BU Today

Campus Life

Donate Your Time and Skills

BU’s Global Days of Service: volunteer opportunities from Boston to Tokyo


It’s not just your physical prowess that might be needed for the sixth annual Global Days of Service, but your smarts.

The monthlong event will bring together alumni, students, faculty, and staff for volunteer projects across the globe. Throughout April, participants can choose to give a couple of hours or a whole day in service of BU-organized projects. Some will require volunteers to get their hands dirty—cleaning parks and beaches or constructing a home for Habitat for Humanity—others to flex their gray matter, whether helping kids learn financial skills or supporting a prison book program. Language whizzes can join an alum’s ambitious project to translate a collection of kids’ books into every language spoken in the world.

“All our translations are donated by our amazing cadre of volunteers,” says Guy Chocensky (SED’77), founder of Children’s Books Online: the Rosetta Project. It aims to build an open access library of illustrated books. Volunteers don’t need any special equipment beyond a computer and language fluency.

Chocensky’s is one of many Global Days of Service projects that allow volunteers to go it alone; they can also log hours spent in existing volunteer commitments. (For those who don’t see a group project near them and don’t want to work independently, event organizers welcome suggestions.)

“One of our goals is to make volunteering in your community easy by providing the opportunity to join others in making a difference,” says Susan Richardson, director of alumni relations.

During the 2014 Global Days of Service, 2,887 volunteers joined 180 projects worldwide. Together, they contributed more than 22,900 hours.

“We have so many opportunities at sites throughout the United States and around the globe,” says Richardson. “There’s even a project working with endangered species such as tree frogs.”

Those registering to help the tree frogs should report to the Simón Bolívar Zoo in San José, Costa Rica, on April 18 (kids are welcome to join in, too—as they are at many other volunteer sites). Other far-flung projects include food preparation at a soup kitchen in Singapore and fundraising for Habitat for Humanity in Ireland. In Kyrgyzstan, volunteers will help restore the central park in the small town of Talas. The park reportedly suffered in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union and organizers hope to plant 1,000 trees to restore its charm.

In 2014, Lindsay Nicastro (CGS,’13, CAS’15) was studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, when she logged her volunteer hours.

Lindsay Nicastro (CGS’13, CAS’15) (center, back row) took part in an environmental cleanup project in Sydney, Australia as part of last year’s  Global Days of Service.  She was joined by Becky Brown (CAS’15, COM’15, back row left), and Daniel Zanetti and (front, left to right), Resa Williams (SHA’15), Katrina Strass (CAS’15), Roshni Patel (SHA’15, Questrom’15), and Austin Corbett (COM’14). The students were in the BU Study Abroad Sydney program. Photo courtesy of BU Study Abroad

Global Days of Service: BU Study Abroad students worked in an an environmental cleanup project in Sydney, Australia, last year: (back row, from left) Becky Brown (CAS’15, COM’15), Lindsay Nicastro (CGS’13, CAS’15), and Daniel Zanetti; (front row, from left) Resa Williams (SHA’15), Katrina Strass (CAS’15), Roshni Patel (SHA’15, Questrom’15), and Austin Corbett (COM’14). Photo courtesy of BU Study Abroad

“Our experience was part educational and part service,” says Nicastro. “Michael Mobbs, a sustainability coach, gave us a tour of his completely sustainable home and showed us how we can better our efforts in sustainability. Afterwards, he took us around the Sydney suburb of Chippendale to empty compost containers, clean up small neighborhood gardens, and pick up trash along the way.”

This year, students and alums in Sydney are volunteering at Legacy, a charity that aids families of incapacitated and deceased veterans.

Closer to home, Richardson is donating her time at the Wish Project in Lowell, Mass. There, she’ll help prepare furniture, clothing, and baby goods for 35,000 people in need in the commonwealth’s Merrimack Valley.

It’s one of more than 40 projects in the Greater Boston area. Opportunities near BU range from neighborhood cleanups in Allston to building birdhouses at an assisted living facility in South Boston. At Belle of the Ball, volunteers will help clean and distribute prom dresses to teens who would otherwise miss out on their school’s prom. The personal shoppers-for-a-day will manage dressing rooms and help high school juniors and seniors with fittings.

“I am always the most excited about the projects that bring alumni and students together,” says Richardson. “It’s rewarding to see them bond over BU while volunteering.”

Students taking part are asked to add their time to the Million Hours Project, a commitment made by students to complete one million hours of community service before the end of BU’s $1 billion fundraising campaign in 2017.

“I think Global Days of Service helps students explore or see other parts of Boston—it helps us get out of the BU bubble,” says Nicastro. In her freshman year, she volunteered in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood at Victory Programs, a health and housing nonprofit. “I was able to meet new students who also had a passion for service. For me, it grew my inner circle of friends.”

Nicastro now works as a program manager at the BU Community Service Center, which runs the annual Global Days of Service event with the BU Alumni Association, and is helping coordinate this year’s program.

“The spirit of BU is all about widening your view, trying new things, and being active,” she says. Her message to those on the fence about taking part is to “become a member of not only your BU community, but also the Boston community—you really get to see a difference being made.”

Global Days of Service takes place throughout April. Learn more and register here. 

Andrew Thurston can be reached at thurston@bu.edu.

+ Comments

Post Your Comment

(never shown)