Neighbors project joins community and students

While this weekend’s “Make A Difference Day” is a chance for students to help the community, many students perform community service year round through GW service organizations such as Neighbors Project.

Neighbors Project operates out of the Office of Community Service, which also runs “Make a Difference Day,” and has encouraged many students to take part in community service in and around the D.C. area. Students spend time with seniors, tutor elementary and middle school children and work with victims of disease.

Founded in 1993, the Neighbor’s Project is a student-run service program that organizes student volunteerism in Shaw and other D.C. neighborhoods.

Neighbors Project has four primary focuses – education, health care, assisting seniors and community development. Students choose from 13 different volunteer sites and have other annual opportunities to help others.

Senior Katie Robinson corps member of a group volunteering at Seaton Elementary School. She works with sixth grade students three times a week and other GW volunteers join her on Fridays. The group is educating the students about violence prevention, she said.

Other topics have included cultural awareness and stereotypes.

“Most of the children come from low income and broken families,” Robinson said. “The program really gives kids an opportunity to speak about things they normally wouldn’t get a chance to.”

Robinson said she received a letter from a student thanking GW students for volunteering at the school.

“On the bottom of the letter he drew a picture of himself with a thought bubble saying ‘I lost my dad when I was four,’ and next to him was a GW volunteer in a GW sweatshirt reaching out a hand to him,” she said.

One of Neighbors Project’s most popular programs is D.C. Reads.

“D.C. Reads is a literacy program that pairs GW tutors with partner agencies in the D.C. area, such as Heads Up, For Love of the Children and High Achievement,” said Sharice Welch, Greek Affairs program coordinator. “The program is designed for federal work study students, but those willing to be unpaid volunteers are always welcome.”

Another popular program is Emmaus Outreach, which provides GW students the opportunity to offer comfort and companionship to senior citizens living independently in the Shaw neighborhood.

During Spring Break, Neighbors Project provides another chance for service with Alternative Break. Students can choose to work in an AIDS hospice, renovate homes, work at construction sites, repair trails or work with at-risk youth at a community center. Locations include Miami, the Appalachian Mountains, Atlanta and New Orleans.

“Neighbors Project also provides events for those students wishing to volunteer but don’t have the commitment to be able to do so on a regular basis,” said Emily Morrison, Neighbors Project coordinator and GW graduate.

“Make A Difference Day” is this Saturday, students will volunteer at D.C. Central Kitchen, For Love of Children’s Special Olympics, D.C. Parks and Recreation, Community Harvest, Christian Community Group Homes and Northwest Settlement House.

Students interested in participating in any of the programs can visit room 436 in the Marvin Center.

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