BY MARIA KANSO, Staff Reporter
Within the crowd of students walking to class every day, there are those who suffer. From poverty to violence to feelings of discrimination, these issues lead students to call for a helping hand.
The CIViC (Community Involvement and Volunteerism Center) is a space that helps students get connected with their communities. It’s main purpose is to give them volunteer opportunities that involve them in solving crucial domestic and global issues.
“The major issue in Detroit is hunger,” said Melissa Booth, coordinator for Civic Engagement. “It’s over 20 percent of people in Wayne County who are food insecure, which means that they don’t have or make enough money every month to sustain a healthy, balanced diet. So hunger and poverty are two of the main social justice issues that we’re trying to address.”
Through the CIViC’s direct service, volunteers are able to battle certain issues in Detroit and its surrounding area. Some of these projects include helping at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen this December as well as a collaboration with Gleaner’s Food Bank in Detroit, which will take place in November.
The A-Okay Day of Service, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and Make a Difference Day of Service are other direct service programs hosted by the CIViC.
In addition to engaging in events within the metro Detroit area, the CIViC offers volunteers an opportunity to battle major social, economic and environmental issues in different areas within the United States and other countries.
Alternative Spring Break is a program that facilitates activism, learning, leadership, social bonding and a desire to make a change.
Two of the 2016 Alternative Spring Break Trips, Catalina Island (CA) and San Juan (Puerto Rico), address environmental issues. Volunteers will have the opportunity to work together on replanting and cleaning out brush.
Other trips tackle urban poverty, rural poverty, youth development and food insecurity in Cleveland (OH), Manistique (MI), Saint Louis (MO) and Sharpsburg (GA) respectively.
Through the food pantry, students donate money, non-perishable food, toiletry items and cleaning supplies to those going through economic difficulty.
Since its establishment in 2013, the food pantry has raised 3,500 pounds of food and toiletry items, in addition to a total amount of $3,000 through donations.
Latonya Austin, a 39-year-old behavioral science student at UM-Dearborn, lost her job last year. In a crucial need to feed her family, Austin utilized The CIViC’s Student Food Pantry program.
“Last year, my financial and emotional status were both at zero,” Austin said. “ I had lost my job, my home and my spirit. The confidentiality of the pantry was wonderful, although I was quite embarrassed to have to carry those bags, but it was necessary to feed my family. I value the help and the love I felt receiving it.”
The CIViC collaborates with many student organizations on campus and hosts several of their events.
An estimated 3,000-5,000 students volunteer every year through events hosted by the CIViC. Students sign up through Facebook, Instagram, and email.
“I think that sometimes students are discouraged [to volunteer] because it’s a student organization they don’t identify with,” said Booth.
Cofounder of the Social Justice League and a director of outreach for She’s the First, Fiana Arbab is an incredibly active student leader. She is currently involved in eight different student organizations and has a 4.0 GPA.
Arbab believes that civic engagement opportunities on campus helped her become the leader she is today.
“ I saw how good I was at being engaged and being an enabler, and I just wanted more and more,” Arbab said.
Arbab has volunteered for several events hosted by The CIViC, such as the Muslim Student Association’s Hijabi Monologues, the annual Fast-a-thon, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. She thinks that civic engagement changes people’s perspectives about different ideas and religions.
She said the CIViC helps annihilate stereotypes. For example, MSA’s annual Fast-a-thon gives non-Muslim students the opportunity to fast with Muslim students for one day, giving them a sense of understanding towards a religion that is not their own.
“There’s people out there doing things,” Arbab said. “All you have to do is take that step forward and do those things with them.”