Volunteering with Doerbecher Children’s Hospital

By: Sara

Volunteering with Doernbecher Children’s Hospital has been so fun and rewarding. As a volunteer in Pediatric Oncology, my duties were to play with the children and help them to forget they were sick. Although at times there were sad moments, this was usually a very happy experience. The kids were so resilient and brave, and they loved to laugh more than anything, which always made me laugh. Having this experience has not only helped me to understand the great need there are for more volunteers in healthcare here, but it made me realize how much more there is a need everywhere. Of course, there is a great staff of doctors, physician assistants, nurses, etc. that are available to patients, but they are extremely busy taking care of patients most of the time. The jobs as a volunteer involve just keeping a patient company by coloring with them or even helping a mom out with bath time because it can be hard for one person, especially in a hospital bathroom. There was one patient who I would just pull around in a wagon for hours because that was the only thing that made him feel less pain while his mom could go sneak out for some food or a shower. I think that having volunteers in hospitals is so important to patient care because it’s not always a fun stay for them and their parents. I would like to continue this work in volunteering with kids at Doernbecher and eventually in underserved countries where they don’t have as many people to play with or access to better healthcare.


Fighting for Labor Rights

by Julia

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase in the news or maybe in reference to the Raise the Minimum Wage campaign.  In terms of labor rights for day laborers, it’s probably something most people don’t think about.

Day laborers are most often seen gathered in busy intersections of town, waiting for an opportunity to make a few bucks doing some construction, landscaping, roofing or painting. Many times they are immigrants, looking for a way to support themselves in a harsh system that lends no mercy.

On the other hand, some employers will put workers in unsafe work conditions, exploit them, or even withhold wages. Without the safety net of citizenship or employer accountability, workers have no recourse. In Portland, Oregon, one organization is fighting to protect day laborers’ rights. They are the VOZ Worker’s Rights Education Project.

VOZ opened their day labor center in 2008 to give workers a safe, protected place to be, provide fair, minimum wage requirements, support transparency in hiring, and provide accountability for employers. They provide leadership development for workers and offer classes in safety, health, workers’ rights, ESL and negotiating with employers. Volunteer lawyers help workers reclaim stolen wages. Through organizing, day laborers learn to solve their problems by communicating and creating solutions. Cultural expression is shared through events, celebrations, music, poetry, and sharing stories.  Reaching beyond, VOZ supports campaigns for Immigration Reform,Police-ICE Collaboration, and Private Prison Divestment.

A diverse and inspiring group of people make up the staff, volunteers, and dedicated day laborers at the MLK Workers’ Center. Together they work to create a better community through education and programs sustaining workers’ rights.  These issues need to be realized on an individual level in order to propel change on a societal level. In the words of Gloria Steinem, “Whenever one person stands up and says, ‘Wait a minute, this is wrong,’ it helps other people do the same.”

Oregon Food Bank Regular

Volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank is not only rewarding for the community but oneself as well. Coming here, I originally thought I would be just doing another assignment for my course at Portland State University. Frankly, it’s probably not the first choice for anyone who aims to make a social change, in fact, for anyone who needed the hours would probably be one of the few that shows up. I originally attended for the hours because it was difficult for me to work around my current work and class schedule. Little did I know I would end up loving volunteering here and found myself wanting to continue my volunteering.

Particularly, I participated in both the Gardening and Food Repackaging programs and fell in love volunteering there because of being able to work within a interactive community and slowly taking the first steps to making a social change. What I have done here, activities wise, may not seem like much to others but here at the Oregon Food Bank, every hand counts and that was a fact that I learned when I soon discovered how understaffed this organization was.
The Oregon Food Bank relies on volunteers to come in to help grow food in the garden (Fruits and veggies), package these food and distribute them to other organizations who will take the responsibility to give it to those who need it. To see and understand how the number of volunteers that come in greatly varied, I soon came to learn that the Oregon Food Bank couldn’t get much work done and tasks fall behind schedule. By this, I mean during my personal volunteering experience, it was to my knowledge that there were food left from months back to be repackage because there wasn’t enough volunteers to do so then.
Instead of coming here and volunteering, I wanted to do something more for the community and that included ways to bring the community in together. Find out what makes people want to come in to volunteer that’s not just for an assignment but for the better good. I actively encourage people to come back or ask friends to come volunteering with me when possible even to the point of coming in without being in a course requirement.
This class, although had focused solely on social change opened up opportunities for me to try new things, gave me the time, and gave me multiple paths to choose from. If anyone who likes to volunteer or be active in this community, this course is something I would recommend to anyone because it’s entirely flexible around your schedule, you can choose where to volunteer and when to volunteer, and it’s overall interactive both with the professor and class. You can get help from anyone, advice, and even ideas. This isn’t a class to get lecture about making a change, it’s a course that allows you to take that first step. This is how I felt when I first came into the course, choose my organization and began volunteering. Not only did I end up enjoying where I had chose, I ended up staying as a regular as well.

The Rosewood Initiative- The Dream Incubator


By: Vanessa

I walk into a section of a building that’s been turned into a space with computers, a café, front desk, and mini library expecting one experience and ending it with something different than what I expected. Ten weeks ago I started volunteering for an organization called the Rosewood Initiative which is located in on the 15th block area around the intersection of 162nd and Burnside. It was started by two cops who arrested the same people repeatedly and felt like they weren’t making a difference in the community so they created a space where residents could go and meet the cops and discuss issues with them. Things didn’t turn out like the cops had hoped. The cops partnered up with a PSU graduate who then took on the task of talking to the people and asking them what they wanted to see happening within the community space and what would actually help them.

Rosewood has become a space that is changing to meet the needs of the community which means that if residents need a place to look for employment the resources are there or if kids need a place to do homework the space is there. The residents are being provided with resources to make their dreams come true, they collaborate together and create music, art, etc. but mostly importantly they can think of what the future looks like for them outside of a neighborhood that’s filled with crime and poverty. The experience has taught me that we have something to learn from people who come from different walks of life even when we think we won’t learn anything.


IRCO-WIA Program

Immigrant & Refugee Community Organizing has taken a program called,WIA, to help immigrant/migrant students succeed post-secondary education. IRCO has made WIA available not only for immigrant students but all students who are in need. They have placed class in all counties in Oregon, so that it’s available for all and in close proximity. If these classes are still too far for students or they take public transit; WIA provides month long transit passes for free. They also pay students $10 per class for attending and participating. This program is a whole academic year long and assistance in secondary and postsecondary education. They focus on giving students information need for higher education but also give information to students who are planning to go work after high school. They teach them about; FAFSA, OSAC and different types of loans; they also teach them about; taxes, how to fill out resumes and cover letters, and what question to look out for during interviews. They build a foundation for these students to be successful and fill in blanks they may had during their high school education. They also provide these students a chance to get a job or internship in a field they are interested in; by a program called SummerWorks. The issue of language is still prominent in these students, so IRCO provides instructors and tutors that speak the same language as the students. These tutors not only provide information to students but their parents as well so that know what will be needed from them. WIA also closely works with participants school to get the full benefit for the students. Having not only the students and parents participation but the school; a system can be created to target these students needs and questions.

Immigrant parents engagement in School

Center for Intercultural Organizing (CIO) is a non-profit organization whose mission is making efforts to protect and expand immigrant and refugee rights through community education, civic engagement and policy advocacy, organizing and mobilization, and inter-generational leadership development [1]. BUILD leadership program is one of the educational programs of CIO which emphasizes the role of families to student success, and organizes leadership development workshops and conferences for parents of middle schoolers. The focused population of the BUILD program are people of color, immigrants and refugees, low-income families, and students who would be the first generation of their families attending college [2]. Unfortunately, there is an invalid belief among many of the school staff that immigrant families do not value education as much because they are not actively involved with their children’s school. However, research has shown that immigrant parents highly value education and hold high educational expectations for their children. Lack of formal education, not being familiar with the U.S. culture and school systems, low English language proficiency as well as time limitations due to work and family responsibilities are some common obstacles which prevent immigrant parents from establishing relationship with the school staff. In order to improve the situation it is necessary to educate both sides; school staff should learn and be mindful of the barriers and challenges that immigrant families are faced with as well as make efforts to create a welcoming school environment for diverse families for example by providing interpretation services. On the other hand, parents need to be educated about the U.S. school systems; they should recognize their significant role in the success of their children, they should feel that they can trust the school staff by sharing their concerns and thoughts about the education of their children [3]. More efforts need to be made by different organizations and individuals to strengthen the bonds of trust and collaboration among immigrant parents and school staff.


A Call For Action To End Mass Incarceration

By Megan

There is so much violence in the world; mass shootings are at an ever increasing rate in the US, politicians talk about making our country safe – but how do we do this? Terms such as “war on crime” and “get tough on crime” have been proposed decades ago. This sounds good, but what if this attitude has been detrimental in our nation’s progress and safety?

Is it time to end the war on crime? CBS News asks this question, stating that in the last 30 years incarceration has increased by 800%. We aren’t just seeing more incarcerations, but also children being tried as adults.

It’s time for us to take action and become aware of what is happening with our Justice System, and to reform the system so that it truly does stand for justice. It is time to help educate and help correct those caught in the mass incarceration cycle.

The Beat Within is an organization centered around encouraging education and expression form youth that are incarcerated. Part of their mission is “committing to being an effective bridge between youth who are locked up and the community that aims to support their progress towards a healthy, non-violent, and productive life.”

Let’s be a community that helps people toward health, non-violence, and a productive life instead of a country that stands for mass incarceration.

Children and Hunger

By: Natalie

According to the No Kid Hungry (NKH) Organization, one out of five children in America suffers from hunger. That amounts to nearly sixteen million kids within our own country that are not receiving the proper and adequate care they need. NKH also states that 67% of teachers see their students come to class hungry or without food. In a first world country, it is sometimes hard for us to believe that childhood hunger is still such as prominent issue. That being said, there are actions we can take within our own communities to reach out and help.

Organizations such as No Kid Hungry, and even our very own Oregon Food Bank are non-profits that strive towards giving back to those that may not be able to afford a means of effective nutrition. No Kid Hungry works with food-insecure families by providing summer nutrition plans, school breakfast, and SNAP.

Through my time working with the Oregon Food Bank (OFB), I have watched and operated with several different branches within the organization to provide meals for those less fortunate. While you may not get the first hand experience of handing a plate of food to a child or family in need, volunteering at the OFB provides several different ways to help the first step of food distribution. By working in the food re-pack room, perishables, or the learning garden, you are able to service people through growing, harvesting, and packaging healthy and nutritious food that will be distributed to programs that ensure meals to children and families so they do not go hungry.

There are plenty of steps we can take in order to work towards a hunger-free America. Whether it is nation-wide or within our own community. You can volunteer your time, donate money or food to your local canned-food drives, contact your state’s food bank, or even buy a hungry stranger a meal first hand. Hunger is preventable, and we can all be the change.