Day of service expands to week-long volunteering

This year, Yalies will have not just a day, but a whole week to give back to New Haven.

In previous years, the Yale College Council community service initiative consisted solely of the Yale Community Day of Service. Yet in its fifth year, the day of service — its biggest yet — is for the first time a part of a larger week of volunteering and outreach, which includes events organized by both the YCC and several on-campus community-service groups. Organizers said the expansion is part of an effort to reach more students and areas of the city.

Some of the highlights of the week will include the Charity Drive competition between residential colleges, an on-campus event for Co-Op High School students and promotions for ongoing community programs, capped off with an expansion of the Day of Service to be held on Saturday.

YCC Vice President Emily Schofield ’09 attributes the growth of Community Service Week to the effort of her fellow YCC representatives and to the response from volunteers.

“This year, we’ve had a really enthusiastic team of YCC representatives who have tried to expand the event out to include more sites and more volunteers,” she said. “I think that the great response that we’ve seen in the increased participation this year really attests to Yalies’ interest in giving back to the community, which is a great thing to see.”

Another new aspect of Community Service Week this year is the incorporation of events held by groups like Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project and Dwight Hall.

Tonight, for example, Dwight Hall will feature “The Devil Came on Horseback,” a documentary on Darfur shown by Students Taking Action Now: Darfur, as part of an open house for Bulldog Days.

Dwight Hall co-Coordinator Eliza Shafler ’09 said she is enthusiastic about the prospect of future collaborations with the YCC.

In another film screening, YHAAP and the Yale-West Indian Students Organization will be showing Skid Row, a documentary by the Fugees’ Pras Michel followed by a question-and-answer session with the man himself, on Thursday. Despite the film’s setting in Los Angeles, YHAAP co-Coordinator Beth Reisfeld ’09 said she thinks the film can still resonate with Yale students.

“It does a good job of portraying the universal challenges of drug addiction, and of posing the question, ‘How do you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped?’ ” she said. “YHHAP is hoping that it will raise awareness on campus about the challenge of homelessness right here in New Haven.”

Despite the addition of other events to Community Service Week, the Yale Community Day of Service is still the most prominent event, with a record 340 sign-ups. Larry Wise ’08, who has been involved in planning the day for the past three years, attributed the record turn-out to an increased number of sites.

“The increased site number from 11 to 17 means that students have more opportunities to find something they really want to do,” he said.

Yet among about a dozen students interviewed, few said they planned to participate, with most students saying they were either unaware of the event or chose not to participate.

Alex Jenson ’09 said he does not know much about the program.

“I don’t really know that much about Community Service Week,” he said. “But if my group participates, then so will I.”

Blair Lanier ’11 said that she plans to participate in some events, although she will not be able to attend the day of service because she will be out of town. She added that although the service week is a good thing, it is especially important that the event translate into more frequent volunteering.

“I hope that events such as Community Service Week inspire students to make long-term commitments to outreach in New Haven,” she said.

A panel focusing on “Fighting Poverty by Empowering Communities,” will also be held on Wednesday at 9 p.m. in Susman Hall in the Slifka Center.

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