During the COVID-19 pandemic, French alumnus Jasen Erbeznik volunteered virtually with the Greater Lansing Food Bank to translate documents from English to French for their Garden Project.
The Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB) is a non-governmental organization committed to guaranteeing healthy food access to everyone in the Greater Lansing Area. In 1982, the GLFB created the Garden Project to create gardens and provide community members with gardening supplies to combat hunger.
It is rewarding to know that I helped community gardens run smoothly and to put fresh produce on the table during this difficult period.
“As a volunteer translator, I translated Garden Project documents for use by French-speaking gardeners. With translated crop guides and community gardening factsheets, the Garden Project ensures that language is not a barrier in accessing healthy, organic produce in Lansing,” Erbeznik said. “Translating documents for the Garden Project is a small way to give back during COVID-19, as I maintained social distance while volunteering entirely remotely. It is rewarding to know that I helped community gardens run smoothly and to put fresh produce on the table during this difficult period.”
The GLFB Garden Project helps empower residents to overcome systemic failures and feed themselves and our fellow Michiganders. By volunteering to translate documents, Erbeznik has contributed to facilitating multiculturalism, local activism, and public health in the Lansing area.
Erbeznik first became aware of the inspiring work of the GLFB and their Garden Project during his first term of service with AmeriCorps’ Power of We Consortium in Lansing. While serving, he was a Garden and Healthy Living Liaison for the NorthWest Initiative and managed three community gardens at NorthWest. Erbeznik also became familiar with the Garden Project by collaborating with their Resource Center in Lansing.
“After my term of service ended with AmeriCorps, I kept up with the GLFB via the Garden Project’s email newsletter. When I saw they needed volunteer translators of French, I jumped at the opportunity,” he said. “Since translating documents can be done remotely, I hope to be able to continue serving no matter where I am based. The Garden Project also needs volunteer translators occasionally during their workshops, so that is something else I am interested in participating in when they resume after COVID-19 is more under control.”
Along with his French degree, Erbeznik also graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy from James Madison College.
“I am extremely grateful to the faculty and staff of James Madison College and the Department of Romance and Classical Studies for their hard work and dedication in creating engaging material that challenged me to formulate and support my opinions on difficult ideas,” he said. “Choosing to learn French at MSU and studying abroad also served as personal conduits to exploring different thought and cultures. This willingness to be open to intercultural dialogue has inspired me to serve an international community and look for diverse solutions to common challenges.
Choosing to learn French at MSU and studying abroad also served as personal conduits to exploring different thought and cultures. This willingness to be open to intercultural dialogue has inspired me to serve an international community and look for diverse solutions to common challenges.
“I would encourage MSU students to pursue a second language, whether it is through a major, minor, a few classes, or a club. We live in an increasingly interconnected global community and studying language and studying abroad will foster a deeper appreciation of the immense potential for learning through intercultural dialogue.”
This fall, Erbeznik started his studies at McGill Faculty of Law in Montreal, Canada, which he hopes will help springboard him to a lifetime of public service.