Letters to the Editor

Support Volunteers
I commend the editorial in the Feb. 3 edition of The Hatchet (“Let the volunteers decide,” p. 4) on the topic of volunteers at Neval Thomas Elementary School. Having served as a volunteer and volunteer coordinator throughout my undergraduate years at GW, I realize and tremendously respect the commitment and passion volunteers bring to their programs. Volunteerism, for many, is an extension of the classroom education. By interacting across cultures, generations and socioeconomic strata, volunteers learn more about themselves in the context of their world. That is the ideal, and more often the not, the ideal does hold true.

Of course, as every volunteer realizes, the opportunity to serve has practical considerations. Safety is definitely a concern. As this past incident involving Jumpstart members illustrates, The Office of Community Service and the Neighbors Project regard the safety of the volunteers as the number one priority. Having been an AmeriCorps member and volunteer coordinator through the Neighbors Project myself, I have always been impressed by the Project’s commitment to the volunteers. However, as I remember it, the mission of OCS and the Neighbors Project has also been to serve the community. While protecting the safety of the volunteers is, and should be a priority, the children of Thomas Elementary deserve our commitment as promised. The Jumpstart members at Thomas are looked up to as role models by these children, many of whom may be lacking stable adult figures in their lives. By stopping the program, what message are we sending to these children? I think we are saying, “Your neighborhood is too dangerous for us to come to, so we won’t anymore. Good luck!”

The volunteers want to return. The kids need them back. And GW must ensure their safety. It should not be the responsibility of OCS or Jumpstart to finance vans to transport volunteers. GW should provide vans to transport Jumpstart members, and any other volunteers who are providing a valuable service in neighborhood where safety may be an issue.

-Shafkat Anwar
medical student and commissioner for the
D.C. Commission on National and
Community Service

Perception matters
In the Feb. 3 Hatchet, I came across an ad declaring students’ support of a “mutually beneficial relationship” between the U.S. and Israel. I read and re-read the declaration and could come to no other conclusion about its point, other than the fact that it was ambiguously stated. Explicitly there is nothing controversial, but implicitly these statements left much to be interpreted.

Although I cannot speak for the sponsors’ or the signers’ intentions, I believe that intentions are not the only things that count. Perceptions should also be taken into consideration. Perhaps they did not foresee the possibility that the declaration could be perceived as an implicit endorsement of Sharon’s policies and, consequently, a rejection of Palestinian legitimacy. If these were not their intentions, then perhaps the declaration could have been better stated, or even co-sponsored by Arab students groups.

In a world wrought with war, we as students and as the next generation of leaders should work to promote peace. If the goal of this declaration were to promote the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, surely supporting a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians would help achieve this goal. And why should anyone be ambiguous about wanting peace?

-Jackie Bender

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