Sunday, May 1, 2011

Get Started!

In the Flash application project, I decided to do a quick overview to get started. Since S.E.R.V.E. Austin is a St. Edward’s program, I chose a background from the campus. There are different interactive components. The first button is the St. Edward’s logo. When you move the mouse over it a map pops-up so that anyone can know where to go if they decide to volunteer. If you click the button, it will give you information about where Campus Ministry is, so that you can look it up in the map, and the process you need to go through in order to become a volunteer. Once you click the HOME button, you go back to the beginning. Then, you can click the second button and it will give you a little overview of Casa Marianella, which is the site where I volunteer. Once again, if you click HOME you will go back to the original page. This Flash application was due with the idea of grabbing the student’s attention so that they can take a look at the other projects and learn more specifically about the sites and my own experience.

Find the perfect site for you!

S.E.R.V.E. Austin works with various organizations around Austin. In this map you will find the main seven sites that St. Edward’s University students attend, their location and a brief description of what volunteers do.
Students are required to assist to their sites through the whole semester and try to have perfect attendance. Each person chooses the site they want to be involved with for the semester and S.E.R.V.E. Austin leaders decide which organization would fit each volunteer better.
Looking at the map you will find a mark-up area in the St. Edward’s University campus that shows what is known as the “Campus Ministry area” between students. This area contains three main buildings. The first one is the Chapel, which offers daily mass as well as Sunday mass. Next to it is St. Joseph Hall, where the brothers of the Holy Cross accomplish their tasks. And third and last is the Mang House, where the Campus Ministry offices are located.
The Mang House is the meeting point for all the volunteers involved in a site. They all have to meet at the scheduled time in order to be picked up and transported to the site. Volunteers try to be on time. However, if an emergency occurs students are expected to notify their leaders before the meeting time.

View S.E.R.V.E. Austin Sites in a larger map

S.E.R.V.E. Austin programs start on Mondays with Casa Marianella, which is situated at the Northeast of St. Edward’s as the map shows. Volunteers help residents during the evening with different activities such as English classes or job applications.
Next, there is Sierra Ridge that has Mondays and Tuesdays as their volunteers’ days, and is the closest site to St. Edward’s campus. Volunteers stay there for the evening helping with the extended care for children.
American Youthworks volunteers also go on Tuesdays for the evening. This site is situated Southeast of St. Edward’s University. Here, younger students get help with homework and tutor for different classes.
On Wednesdays, Mary House Catholic Worker located Southwest of the University, receives volunteers from S.E.R.V.E. Austin who spend time with the residents and help with various house operations.
On the East side of Riverside, The Riverside Rehabilitation and Health Care Center welcomes Thursday evening volunteers who help the elderly with different tasks through the evening.
Last but not least, students also volunteer Thursdays at the River City Youth Foundation, which is located South of St. Edward’s University. In this site, volunteers work with students in after-school programs, where they tutor them, mentor them, or help them with any other issue.
The brief description of each site in the map also includes a link to the organization’s website where additional information can be found about the organization itself and other activities volunteers can get involved with aside of the S.E.R.V.E. Austin hours. Besides the link, the map also provides with some pictures of the sites that helps picture the environment of the organization the student might be interested in volunteer at.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Getting to know Casa Marianella

Casa Marianella opened its doors on January 6, 1986 by the Austin Interfaith Task Force for Central America in response to the large amount of refugees coming from Central America. The house is named after Marianella Garcia Villas, a human rights lawyer in El Salvador that was killed by the death squads in 1983, the day before she was going to meet with the Organizacion de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) to ask peace in her country, according to El Pais’ website.
Most of the residents come from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba and Nicaragua. Political refugees have priority when looking for shelter. Casa Marianella is located on Gunter Street in Austin, Tx and has a nightly occupancy of 21 to 30 people. However, often times this number can go as high as 50 people. The facility provides food, clothing, English classes, transportation to court, help to get documents in order and basic medical assistance, according to Casa Marianella’s website. Most of the things, such as the food, clean utensils, bath products, and clothes are donations from the neighborhood and Austin community, according to Casa Marianella’s newspaper.
This facility is composed of three houses all next to each other. The main house, which is still the original facility of Casa Marianella, has the rooms for the residents, an office, kitchen, backyard and garden houses where they keep clothes and utensils. The second house situated right in front of the main one is used for residents that need to stay longer periods of time, sometimes up to three years. The last house of Casa Marianella is used for the two ESL classes English I, and English II that are held Monday through Thursday, from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
St. Edward’s, Reflect, Volunteer Engage (S.E.R.V.E.) Austin project promotes serving the community, understanding local social justice issues and building relationships, according to St. Edward’s Website. Volunteers from St. Edward’s University involve in this program meet up every Monday at 5 p.m. in the Campus Ministry building located at St. Edward’s University campus, where they are picked up and taken to Casa Marianella. Once there, volunteers engage in different activities with the residents. There are activities inside the house such as helping with the dinner, watching television with the residents, working on job applications, researching for housing in the computer, cleaning the rooms and closets, one-on-one English classes or helping staff members with paper work for the residents. In addition, there are activities outside the house such as playing basketball, picking up the trash around the three houses, cleaning the backyard, and fixing things around the house.

Volunteers stay around Casa Marianella until 8 p.m. when they are picked up by Campus Ministry members and taken back to the University.
During the volunteer period through the semester, volunteers meet up couple of times with supervisors to talk about the different experiences and ways of improving our service. Every group in the S.E.R.V.E. Austin project has a leader, in this case Shirley Green is the leader for Casa Marianella, who is available for questions and support at all times and often times peep talks are held to reflect on the service giving to the community.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Welcome to my blog! My name is Beatriz Parres and I will be talking about being a volunteer and helping those in need. I am a sophomore at St. Edward’s University and I have been volunteering since I was in Middle School. I had the opportunity to help in elderly residences and day-events in Spain, which gave me another perspective regarding volunteering in other countries. Also, here in Austin, Texas, I have volunteered as a tutor for kids with learning and social problems during my senior year at high school with a program called PALS. I am always trying to be involved in one single day events like the Hunger Walk. During my freshman year in college I volunteered with Community in Schools at the Pebble Project program, which I loved! This program consisted on going into classes making small plays representing bulling, physical and sexual abuses, and taught the children how to respond to them and report them. However, this year I started to volunteer in Casa Marianella with a program at my university called S.E.R.V.E. Austin, where I help men and women refugees and immigrants to learn English, apply for jobs, cook, or simply make them some company.

PALS program with pal Francia

In this blog you will find information about local volunteering projects in small communities as well as around the world. If you think that it is time to get involved in the community, whether you are planning on doing it occasionally, temporarily, or for long periods of time, this is your place! Here you will find the sources and information you need to encourage yourself to help others and get started. If you want to start with small events and temporary volunteering, Capital Area Food Bank of Texas is the perfect site for you. Their mission is “to nourish hungry people and lead the community in ending hunger”. Their Website gives great information about volunteer work as well as different events you can get involved in that only last a day. This organization started in 1981 in Austin, Texas and was awarded recently with the Charity Navigator's highest rating.

Shirley helping in Casa Marianella's kitchen

 If your intention is to commit for a period of time you can try Community In Schools, which has great programs that can fit your schedule and desires.  This site has programs for long-term commitments, such as the type of volunteering that I did, and single day events throughout the year, where volunteers go to middle schools and help with set-ups and activities; whichever is more convenient for you. Also, you can make donations to these organizations if none of the programs fit your necessities. Both of these organizations, Capital Area Food Bank of Texas and Community in Schools participate with the AmeriCorps, which is a program from the Corporation for National and Community Service. This program is for a longer commitment to give back to the community.

For people who are looking for a longer commitment than a single day, Peace Corps is your choice. It started in 1960 with Senator John F. Kennedy and since then Peace Corps have served in 139 with more than 200,000 volunteers helping. This is one of the top volunteering organizations that can take you all around the world getting involved and living experiences you have never imagined.

Come visit!

This is the front view of Casa Marianella where I currently volunteer once a week.  Both, the volunteers I interact with and the residents (mostly men) I get involved with are great! It is a great experience where you get to help people while learning from them. Besides volunteering, Casa Marianella also welcomes donations such as food and clothes. Linked to Casa Marianella there is Posada Esperanza, which also in Austin but shelters women and children. Hope you can stop by and say hi sometime soon!