency.
It sounds like you are making an incredible impact in communities near and far! Why do you think volunteer work is important?
Simple: volunteer work helps others. So, the work is important since it improves the lives of other people. But aside from those very tangible effects, volunteering strengthens the community. It promotes feelings of interdependence, empathy, and solidarity. It’s not that every interaction has a profound effect, but in aggregate, the community is strong by becoming more connected and more supported.
Such a great way to explain the power of volunteering. Considering your experiences thus far, how do you think AMIGOS has impacted your life beyond service hours?
AMIGOS gave me a lot of confidence. The act of being in another part of the world and being the driving force behind a project is transformative. Leading town halls about the project, implementing those plans, and attempting to connect with and teach local youth gave me plenty of leadership experience.
It is also one of the only instances where you can create authentic relationships with people whose lives are very different from your own. For me, that experience was just as rewarding and impactful as my exposure to leadership.
That leadership part is so important, especially as you continue growing and learning beyond AMIGOS. This has obviously made a huge impact on your life. What do you see as the impact of AMIGOS on the world?
AMIGOS helps create tangible improvements to the communities its volunteers visit. But more importantly, those sustainable projects are brought forth by a coalition of AMIGOS volunteers and local youth. As it did with me, that collaborative process develops the leadership skills of young people across the Americas. So in the long-term, all of those young people from different communities will be a force for change in the world.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us Cutter, and congratulations again on your award!