Volunteerism is an integral part of the Wellesley College campus culture. The College offers extensive volunteer opportunities through the Community Engagement branch of its Career Education Center in addition to being home to over a dozen service oriented student-led organizations.
Student-led service organizations necessitate a serious time commitment from members in order to be successful. Matilde Borio, copresident of the Blue Cancer Society, stressed the hours members dedicate to service.
“I think each member spends about 20-30 hours a semester volunteering,” Borio commented.
This effort is necessary for the organizations to be able to make substantive donations to their respective causes. However, due to both the rigor of academics and work-study commitments that command students’ attention, awareness of service organizations is often difficult to garner.
“It can also be hard to engage community members because of time commitment issues,” Borio added.
Mandeville commented that the Career Education Center is cognitive of the financial and logistical concerns that can prevent students from actively participating in volunteerism during the school year. Transportation is a major one of these concerns. Mandeville emphasized the Career Education Center’s desire to make these opportunities accessible for students, arguing that “in addition to the resources and programs described above, our office has a small fleet of vans that student organizations can use to travel to perform service. Distance can be one of the most significant hurdles for students who wish to perform service in the Boston area.”
Linda Zhou ’18 and Narih Lee ’18, directors of the Chinatown Afterschool Program, spoke to some of the difficulties they faced this year. Their frustrations mostly centered around the transportation and Federal Work Study (FWS) timesheets. The vans that typically brought the counselors to Boston and back were not approved by the start of the semester, which resulted in complications arising from a lack of direct transportation. Students on FWS also had difficulties accessing their timesheets, which apparently were not made available even at the end of October. As directors, Narih and Linda had to front some of their counselors’ transportation costs towards the beginning of the semester. As someone on FWS and a FWS coordinator, Linda expressed the difficulties of having to pay for transportation without an exact reimbursement date.
“We hope this petition will make the general student body more aware of the issues Service organizations face- -while this year is an anomaly of sorts, transportation and FWS have always been a struggle, but we need these to actually run our program,” Narih said.
Narih created a petition calling for action, and amassed over 350 signatures from the community. The petition has brought more of a response from the administration, but not without effort. Both Lee and Zhou assert, however, that the problem was with the inefficiencies of bureaucracy and not a lack of Community Engagement’s support.
“There’s not much money involved [in the program], but a whole lot of people invested. We need as much help as we can get and it shouldn’t depend on whether you “can afford to help” or not. As for Community Engagement, we’ve had a considerable increase in response from them since the petition. We’re hoping that we continue to get this kind of support consistently throughout the semesters and have a more permanent contact person at Community Engagement to raise our concerns,” Narih commented.
“Historically, our office has also convened a Community Engagement Student Advisory Council, where the leaders of student service organizations on campus can gather monthly to talk about their experiences, concerns and objectives. Our office has just hired a new Program Director for Community Engagement, who will continue to lead that group in the future,” Mandeville added.