In honor of civil rights advocate and leader Martin Luther King Jr., Emory’s King Week kicked off this week with Emory’s Day On, a day of volunteer work hosted by Volunteer Emory (VE).
On Monday morning students gathered at the Dobbs University Center (DUC) to travel to one of 12 non-profit service organizations across Atlanta, where they engaged in volunteer work from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
“The turnout this year was one of the strongest,” College senior and Director of Days of Service for VE Arianna Robbins said, noting the 405 students who participated this year.
From maintaining nature trails with the Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve, to helping the local nonprofit MedShare redistribute surplus medical supplies to underserved health care facilities around the world, students engaged in volunteer work and reflected upon the legacy of King and his spirit for social justice.
“King was an advocate for social justice and loved his community,” Robbins said. “He worked hard for the betterment of the environment. As Emory community members, we need to take action to address injustice.”
Michael Shutt, the interim director of Emory’s new Center for Diversity and Inclusion, opened Emory’s Day On.
“Our mission is to collaborate with agents of change for service and social justice,” Shutt said. “Everyone is great because everyone can serve.”
According to Robbins, Emory’s Day On was held in collaboration with Emory’s College Council and Emory Scholars. This year, Robbins said, VE worked to integrate the day of service with the needs of their community partners. This was achieved by organizing larger groups of students for community partners which needed more labor and dispatching smaller groups to assist with smaller projects.
Although the day of service lasted for two hours, Robbins believes the Day On was a significant experience for all volunteers.
“It is important to step away from the Emory bubble, both academically and socially,” Robbins explained. “We need to be grounded in where we live and address inequalities and injustices. Any length of service is valuable.”
College freshman Sarah Tran, who assisted by reorganizing shelves in the Youth Center at the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS), described her experience at Day On as valuable because of its personal significance.
“As my parents were immigrants, volunteering at this project hit close to home,” Tran said. “I’m now more aware that poverty among immigrants and refugees is a significant problem and am interested in doing more for the organization, especially because I live nearby.”
College freshman Robert Dicks, who volunteered with Park Pride to move rocks to clear a football field at the John A. White Park, described his experience as “enlightening.”
“It was meaningful to me because I learned to do small things without expecting anything in return,” Dicks said. “I learned it is possible to focus on something as simple as moving rocks — there’s nothing to it but just serving and helping out where you can.”
Students travelled in groups via buses and passenger vans to one of 12 locations. Among other activities, students performed service by cleaning houses for patients staying at the Atlanta Hospital Hospitality House, gardening at the Oakland Cemetery, assisting with landscaping and minor home repairs for Habitat for Humanity and performing maintenance work of buildings at the WonderRoot Community Art Center.
Aside from Emory’s Day On, VE’s Days of Service also hosts the Freshman Day of Service, which takes place in early Sept., and Emory Cares Day, which takes place in early Nov. According to Robbins, students can also get involved with over 20 weekly service trips and alternative breaks dedicated to volunteer work during the fall, spring and winter breaks as well as over the weekend.
VE is a student-run organization. According to Robbins, VE is looking to recruit new staff in March.
– By Emily Lim, Staff Writer