When Rosario Cano and fellow board members of the BU Alumni Club of Spain planned their participation in this year’s Global Days of Service, they had an eye toward their country’s financial woes. The country has been locked in a recession, with an unemployment rate above 26 percent.
“We decided we would focus on helping those who might be going through a tough time because of the economic situation,” says club president Cano (GSM’02), a sales and marketing professional from Zaragoza, Spain.
Alumni will conduct a book drive on April 20 for Librería Libros Libres, which accepts books donated by individuals, organizations, and companies and gives them away. On April 21, the volunteers will head to the bookstore with their haul and organize the titles.
“This organization has a mission that I found particularly attractive,” says Cano. “Their mission is to facilitate access to books to everyone interested, taking down the economic barriers that might be there. The books that might not be used by their owners can find a new one.”
Cano will be one of thousands of alumni, faculty, staff, and students taking part in BU’s fourth annual Global Days of Service, which will take place throughout April. Last year, more than 4,000 volunteers performed 25,897 hours of service in over 15 countries around the world.
This year, says Susan Richardson, director of alumni programs and events, the program has expanded from one day to the entire month to give more people an opportunity to join in. “Many organizations that we have wanted to partner with in the past do not have opportunities on Saturdays,” Richardson says. “We also heard from our alumni that they wanted to get involved, but had a conflict on the one day. And many organizations have a limited number of volunteers they can accommodate at one time, so some of our more popular sites were filling up, and volunteers were disappointed.”
There are plenty of opportunities for volunteers this year, from Boston to Shoreline, Ore., and Montreal, Canada, to Sydney, Australia. They will be cleaning up at Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo, sorting, inspecting, and packing food, beverages, and health products at the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s Product Rescue Center, packaging boxed meals for Stop Hunger Now South Africa, and helping to register patients, deliver medications, and perform other tasks at Bahria Town Hospital in Lahore, Pakistan.
Wrapping up the monthlong project is the Hubie Jones Lecture in Urban Health, on April 27. Physician Adewale Troutman, a human rights, health equity, and social justice activist and president of the American Public Health Association, will speak at 10 a.m. in the School of Management Auditorium, 595 Commonwealth Ave.
Like Cano, Maneechit Suwanasilapa of Bangkok, Thailand, chose to volunteer for a project that he believes serves a valuable need in his country: the Rajapruek Institute Foundation, a conservation and environmental organization that works to restore rain forests in Thailand and to instill environmental awareness in people. On April 7, his group will plant mangrove trees in a marshland about 50 miles from Bangkok.
“I chose this foundation because it has many good projects, which are completely suitable for the Global Days of Service: human life, well-being, and animal and environmental protection,” says Suwanasilapa (MET’97). “The mangrove forest conservation project is also one of their best projects. Mangroves are very important to the entire ecology system, providing habitats for animals and oxygen for humans.”
A week later and more than 8,000 miles away, Britt Hoglund of Long Beach, Calif., will also be outdoors, volunteering at the Newport Bay Conservancy, in Newport Beach, Calif. She hopes to be joined by at least 30 alums, who will help water plants, remove non-native plants, and clean up trash. “I love giving back to the community in ways that I normally would not,” says Hoglund (CGS’98, CAS’00), who volunteered at a rabbit rescue organization last year. “I like working together with fellow alumni for a great cause.”
On April 20, Melissa Hendershott of San Francisco, Calif., and other volunteers will help out at the San Francisco Food Bank, sorting and packing boxes of food for distribution. “I love working at the food bank, because you get to see at the end of the shift exactly how much you’ve accomplished,” says Hendershott (CAS’10). “It feels great to see 1,000 boxes of food ready to be distributed, or know that you’ve packed 500 pounds of rice for families in the area.”
This is the third year that Hendershott has participated in the Global Days of Service. “There are two aspects that appeal most to me,” she says. “One is that there are lots of BU-affiliated people—parents, alums, students—who all contribute across the world. I like the sense of community that creates, even if we are all working at disparate sites. The other piece I really enjoy is contributing to an organization that does really good work in the community.”
BU’s Global Days of Service takes place through April. Volunteers can find participating sites in their area here, register here, and log their hours here. Find information on the Hubie Jones Lecture in Urban Health here.