Good Samaritans of Atlanta

While Atlanta braced Snowpocalypse 2014, a 1-2 inch snow accumulation that virtually paralyzed the city’s roads, I kept abreast of the happenings via local TV stations and social media. It was ironic to see a plethora of excitement, panic, frustration and gratitude, all within a matter of minutes. Friends were posting photos of chaotic traffic and icy accidents while waiting in their cars to get back home (the record being 24 hours for a 30-mile drive). Desperate parents were calling around to see if someone can get to schools on time and pick up their kids since many school buses stopped operating. On the other hand, I also saw photos of kids playing in the snow, sledding around the neighborhood, while adults drank hot cocoa by the fireplace. The most heartwarming stories came from everyday citizens of Atlanta, who collectively reached out to help those in need.

A technology consultant, Michelle Sollicito turned out to be one of the hero’s of this week. She created an open group on Facebook called “SnowedOutAtlanta” where anyone could share local level traffic updates, shelter sites and emergency phone numbers. Many of the 50,000 members (who joined the group within 24 hours) posted locations of where they were and offered to take strangers in. Sollicito told The Atlanta Journal Constitution that the group had helped over 400 people, including an elderly woman with cancer, a pregnant mom with a young child, and a man with a heart problem who needed to get to the hospital.

atlanta shelters

On the street level, volunteers jumped in to pull cars out of ditches, and push vehicles out of the way. I came to know several good samaritans who carried water and snacks in their backpacks, distributing to those stuck in their cars. Ray Thatch, who was working near Atlanta airport at the time, felt that the city’s 30 or so snow vehicles may not be able to reach 4 million people in time. He decided to drive around in his rugged Land Cruiser to look for stranded folks and rescued people till 3am.

snow storm in atlanta

Almost all of my Atlanta based Facebook friends listed their home coordinates and offered a place to crash if someone was near the area. My husband ended up spending the night on a friend’s couch on Marietta St, since he couldn’t get any further than 4 miles in 4 hours, while I hosted another girlfriend who was having a nervous breakdown after 8 hours of driving. This may have been the largest impromptu slumber party in the city’s history!

Anna Sierdzinski was walking around Lenox Rd where she found a lady standing in the cold and asked her if she needed a cup of coffee or to use the restroom. The stranger ended up spending a few hours at Anna’s home, escaping the bitter temperatures. In fact, a lot of people took to the streets handing out free hot cocoa and coffee, as Atlantans temporarily abandoned their cars and walked home. Keep in mind, Atlanta roads are not made for walking and oftentimes, sidewalks are hard to find.

Even the day after the storm, while all schools and offices were closed, people continued to share traffic updates, send help, and care for others. Small business owners and friends, David Baumgarten and Daniel Adam Johnson used the snow-day off to feed the homeless and passersby. They grabbed a grill, gas tanks and hot dogs and set up shop right from their pick up truck on Interstate 20.

Daniel & David on I20

According to local reports, 1 person died, 130 were hurt, and 1300+ accidents occurred during the snowstorm. This kind of effort helped save lives, and whilst there were still some hideous crashes of which the likes of legal firms (e.g lamber goodnow) will likely be helping with the recovery from, it is heartwarming to know that the people of our city worked together in a time of great need.It could have been worse had it not been for all those who watched out for their neighbors and friends. The events of past two days only prove how we, as human beings can come together and overcome any disaster.

If you have a story to share from the Atlanta Snowpocalypse 2014, please leave a comment below…

Adding Charity to the Vacation Packing List

Our mission at Go Eat Give is to tie travel with giving back to the community. While volunteering is one of the ways to do so, here is another great opportunity to make a small difference wherever you go. Posada Amazonas Lodge, one of three accommodations under the directive of Peru’s visionary leader in sustainable tourism, Rainforest Expeditions, has partnered with Pack for a Purpose that encourages travelers to carry with them five pounds of school or medical supplies that can make a difference to communities they’re visiting. Continue reading “Adding Charity to the Vacation Packing List”

Give the gift of endless possibilities

This holiday season consider giving the gift of learning. Books For Africa is a non profit with a mission to end the book famine in Africa. They want to create a culture of literacy and provide the tools of empowerment to the next generation of parents, teachers, and leaders in Africa.  Since 1988, Books For Africa has shipped more than 24 million books to 46 African countries. They are on once-empty library shelves, in classrooms in rural schools, and in the hands of children who have never before held a book. Each book will be read over and over again. The books go to those who need them most: children who are hungry to read, hungry to learn, hungry to explore the world in ways that only books make possible.

You can change the life of a child in Africa through the gift of books.  Books For Africa appreciates all book donations in categories including General Leisure, Reading, Business & Economics, Computer Science, English Language Skills, Science & Engineering, Math, Communications, Science, Educational Theory, Health, Arts & Humanities, Political Science, Sports/Vocational/Hobbies and International law.

Books For Africa accepts:

  • 20 years old or newer popular fiction and nonfiction reading books (soft and hard cover).
  • 1991 or newer publish date primary, secondary, and college textbooks (soft and hard cover, social studies can include world history or geography, but nothing U.S. based).
  • 1991 or newer reference books such as atlases, thesauruses, and dictionaries.
  • 1991 or newer publish date medical, nursing, IT, and law books.
  • School/office supplies—paper, pencils, pens, wall charts, maps, etc.
  • Acceptable books are gently used and relevant to an African reader.

If you are interested in donating a book, please contact Gaurav Bhatia at or call 404-661-0801.  

Frequently Asked Questions about volunteering abroad

Recently, I have given a few presentations on volunteer vacations abroad, shares my stories and inspired others to travel. The question I get from my audiences after each presentation is “What do I do next?” So here is the answer to that and other frequently asked questions you may have about volunteering abroad.


How long do I need?

Typically a volunteer vacation program lasts a minimum of 1 week but you can go for as long as you can afford to. Students and retirees take 2-3 months off whereas professionals may only go for 1-2 weeks.

How much does it cost?

Each program is very different. Depending on the country, organization and activities involved, you can pay anywhere from $200-1500/ week. The costs include lodging, meals, airport pickups and some sightseeing activities. You will be responsible for your airfare and weekend trips.

How far in advance do I need to plan?

The further the better, especially if you need to save up or do a fundraiser to sponsor your trip. You need to plan at least a month in advance to arrange for visa, reserve your space, book your tickets, etc. Sometimes last minute spots open up at a discounted price but it’s rare.

What skills do I need?

You don’t necessarily need any particular skills. Most programs are designed so that the common Joe can be helpful and involved. An open mind, patience and respect for other human beings are probably the most important assets you can bring with you. If you have some experience in teaching, working with children or healthcare, it would help too.

What kind of work will I be doing?

Most places I have found have partners with local organization, such as orphanages, hospital, old homes, universities and schools. They send a constant flow of volunteers to do one of the following activities – play with children, do arts and crafts, engage elderly people, teach (English, Computer Science, etc.), or take care of babies.

Do I need to know the language?

All the places I volunteers at did not require me to know the language. There are interpreters if needed and basic English is understood in most countries. In Russia, language was a huge challenge as not many spoke English, but we managed just fine by speaking the language of games, arts and crafts.

Can I make an impact in a short time?

Yes, of course! You will be surprised to learn how much impact you can make on a life of another and on your own. When you bring a smile to a little child face’s who has not received much affection growing up in an orphanages, you would feel like you made an impact. When people see that you have taken the time and effort to travel all the way to their country and are spending your precious time with them, expecting nothing in return, it will stir a different kind of emotion. Undoubtedly, people feel more connected and grateful to each other, which is the entire drive behind the Go Eat Give movement.

What would a typical day be like?

A typical day would start early. Breakfast will be served at 8am, after which you will go to your volunteer workplace. Depending on the assignment, you may be scheduled to work for a couple of hours or half a day. If you are in a school, you can expect to work normal school hours. You would return to your home base for lunch. The afternoons are usually set for organized activities such as lectures, field trips, lessons, etc. (if the organization offers them). Evenings are free to explore the city, interact with other volunteers or catch up with your reading. Dinner is generally served early but you are free to stay up till late.

Is it good to go alone or with someone I know?

I have tried it both ways and see the value in each of them. I had more fun on the weekends since I had a friend to explore other cities with. We could plan our trip ahead of time because we planned sightseeing before and after our program as well. Going alone means you will get to meet people and make new friends. I have seen people pair up or go as a group over the weekend. I think if you are going for a longer period of time, going alone has more benefits. But be assured, you will never find yourself all alone.

If you have any other questions, please feel to reach out to me by leaving a comment below or email me at I personally reply to every message.