Community Service Board: Helping Others Help

Students interested in community service are now learning how to plan and administer some of the College's volunteer opportunities through the new student-directed Community Service Board. The board was organized through the Community Service Volunteer Program at Eliot House last spring by Jennifer Horton '99 and Catholic chaplain Mary Sue Callan-Farley.

"I got the idea for the board from attending a national student conference on colleges and community service," says Horton. "Mary Sue and I looked at models from other colleges and developed a concept that would work at Mount Holyoke."

According to Callan-Farley, "This year the board is learning the process of organizing community service projects in a sustainable way. Ultimately, we want to provide a framework in which students begin to seek community service work that is not primarily charity but that promotes mutual learning and social change."

The ten-member board has two responsibilities, logistics and projects. Board members are in charge of publicity, fundraising, and recruiting volunteers and organizing orientation/reflection activities for them. Other board members set up and manage projects. The current focus is on projects dealing with children's well-being, women's issues, the environment, hunger, housing/homelessness, and health care.

Mina Ohuchi '99, the board member in charge of hunger issues, just received tangible proof of the importance of her work: a $552 check from dining services for this year's Oxfam fast and banquet. Ohuchi has a strong background in social justice projects and served as the community service representative in her residence hall last year.

"My parents established Japan's chapter of the worldwide Hunger Project in 1977 and I started going to hunger conferences when I was twelve," Ohuchi said. "I like organizing people to make a difference. In high school in Japan, I organized a group for middle and high school students called Global Helpers to raise funds and promote awareness of global issues." Ohuchi has found that while many people want to help, it's hard for them to set up or connect with programs. "Having someone else to set it up for you, establishing set times and procedures, is key. It's nice to be able to provide the opportunity for others to do community service."

Horton feels that board service also hones career-related skills. "The experience is invaluable. I've made contacts in the community, had great leadership experience, and learned how to organize people. I'm definitely interested in nonprofit administration for the future."

Two board positions are currently open. Interested students should contact the Community Service Board at x2054 for more information or to apply.