Students plan to give back to their community over spring break
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 11, 2013 15:03
Instead of kicking back to do nothing or traveling to other states or countries during spring break, some students will be working to improve the community through volunteering. UNO’s Seven Days of Service is a service and community engagement project lasting from March 16 to March 23. Not only does it help local non-profits organizations but it also teaches students about service projects.
“We find nonprofits that need help and students that want to help,” said Julie Smith, Seven Days of Service project coordinator and graduate student.
Seven Days of Service usually works with many non-profits partners such as Union for Contemporary Arts, local chapters of American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity, and Lauritzen Gardens. The project helps these non-profits do vital tasks such as fundraising and renovating. Each non-profit has to have an established need to be benefited by Seven Days. A couple of nonprofits have used Seven Days for many years, but there are always new companies needing assistance.
Over Seven Days of Service’s 11 years at UNO, it has provided approximately $1.1 million worth of assistance. Seven Days addresses the needs of the Omaha community partners to build and strengthen the metropolitan community. The project is open to participants of all ages and abilities. In the past, there has been a mix of UNO undergraduate and graduate students, K-12 students from metro-area schools and Omaha community members.
“Seven Days of Service is an important link between UNO and the community,” said Kathe Oleson Lyons, director of UNO’s Office of Community Leadership and Service. “These students give up their spring break to benefit the community.”
A typical day of volunteering starts at 8:30 a.m. at the Milo Bail Student Center. Volunteers are then shuttled to their specific organizations where they spend the morning working on service projects or other activities until lunch time. Projects continue until 3 p.m. For their service, volunteers will receive a free T-shirt and lunch for the day.
Projects students can assist with include the demolition of existing structures, building community gardens, landscaping and beautifying the grounds of local nonprofits, sorting and organizing donations, serving meals to the area’s homeless in the metro area, painting the interiors and exteriors of buildings and homes, conservation of area parks or gardens or preparing for auctions.
Many international students participate each year. Smith said one student who volunteered several years ago liked the project so much that she returns every year and serves in other UNO service projects. The student, a native of Zambia, now wants to start a program similar to Seven Days in her home country. Smith said the impact of Seven Days is it has spurred people to start service project in other countries.
Seven Days of Service started in 2003 when seven UNO students chose to spend their spring break repairing houses for low-income families. Since then it has spawned many other service days throughout the year such as Global Youth Service Day, Three Days of Service and Make a Difference Day.