A handful of New Haven nonprofits and Yale student groups will set up tables on Cross Campus Saturday to spark conversation between local organizations and Yale students about volunteer opportunities in the Elm City.
The Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, a Yale student group dedicated to alleviating housing and food insecurity in New Haven, organized the event, formally called the YHHAP Nonprofit Meet and Greet. Five Elm City nonprofits will be in attendance, as well as four Yale student groups. YHHAP’s volunteers modeled the event after the first half of last year’s Fall Fest, the first time YHHAP brought outside New Haven nonprofits onto campus.
“The concept of the event is to have different nonprofit organizations from New Haven have a chance to talk with students at Yale,” said Nishanth Krishnan ’21, one of two YHHAP co-directors. “The hope is that YHHAP can create conversations between nonprofits that do great work in the city addressing pressing issues and students who might be interested in volunteering their time or at least getting to know more about the issues.”
YHHAP is based out of Dwight Hall and was founded almost 50 years ago, according to the group’s website. The organization uses three tools to address its twin goals of reducing homelessness and food insecurity in the Elm City: direct service, community involvement and advocacy. YHHAP acts an umbrella organization for its 11 constituent projects including the Elm City Echo, the Yale Community Kitchen and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, for short.
According to Advocacy Chair Suzanne Brown ’22, YHHAP is trying to increase its advocacy efforts after an internal audit last year. She noted it is easier to give someone a meal or other one-time service than to work on issues that require more complex advocacy, such as housing. Most of the current YHHAP constituent programs consist of direct service to communities in need.
According to Krishnan, the meet-and-greet is an expansion of the first part of the festival from last autumn. YHHAP decided to cut out the performance half of the festival after feedback from participants indicated that the first half was more successful. Last year, YHHAP had a number of Yale student groups perform and sold $10 tickets. Proceeds went to Martha’s Place, a women’s shelter in New Haven. The performance portion of the event was logistically challenging for YHHAP’s board, according to Krishnan.
“It’s just nice to connect people to opportunities that they don’t necessarily know exist,” Brown told the News. “There are a lot of good-willed people on this campus that truly do want to do nonprofit work. I just think it’s usually approached through the wrong lens of ‘I have an idea of what I want to do so I’m going to do it,’ rather than how can I actually help what needs to be aided. I think whenever you can bridge that gap, it’s a really good opportunity for good things to happen.”
New at this year’s event is a passport that students can complete to redeem for a prize if they get it stamped at each of the participating groups’ tables. There will also be music, coffee and free food for students that stop by. According to Brown, YHHAP is attempting to make the event more appealing to passersby.
“We are trying to do more, not just recruiting for counselors, but also just looking for Yale students who are interested in volunteering in more one-time capacities or at lesser frequency than counselors,” Abdul-Razak Zachariah ’17, Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership (LEAP) Inc.’s manager of Counselor Development, told the News.
In addition to LEAP, other New Haven nonprofits that will be in attendance include Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, Amistad Catholic Worker, Fellowship Place, and Mothers and Others for Justice. The Yale student groups in attendance will be Y2Y New Haven, No Closed Doors, YHHAP Fast and Elm City Echo. Both Brown and Krishnan emphasized the variety of groups that will be showcased at the event. The meet and greet format also gives staff from different Elm City nonprofit organizations an opportunity to interact and share ideas.
“We already have some people that come to meetings, but we always need research. We always need people who can do social media,” said Merryl Eaton, director of Advocacy and Education for Mothers and Others, describing how her organization works with Yalies.
The Meet and Greet will occur on Cross Campus from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
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