Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Berkeley Project

One of the (many many) things that's been keeping me busy lately is something called Berkeley Project. I've written about it before. It's a community service event, but with a flashmob-like twist. No, there's no surprise, and (usually) no dancing, but it does all happen on a single day. Well, to the public anyhow. Those behind the scenes work their fingers off setting this up.

Basically, what happens is that we get some 2000 volunteers to all come out on one day and go all over the city to various sites. They work with the city and members of the community to make things a little bit better. There's gardening/tree-planting/weeding in public areas, removing graffiti, painting murals, and even clearing trails up in the Berkeley Hills. Whatever the city needs.

Some criticize us. They can't deny that we get a lot of personpower to get projects done that might otherwise be difficult, but they argue that it's only one day. However much you do in 1 day, there's still at least 364 more every year.

But we're pretty upfront about that. The goal isn't to get people into long-term volunteer positions. The goal is to draw attention to volunteering, to get people to volunteer who might not otherwise have the time or the desire. Maybe they'll find they like it and pursue the interest. Maybe not.

As I see it, though, the biggest thing is just to get Berkeley students more involved in the community. Even those living far from campus spend a lot of time in the company of other students and little with other community members. Berkeley Project Day leads to interaction between these two groups that don't usually intermingle. It gets students to notice that there are other people in the city besides themselves, and that even some of those who are not homeless and out on the street have poor living conditions. Getting people to venture outside their normal lives and into those of others is, I think, a project worth working for.

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