Volunteering is a duty Coogs should be proud to fulfill
It’s a brand new year, and everyone’s made his or her resolutions and goals — make healthier choices, be more productive or knock something off the bucket list. Have you ever thought of adding “do-gooding” into the mix?
“Volunteering is important, especially for students,” said biology and psychology junior Sara Lalani. “By allowing us to make a positive impact in our community, there’s an incredible sense of joy touching the life of someone you may not know.”
Whether you’re a freshman or a veteran Cougar, volunteering is something you can accomplish in your own backyard. The University is brimming with opportunities to volunteer, so you don’t to have to look far to find your niche.
A great place to start would be the Metropolitan Volunteer Program. As a student organization, MVP collaborates with our campus and community partners, providing an opportunity for students to make their own positive impact in the Houston community.
This year, MVP will be hosting two campus community garden events at 1 p.m. on Jan. 26 and Feb. 16. The garden is located on the corner of Wheeler and Cullen, where volunteers will plant seeds, remove roots and hydrate the garden’s soil.
Another opportunity is with Casa de Esperanza, in which volunteers will get to interact with children who have encountered obstacles in their life such as abuse, neglect and HIV/AIDS.
On Feb. 2, volunteers can provide hands-on support to Houston’s homeless through food preparation, patient sign-in or washing clothes at The Beacon event.
With MVP’s volunteering options varying in education, health, environment and senior citizens, it’s hard to not find something that fits your charitable bill.
One of the exciting aspects of MVP is that there’s the chance of receiving a President’s Volunteer Service award issued by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation.
“This award is issued by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation on behalf of the President of the United States to recognize individuals who demonstrate a commitment to civic participation and volunteer service,” Lalani said. “As a certifying organization, we keep a record of the service hours of UH students and offer the award to those who meet the criteria.”
Last fall, MVP’s biggest volunteering event was Adopt-a-Beach. Approximately 60 students spent the afternoon cleaning up litter on the Surfside Beach shoreline. This semester, MVP will be hosting Rock the Block, a large-scale cleanup in the Third Ward, where volunteers will also be hosting games with the children in the neighborhood.
“More than 150 students volunteered last year, and we’re hoping to make the event bigger and better this year,” Lalani said.
Another volunteer-based organization is the Houston-based nonprofit Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees. Founded in 2010, the UH chapter focuses on the Global Learners Program at Las Americas Middle School in southwest Houston. What is it about PAIR that makes it unique as an organization?
“Focusing our attention on young refugees in our area,” said hotel and restaurant management junior Kadie Fields. “This is a group of people that can be overlooked and not given all the opportunities for achievement that they deserve.”
Fields said she’s been with the organization for almost two years now.
Last spring, PAIR won the Houston Rockets Jeremy Lin Making a Difference Project in competition against two other Houston nonprofits — Workshop Houston and Yellowstone Academy.
“I was excited to gain recognition from a prominent organization like the Jeremy Lin Foundation,” Fields said. “It was great to see all our hard work pay off.”
Volunteering is the best way to give back, enrich your life experience and gain leadership skills, as well as build relationships with your peers. You learn valuable job skills, and it’s a great foundation for not only your resume, but also your personal experience. Both organizations are open to all students regardless of major or classification. I hope you make the effort to impact the community in your own unique way.
There will be an MVP informational meeting at 6 p.m. on Jan. 23 in the New UC Ballroom (Room 210 West), and more information can be found at uh.edu/mvp.
Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations junior and may be reached at [email protected]