Abilities: An individual with a disability, legally, is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. One in five Americans is living with a disability, forming the largest minority group in the country and in the world. FYSOP participants volunteer at a wide range of sites aimed at raising awareness and empowering those living with disabilities and their families. Organizations, including the Perkins School for the Blind, Charles River Center, and Strongwater Farm, advocate and promote independence in order to enrich the lives of the people they serve.
Animals: The Animals issue area seeks to support animals with the respect and proper treatment they deserve. This issue area will explore different aspects of animal rights and advocacy while performing service to improve the lives of animals. Volunteers will be challenged to consider the complexities of animal and human interactions. A few sites that volunteers may work with include The Humane League, farms, and a variety of animal shelters in the Greater Boston Area.
Children: This issue area advocates for children who face obstacles in their development so that they may lead happy and healthy lives. The Children issue area addresses many issues, including, but not limited to: bullying, health, education, child abuse, homelessness, and disabilities. During service, volunteers may participate in activities such as mentoring, helping, and playing with children, as well as doing indirect service, such as improving living conditions and prepping classrooms for the school year. Volunteers have worked with sites including: Salvation Army Day Care, Welcome Baby, Edison School, Cradles to Crayons, Ivy Street School, and more.
Elders: The elderly community has rich life experiences and insights that have the power to positively influence society, but this value is often undervalued and overlooked. The Elders issue area seeks to support and advocate for the rights of this entire community, including individuals who deal with memory loss, other medical ailments, and/or limiting socioeconomic factors. You will have the opportunity to learn about happy and healthy aging, general elderly care, elder abuse and neglect, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Volunteers will spend time at assisted living facilities and senior centers engaging in one-on-one interactions with elders and participating in activities such as lunch parties, dancing, and memory games. Previous sites include Little Sisters of the Poor, Compass on the Bay and Café Emmanuel, among others.
Environment: The Environment issue area’s aim is to keep the service closer to home in order to reduce our carbon footprint, familiarize volunteers with the area they will be going to school, and make it easier for students to return to sites where they have completed service. Previous sites include the Esplanade Association, The Food Project, Charles River Conservancy, City Growers, and Boston Nature Center. We strive to become a part of the change as Boston becomes a greener city – we want to get our hands dirty while making Boston a cleaner city.
Gender Focus: The Gender Focus issue area seeks to provide access to resources that help individuals critically understand the distinction between sex and gender and empower them with the knowledge to fight social inequities. This issue area focuses on dissecting the social construct of gender by looking at self-esteem, eating disorders, sexual assault, sexual orientation and other issues that face the population. In the past, volunteers have worked with Finex House, the Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association, and The Male Center.
Homelessness & Housing: Homelessness results from a multiplicity of factors that are often brought about by unintended consequences. Such factors may include, but are not limited to, mental illness, poverty, loss of income, returning from service, and physical disabilities. Volunteers will work alongside people who are displaced from their homes in order to better understand the root causes of homelessness and reduce the stigma associated with being homeless. Projects may include helping to paint low-income houses and community housing developments, work on a rehabilitative farm for adults, and personal visits with people who are displaced from their homes. In the past, volunteers have visited Rosie’s Place, the Massachusetts Soldier’s Home, and the Casa Nueva Vida Committee in Boston.
Human Rights: All individuals are entitled to the same set of basic human rights that allow for the full expression of human dignity. These rights are guaranteed for all humans without distinction. Volunteers will work with individuals and communities whose human rights have been infringed upon due to various circumstances. In the past, volunteers have worked with the Lutheran Social Services’ New Americans Program, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and several Massachusetts state prisons.
Hunger: The Hunger issue area seeks to end food insecurity by looking at all the divisions of the food system in a wholesome and interdependent way. Only by examining the complete journey of food from seed to fork, will we be able to identify the systemic causes of disparity. In turn, we hope to increase physical and economic access not just to food as a basic need, but food that is nutritious, safe, and culturally appropriate. In the past, volunteers have worked with The Food Project, ReVision Urban Farm, The Open Door Food Pantry, and The Greater Boston Food Bank.
Public Health Awareness: The scope of public health can range from helping communities access clean water in impoverished areas of the world or making the personal choice not to smoke. The First-Year Student Outreach Project approaches Public Health Awareness from three angles: prevention, protection, and education. Volunteers will address issues of environmental health, sexual health, mental health, physical health and public safety. Some examples of service sites include Community Servings, Food for Free Field of Greens, Playworks, IMEC, LARC Victory Programs, and Healthworks Community Fitness. Activities may include packaging and shipping medical supplies, working on farms, serving meals to members of the community, encouraging active lifestyles in women and children, and contributing to the AIDS Action Committee.
Urban Engagement: The Urban Engagement issue area seeks to improve society through encouraging close interaction with the surrounding urban environment. By engaging with people and getting to know the community, especially low-income neighborhoods, we build a better understanding of the importance of the past, how to improve in the present, and working towards a brighter future. Volunteers have worked with Spontaneous Celebrations, Jackson-Mann Elementary School, and the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House.