New Persectives on Volunteerism

With the media’s recent portrayal of young people in the news, our generation seems marked with random and needless violence, with little to offer in the way of making positive changes in our world. I feel that we have been deemed Generation X undeservingly, though.

I would argue that there are many among us who make a valiant effort every day to make a difference. Unfortunately, those who lead the crusade to positively impact their communities, on any level, are not usually the ones to make the nightly news. I was proud to represent UCSD on a recent service project where I felt our campus exemplified the good our generation is capable of.

Last weekend, over 200 UCSD students from all five colleges devoted their Saturday to their surrounding community’s need. From cleaning up graffiti to helping to build the foundation for a home for the poor, Hands on San Diego organized 18 service programs for the students to choose from. It was an all-day event, and breakfast was offered to all the students before they departed for their programs, followed by a barbecue and music afterward.

The project was initiated 10 years ago by the Volunteer Connection under the guidance of Ellen Caprio and has grown progressively over the years.

“”Hands on San Diego was an effort created to give students a taste of volunteering,”” explained Chad Hicks-Beach of the Volunteer Connection.””It was also made to bring students together.””

The project seemed to attract students with varying backgrounds in volunteering, from the experienced to novices such as myself. That is truly what makes it such a worthwhile project, because by allowing students to “”test the waters”” if you will, they often become hooked, leading them to seek out other ways to get involved. Participating in the project certainly sparked my desire to seek out similar opportunities.

The spirit of volunteerism at UCSD is strong, though it may take a little effort to get involved. Often, projects like Hands on San Diego go unnoticed simply because publicity is difficult and expensive, or the administration fails to take notice of the projects.

A perfect example was the service trip to the Dominican Republic organized by C.O.R.E., Eleanor Roosevelt College’s community outreach program over spring break. A commendable project that took nine students and one administrator to the Hogar Escuela Armando Rosenburg orphanage of poverty-stricken Santo Domingo, it regrettably received very little universitywide attention.

In a small presentation for the Eleanor Roosevelt administration, the students were heralded as pioneers by the project’s coordinator Lorna Hirae-Reese. Indeed, this was the very first of this type of organized service trip to a foreign country with any UCSD students.

Such a monumental achievement should have received recognition from the entire university. This would have encouraged other students to participate in the next trip or even initiate and plan their own. Personally, hearing of this and other service projects is what led me to find other outlets to volunteer, as I am sure is the same for others.

While taking part in Hands on San Diego, I met many incredible people who strengthened my faith in my generation. They shared with me the good they see on a daily basis from the young people they encounter.

I was fortunate enough to help out on the Habitat for Humanity project, where I worked alongside the future owners of the houses we were building. Rudy Saldivar, one of the owners was a most deserving candidate, and could not have been more appreciative of our help. He shared with us the struggle it has been for him to support his six children while commuting every week from Fresno, Calif.,seeing his family only on weekends for the last four years.

Through meeting him and the others, our purpose became much more real to me and I felt like even my small contribution was valuable. Throughout the day, Saldivar and the other workers continually stopped to thank us for coming, remind us of how little it takes to make a difference, and that we are that difference.

So much of society today is unable to see what these workers and other volunteers at Habitat for Humanity see every day as a new group of young people appear on the construction site, ready and willing to do all they can. Instead, society is only assaulted with the negative influence Generation X is shown to have through the media.

Despite these inaccurate and damaging portrayals, I do see evidence of our generation fighting for change on this campus. UCSD has so many opportunities available for its students to get involved. One merely needs to make an effort to find where they are needed.

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