What can a group of MIT students do together to galvanize community service initiatives? Well, when there's a challenge involved, much more than anyone expected.
This year, Greek and residence communities on campus have rallied their immediate community to help others in significant ways while strengthening community bonds within their fraternities, sororities, independent living groups and dorms (FSILG&D) in the inagural year of the FSILG&D Community Service Challenge, sponsored by the 484 Phi Alpha Foundation and the Undergraduate Association and organized by the MIT Public Service Center (PSC).
During the five-week challenge — from Feb. 28 through April 1 — students were challenged with identifying public needs, exploring opportunities and initiating relevant service projects. “Volunteering brings lots of people together and develops an altruistic attitude that improves the community," says Next House resident Antuan Weeks, an MIT freshman who, along with other residents, held benefits for the Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster, volunteered at animal shelters and at the MIT Relay for Life.
Brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) were motivated to participate in the challenge by their service chair, sophomore Scott Landers. “We took this as an opportunity to give other brothers the chance to experience service that they hadn't before,” Landers says. The Boston Museum of Science, Habitat for Humanity and Big Brothers Big Sisters have all benefited from SAE service.
The fraternity of Phi Delta Theta (Phi Delta) mobilized when the earthquake and tsunami disaster struck Japan. Three days after the earthquake, the brothers of Phi Delta hosted one of their largest fundraisers in recent years. Brothers collected donations at a booth in the student center. “We reached out to all of our friends and several local media outlets to educate people on the disaster and how donations can be a big help,” says sophomore Brian Bell, community service chair of the fraternity. With a grant from the PSC, Phi Delta raised more than $8,600 for Japan.
When Theta Delta Chi was looking for a cause that the brothers could unite around they found an answer in which they each had a personal stake. Their Resident Advisor suffers from a brain tumor and needs continuous chemotherapy. As well, the son of their chef had recently recovered from brain cancer. Ten brothers, with the support of a PSC grant, traveled to Camp Sunshine in Maine to volunteer with children who suffered from cancer.
Throughout the challenge, student team leaders of the participating FSILG&Ds encouraged and tracked the service involvement and philanthropic contributions of their team members. On Wednesday, April 20, these service activities will be judged and the team with the biggest community impact and student learning will be awarded the 2011 Service Cup. The winning team will be announced at a celebration dinner at 7:30 p.m. in Twenty Chimneys. The winners of the Service Cup will earn bragging rights as service leaders on campus, until next year when they’ll need to defend their title by again rallying their fellow students to engage in community service.
Additional reporting by sophomore Amanda David