2015 Welcome Week Service Project

Incoming freshman Elsie Dowuona-Hammond arrived on campus a few days early this fall. While her future classmates were spending their last few days of summer vacation saying goodbye to friends and family and completing last minute back-to-school shopping, Dowuona-Hammond and 120 other new students were busy connecting to the greater Binghamton community and making a difference for local residents as participants in Binghamton University’s second annual Welcome Week Service Project.

Dowuona-Hammond and her classmates volunteered at seven sites in and around Binghamton, their service projects ranging from painting murals to preparing educational programs at museums to cleaning up and beautifying natural areas. Dowuona-Hammond’s group spent the first day with the Broome County Council of Churches’ Ramp It Up program, dismantling a wheelchair ramp at one location where it was no longer needed and rebuilding it at the home of a woman who did need it.

“The project was fun and I learned a lot about building,” says Dowuona-Hammond, “but the absolute best part was when we were introduced to the woman who we were building the ramp for, Mary. Seeing her face as she saw the ramp being built was so great. She expressed her gratitude and said that she had the luck of always encountering ‘good kids.’”

On the second day of the service project, Dowuona-Hammond and her group worked with the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW), where they passed out free food to community members experiencing food insecurity.

“When we announced that a lot of the food was free, people were so surprised and grateful. Unfortunately, many people have to wonder where their next meal is coming from and to hear that there is free food is such a relief. Since CHOW [distributes free food] often, I think the community feels more connected knowing that there is such support for them.

“Had it not been for [the Welcome Week Service Project], I may have only seen the ‘nice’ parts of Binghamton, but through this experience I got to see everything. Through all the people I met, both volunteers and community members, I was able to see how our service affected everybody. By experiencing this first hand, I felt as if I was a part of the community, despite only being there for a couple of days.”

Reflecting back to the first day of service building the wheelchair ramp, Dowuona-Hammond says she thinks her service was beneficial to everyone involved — the community, her fellow students and Binghamton University as an institution.

“Not only were we building a ramp, but to this woman we were the true representation of our generation. A generation that can be defined by service to the community sounds like an amazing generation to me, and I could tell it sounded great to Mary too. It felt great to be representing Binghamton University in such a positive way.”


5 Reasons to Volunteer this Summer

It gets you out of the house.

At school, you’re an independent adult out on your own—no parents looking over your shoulder, no siblings getting into your stuff. Transitioning back to the “child” role is stressful for everyone. So give yourself—and your family—a break and get out of the house for a few hours a week. Mom and Dad will be happy to hear you’re volunteering, and you’ll be happy to have some time to yourself!

It doesn’t have to be a soup kitchen. 

Soup kitchens and community meal programs are worthy recipients of your volunteer hours, but don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, too. Help a local Mom & Pop Shop improve their web presence; lead a craft or outdoor activity at a kids’ day camp; volunteer for a political campaign. The opportunities are endless, so get creative!

Beef up your resume.

So maybe you didn’t get the dream internship you were hoping for. You can still get valuable career experience through volunteering. Most small businesses or non-profit organizations will gladly accept free help, especially if it’s clear that you are passionate about what you’re doing and eager to contribute. And what better way to show future potential employers that you are proactive and a creative thinker?

Meet some new people.

Your friends from Bing aren’t around, and maybe your high school friends are busy with jobs and internships or you just haven’t kept in touch since graduation. Volunteering exposes you to new social circles, and often leads to strong friendships with likeminded people.

It’s good for you.

If the Yak game in your town is lame, your friends aren’t replying to your snaps, and you’re out of swipes on Tinder, then maybe it’s time to take a look around your community and find some ways to get involved. It’s been proven time and again that when people invest their own time, effort and resources into their community, the community blossoms, and so do all of those who live there.


Reflections on Peru--Accomplishments and Growth

Students in the Summer 2015 Local Development in the Andes service-learning class have returned from Cusco, Peru, after three weeks of service, learning and exploration. Here are some of their reflections on how they perceive their personal and academic growth, as well as the difficulty of returning to an American way of life:
"I felt that I was able to think critically about all of the NGOs that we worked with, the work we were doing, and our overall presence in Cuzco. I don't think that I would have had a very critical lens without my prior academic experience and it felt great to be able to engage outside of a classroom setting." - Karly Armstrong
"After completing this adventure I am excited and inspired to conquer more of my fears. Traveling to Peru as a whole is a great accomplishment for me because I have never been out of the country alone. This experience has made me confident enough to travel alone on my next service experience." - Charlecia Chung

"I wanted to make an impact when I went to Peru, not just be another tourist who came to visit from the United States, and I think I did just that. Because I was able to pick up some Quechua, engaged in conversations and was friendly, I formed a bond that Christina might remember for a long time, hopefully a lifetime." - Carolina Garcia

"The biggest challenge for me in Peru was trying to step outside of myself and understand how I was being perceived by others and whether I liked that perception. For the first time in a long time I had a chance to make the kind of impression I wanted on a group of people. I couldn't rely on their understanding of my past or personality, and so I had to instead focus on building relationships with people from the ground up." - Sarah Glose
"Originally, I was highly skeptical that such a short amount of time at three different locations could not making a lasting difference. I have now come to realize that while we might have physically changed few things such as painting shelves or walls, playing with the kids, or constructing tables, we have made a lasting impression emotionally on the people we interacted with. Our willingness as Americans, students, and young adults to visit people in very different situations from ourselves is a demonstration that stereotypes are not always true and that people do care and want to learn." - Bridget Kunz
"During my time in Peru, I was able to learn so much, from myself and also from the group.  Not only did the experience push me to explore more of Cuzco and what the city has to offer, but also it demonstrated to me that despite the language barrier I was faced with, simple words such as “Hello, How are you?” could open up a new day for me." - Helen Li
"In Peru I felt very connected to the culture and the people because I had similar features and spoke the language so I felt a sense of community with everyone around me. It felt very jarring to be back in Upstate NY were almost no one looked like me and I was once again a minority." - Diana Reyes 
"I am proud to have learned about public administration through graduate students pursuing a Masters in Public Administration; opening a world of understanding the role nonprofits have on communities and how local government works with these organizations." - Ally Sanchez
"I was also proud of my ability to remain culturally competent in a mature and tactful way when adapting to Peruvian culture.  Some villages had garbage uncollected and on the side of the roads.  This was typical for the area, but my reaction was internal and I was comfortable when assimilating to their daily practices." - Elizabeth Pisani-Woodruff
"Personally, I accomplished hiking Waynapicchu and conquering my fear of heights on the way down. That was the scariest moment of my entire life to this day; my body went into shock after I was back on flat ground and I couldn't stop shaking. The entire experience, as a whole, taught me not only about a new country, culture, and way of life, but it taught me a lot about myself." - Elizabeth Saturnino
"In the last six months or so there has been an enormous amount of media coverage on issues involving race and white privilege. Growing up in a more conservative and rural community I never truly saw what the issue was. Unfortunately it took me traveling to another country to open my eyes to the issues of race, but it’s better late than never. Experiencing the privilege I have in Peru because of my skin color gave me a new outlook on the race issues that are in the States." - Meredith Summers
"I am very proud of my ability to speak and understand the Spanish language enough to navigate through a foreign country. I am proud of the work I have done in the eight years that I have studied Spanish in the United States, and using those studies to communicate with people I otherwise would not have been able to communicate with." - Dina Truncali
"I feel as though I have learned much about local development in regards to factors such as funding for local programs, government relationships with NGOs, and cultural and economic impediments to local development. I can probably apply this knowledge to many other cases of local development with other organizations in other parts of the world." - Anton Vlahek
"By living with my classmates in the host family, I build friendship with my classmates as well. I think it is necessary to learn how to get along with people from different background—either Peruvians or Americans, and this study abroad program provides me this unique opportunity." - Jianhang Xiao
"Perhaps what I am proudest of when it comes to my own personal growth on the trip was learning how to be open to anything, something that I understand isn’t an easy task, especially when one grows up with a set of values or common practices they are so accustomed to that they never stop to think that others might not do things the same way." - David Zatyko