Volunteering at Yale!

Luna and other volunteers posing with more than 100 containers of food at a Soup Kitchen

I have used these blogs as an opportunity to talk about myself and my experiences, and this blog is still going to have some of that. However, I find the most joy and meaning by participating in activities that do not center around me; I find this through volunteering. Community service allows me to contribute to a greater impact that takes precedence over my individual contribution. The sense of purpose cultivated from such action is welcome but remains secondary. What I’m trying to say is it’s good to do good!

Yale, in its position of power, luckily does offer many opportunities to volunteer in the community and give back to the city in which we reside. Volunteering opportunities on campus are largely facilitated through Dwight Hall, the oldest student-led university-affiliated service organization in the country. They sponsor several service-oriented clubs, as well as host their own events throughout the year and the city. My first time getting to volunteer on campus was through a Dwight Hall summer pre-orientation group known as FOCUS. Although all the pre-orientation programs are for incoming first years, FOCUS is the only group that also has a sophomore section, which I attended! My first year did not allow me to volunteer in a way that was not virtual, so this was a welcome opportunity to do community service work with fellow Yalies. 

Four individuals paving a driveway.
My FOCUS group paving a driveway at Columbus House!

In my week of FOCUS, we paved a driveway at a local homeless shelter, painted light posts throughout downtown New Haven for a city beautification group, and participated in a call bank action. In addition to the acts of service, the program also framed our work with societal causes for this work needing to be done. I appreciated this summer experience as it reframed my understanding of volunteer work, and the fact that several community service opportunities exist in the absence of larger needed change. I thoroughly enjoyed that week and look forward to seeing my FOCUS friends around campus. 

The following are some other Yale organizations I have experience volunteering with! 

I want to highlight Yale Alzheimer’s Buddies. Over the summer (the summer which you can read about in my previous blog post), my sublet roommate told me about this organization which she is heavily involved with. The group has young college students who go to nursing homes and talk to patients with memory loss disorders to improve their quality of life by forming connections to combat the isolation often felt by these residents in such facilities. It was warming to speak with elderly folks wanting to be heard, and although I have been slacking this semester, I hope to return soon and speak to the residents I spoke to before!

A blue bus that reads "Community Healthcare."
The Community Healthcare Van where I package healthcare items weekly.

Recently, I’ve been a weekly volunteer at the Yale Community Healthcare Van (CHCV) at their physical site by the School of Medicine. I have not yet had the pleasure of going on the van, but what I have done is spend an hour each week packing healthcare items to be distributed to people who come to the office or the van. 

Finally, this past week I marked volunteering at the Yale Community Kitchen (YCK) off my bucket list! This student-run soup kitchen takes surplus food from our dining halls and distributes it to those in need. I did not get to serve the food to members of the community; instead, I helped package the food and make sure each container had enough portions of food. It was nice to feed people in need of food and to give the food that otherwise would have been tossed out a new life. 

To my readers looking to find a community in community service here at Yale, you will be happy to know that it is here. I get that it can sometimes feel like there is no time for homework and extracurriculars and exam studying, let alone any time remaining to volunteer, and I find myself feeling this way too. What ultimately motivates me to get out of bed is the knowledge that every minute I spend giving back to the community contributes to another person’s hour being brighter and better.