Volunteer Week inspired students to participate in community service events run by the Neighbor’s Project and other organizations this week, which will end with national Make a Difference Day.
The events kicked off with speaker Robert Egger, founder and executive director of D.C. Central Kitchen, a food program and culinary arts school. Egger addressed a group of about 40 students to discuss the importance of leadership in volunteerism.
Egger said volunteerism should be deliberate and strategic, meaning people should focus on making a difference in the long term and not just feeling good.
His first experiences volunteering filled him with a great sense that he helped make a difference, he said.
At the same time, Egger said, he had seen others almost “enslaving” the poor. By feeding the homeless, they were making them dependent on the food, he said.
Egger said just dropping off food became “more about the people who are doing the serving than about the people being served.”
Egger felt he was truly making a difference by combining donated food with a cooking school that teaches a valuable people to nourishing the mind and body, he said.
Students began volunteer activities Tuesday at Miriam’s Kitchen. Volunteers woke up before 6 a.m. to help feed the homeless at Miriam’s Kitchen in the Western Presbyterian Church.
Neighbors Project member junior Julie Petrella said it was hard to get up, but “the homeless start lining up early, and it’s one of their only meals of the day – I try to think about that.”
New Zeta Beta Tau fraternity members volunteered along with the Neighbors Project.
“It’s our duty to give back, in unity,” Zeta Beta Tau fraternity pledge and freshman Mike Hochman said.
Students were also able to participate in Card Creations at J Street. They made cards for the rescue workers who helped during the Sept. 11 attacks, such as policemen, firefighters and Red Cross workers from D.C. and New York City. Neighbors Project member senior Lisa Desaxe who coordinated the event said they decided to do it because it was such an easy way to give back.
“Anyone can take two minutes to make a card,” she said.
Junior Manish Bhatt decided to take some time to make a card.
“I can’t give back personally as a rescue worker, but saying ‘thank you’ is something we can all do,” he said.
More than 50 students, faculty and staff gathered on the fourth floor of the Marvin Center to participate in a roundtable discussion about equity in education Tuesday to address solutions for many of the problems facing American public schools.
“We need to make schools a place to build a foundation for a better society, instead of having them be a reflection of the racism, class-ism and sexism that is prevalent in our society,” said Deborah Menkart, director of the Network of Educators in America.
Art Lavonne Taliaferro-Bunch, a veteran educator and child advocate of D.C. public schools addressed some of the factors of inequality that present challenges in the education system.
“There are socioeconomic issues that have a major impact on schools, as well as the inequality in parental involvement and parental education,” Taliaferro-Bunch said.
Teacher shortages in subjects such as math and science are becoming a problem as well, said Julie Mikuta, the vice president of Teach for America and a member of the D.C. Board of Education.
“We need to make teaching attractive to a wide range of individuals, and make them see it’s one of the most valuable things you can do in our society,” Mikuta said.
Additional activities planned for the week include Street Stage in the Hippodrome from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday. Homeless people from around D.C. will showcase their talents, including poetry readings and musical performances. GW improv group Recess will emcee and also perform.
Neighbors Project members say they are glad for the experience and knowledge the project provides them with.
“We’re all really privileged to be college students in our positions,” Desaxe said. “I’m grateful for that and want to help people who are less fortunate to show my appreciation.”