As Sambavi Venkatesan boarded her plane from Austin to Washington, DC, she couldn’t help but wonder: “How will I build a network? Where am I going to live?” Sambavi was moving to DC to serve a year with AmeriCorps, and while she was eager to give back, she was nervous about where to go and whether she’d fit in.

After accepting an AmeriCorps position as a Shriver Corps Communications Fellow working with LIFT, an organization working to lift families across the country out of poverty for good, Sambavi was connected with ServiceNation, one of our partner organizations dedicated to making a service year part of the American way of life.

We believe that with so many daunting challenges facing our country, inspiring young people to share their talents with those in need is a goal that we ought to embrace. But if we truly want to create a culture of national service in America, that means we have to make it easy for remarkable young people like Sambavi to feel like they belong, even if they’re in a strange new place.

For all of us at Airbnb, helping people “belong anywhere” isn’t only about vacationers. We’re uniquely positioned to provide welcoming accommodations for AmeriCorps members like Sambavi, so they can work to transform the lives of people in vulnerable communities everywhere. Thanks to our incredible hosts, we can provide much more than a place to stay. Through our Open Homes program, Airbnb can offer them a place to belong whenever opportunity calls.

For Sambavi, this meant not only a place to stay in DC, but a gracious host, who gave her lots of local insight on neighborhoods, where to eat, and the best ways to navigate the Metro and get around town. They discovered they shared a love of baking, and quickly became friends. Suddenly the city didn’t feel so strange, and she felt right at home.

“With Kanye playing in my headphones and ServiceNation and Airbnb behind me, I made my journey to DC undaunted,” Sambavi writes. “Thanks to my awesome host… relocation was a stress-free process, and I was able to give my focus to my new position at LIFT and exploring this beautiful city.”

So far, as part of our Summer of Service, Airbnb is continuing our work with ServiceNation, Teach for America, Atlas Corps and other organizations to find people transitional housing to help them hit the ground running as they embark on their missions. And in the months ahead, by opening up even more of the homes in our own community, we can help improve the lives of people in communities all across the world.

Photo credit: Chris Weisler