About the Initiative
According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey in 2016, only 25% of Americans take time to volunteer, and this number continues to decline.
To counteract this decline, GPH has launched the Change the Imbalance initiative to encourage our students, alumni, faculty, and staff to build upon research and advocacy by engaging directly with our community through volunteering time or donations. We want to encourage reform by acting on our beliefs.
We work in a field that is constantly advocating to improve the well-being of everyone, including marginalized communities. We do research to find out the root causes of public health problems; we give speeches, and inspire people with calls to action. However, more often than not our efforts stop there. To change the imbalance between the research and advocacy that we currently do, and the action that is easily overlooked in our busy lives, we must all step forward to take action for underprivileged people.
This can be done by working with an NGO to provide education classes on insurance; volunteering at social work offices; cooking or serving food at a homeless shelter; hosting cooking classes; recycling, and more. This is our chance to put our knowledge and skills as public health pioneers to work. We must stand up and act for those who can’t.
Facts Transitioning to Action
On any given night in the United States, more than half a million people are homeless. This number has been increasing since 2017 (it had been decreasing since 2010). Poor health and homelessness are linked. Health problems can cause a person’s homelessness as well as be exacerbated by it.
GPH student clubs Community Preparedness Response and Nutrition without Borders took action against homelessness by creating Nutrition and Preparedness (NAP) Sacks that contained travel-size first aid kits, clothing, food, and water. With the help of various donors they were able to double their collection and distribution goal by raising over $1000, creating about 200 "NAP" sacks, and distributing about 150 to those in need.
Justice for the Incarcerated
Education opportunities are the key to reducing crime. A common thread through the U.S. incarceration system is a widespread deficiency in inmate education.
Did you know that educating an inmate reduces their odds of reincarceration by 43%?
What can you do? Become a volunteer tutor with the @peteygreeneprogram.
For more information, visit their website at www.peteygreene.org/nyc.
Meet Dior Vargas, a current MPH student at GPH. Dior is a Latinx feminist mental health activist working to shine a light on the unmet mental health needs of communities of color.
She says, "We all have a stake in making mental health a frequent topic of discussion. One in four people lives with a mental health condition. This should matter to all of us." Even a change in language can help positively change the stigmas around mental health. According to ThriveNYC, it takes 3% of a population to effectively make change in the way that a community understands and reacts to mental illnesses.
That is why ThriveNYC aims to train 250,000 New Yorkers by 2020 in mental health first aid. They offer free courses on adult and child mental health every day in all five boroughs. Various forms of this initiative also exist throughout all 50 states and in over 20 countries! Mental health is complicated, but learning about it and the proper language is easy! Let's make mental health first aid as common as CPR.
One in eight Americans lacks reliable access to a sufficient
amount of affordable, nutritious food.
40% of NYC households lack the income needed to cover basic necessities like food, shelter, and childcare. That's over 2.5 million people, which is larger than the population of San Francisco, CA!
We encourage you to take part in helping to reduce hunger by volunteering with @cityharvestnyc! City Harvest is NYC's largest food rescue organization and feeds over 1.2 million New Yorkers each year. They deliver to hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens, and other community partners across all five boroughs. How? With the power of volunteers! If you would like to get involved visit their website at cityharvest.com/volunteer/volunteer.
The Opioid Epidemic
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an average of 115 people die each day from opioid-related overdose (HHS, 2018). Of that 115, four people die from a drug overdose each day in New York City alone (NYC DOHMH, 2018).
While we may not all be able to affect policy quite yet, we CAN be trained to use naloxone! YOU can save a life!
NYC DOHMH offers "Overdose Prevention and Reversal Training" courses twice a month where you can learn how to properly use naloxone. You will be given an Overdose Rescue Kit and become a certified opioid overdose responder.
Multiple Ways to Take Action
Meet iskwé, a musician and activist who came to talk at GPH! iskwé uses her music to bring attention to health and human rights issues within the Canadian Indigenous population.
She says, "As musicians, artists, or health practitioners, I really feel it's important to listen before speaking and to use the tools that we have to make change."
There are many different ways to take action and make change, one person and one community at a time. To hear more from iskwé, check out our interview with her in episode 36 of the I AM GPH podcast which is available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher Radio,and Google Play!
Below is a list of local organizations that offer opportunities for all to take action on the issues that matter most to them. Take a look and feel free to reach out to their points of contact to get involved. Please note that this list will continue to grow.
If you are not sure where you want to volunteer your time, you can find a variety of volunteer opportunities by registering to become a volunteer with New York Cares or using search tools provided by New York Service and Volunteer Match.
- Animal Haven
Animal Haven is a nonprofit organization that finds homes for abandoned cats and dogs throughout the Tri-State area, and provides behavior intervention when needed to improve chances of adoption. Volunteers are the backbone of their facility and aid their staff in daily operations including (but is not limited to) dog walking / feeding / handling, cat socializing / feeding / handling, cleaning animal areas and facility, bathing animals, greeting guests for special events, assisting potential adopters, and speaking to public about Animal Haven’s mission.
For more information on the organization and how to get involved click here.
- Be My Eyes
Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call. As a sighted volunteer you can help a blind or low-vision with anything from checking expiry dates, distinguishing colors, reading instructions or navigating new surroundings.
For more information visit the Be My Eyes website at www.bemyeyes.com/.
- Best Friends
Info: Best Friends Animal Society is on the ground in New York City, helping to save the lives of homeless pets and supporting other organizations in their efforts to make New York no-kill permanently. Sometimes, the best gift you can give to pets in need is your time. Best Friends-New York relays on dedicated volunteer to help Save Them All.
For more information on the organization visit their website at ny.bestfriends.org. If you would like to volunteer, click here to learn how you can get involved.
Bideawee’s mission is to be Greater New York’s leader in rescuing, caring for, and placing homeless cats and dogs with people who love them. Bideawee volunteers walk dogs, socialize with cats, attend events, help with administrative tasks, and participate in our pet therapy programs.
Click here to learn how to get involved.
- Big Reuse
NYC’s construction and demolition industry throws away nearly 7,000,000 tons of building materials annually! The Big Reuse strives to demonstrate environmentally friendly options for material diversion and hopefully inspire the city to require recycling and reuse for construction and demolition waste. Big Reuse offers extensive volunteer opportunities at our Reuse Center, compost drop-off sites, and our compost processing site.
For more information, visit their website at https://bigreuse.org/volunteer/.
- The Bowery Mission
The Bowery Mission is called to minister in New York City to men, women, and children caught in the cycles of poverty, hopelessness and dependencies of many kinds, and to see their lives transformed to hope, joy, lasting productivity and eternal life through the power of Jesus Christ. Without the help of our over 10,000 volunteers each year, The Bowery Mission simply could not meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness and hunger in New York City. It’s people like YOU who truly make their work possible!
If you are interested in volunteering, visit their website at https://www.bowery.org/get-involved/.
- City Harvest
City Harvest is New York City’s largest food rescue organization, helping to feed the more than 1.2 million New Yorkers who are struggling to put meals on their tables. They rescued 61 million pounds of food in 2018 and deliver it, free of charge, to hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens and other community partners across the five boroughs. Their programs help food-insecure New Yorkers access nutritious food that fits their needs and desires; increase our partners’ capacity; and strengthen the local food system, building a path to a food-secure future for all New Yorkers.
Click here for individual volunteer opportunities or visit their website for more information.
Citymeals on Wheels provides a continuous lifeline of nourishing meals and vital companionship to NYC’s homebound elderly neighbors. Volunteers are offered various ways to support Citymeals from delivering meals to their homebound elderly neighbors to enjoying a night on the town at one of Citymeals’ events.
Click here to learn how you can get involved.
- Coalition for Homeless
The Coalition for the Homeless has developed and implemented humane, cost-effective strategies to end mass homelessness in New York City. At the cornerstone of many of their programs, volunteers remain active in shelter monitoring, the Grand Central Food Program, and emergency drives such as the Back to School Project and Holiday Toy Drive.
Visit their website at http://www.coalitionforthehomeless.org/take-action/volunteer/ to learn more about how you can get involved.
Masbia Soup Kitchen Network's emergency food programs serve over 2 million meals a year in two main categories: hot, sit down dinners to clients at their restaurant like soup kitchens and emergency care packages with the equivalent of 9 meals worth of groceries for every member of the family. To continue to serve quality food to their clients, Masbia seeks donations and volunteers.
For more information click here to visit their website.
MADRE is an international women's human rights organization that partners with community-based women's groups worldwide facing war and disaster. Their mission is to advance women’s human rights by meeting urgent needs in communities and building lasting solutions to the crises women face including gender violence, climate change, and post-war survival.
MADRE is looking for support with written translations. If you speak Kurdish or Spanish, you can volunteer your time (from home or in-house). If you are interested, write MADRE at email@example.com or call them at (212) 627-0444.
- Partnership for the Homeless
The Partnership for the Homeless has always based its work on the belief that homelessness is an unacceptable and avoidable part of the urban landscape. Through services that include outreach into New York's most hard pressed communities, help with health and mental health issues, financial and nutritional counseling, connecting clients to other benefits, and employment and education assistance, the Partnership is helping thousands of New Yorkers improve their lives every year.
If you would like to inquire about volunteer opportunities, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website for more information.
- Petey Greene Program
The Petey Greene Program supplements education in correctional institutions by preparing volunteers, primarily college students, to provide free, quality tutoring and related programming to support the academic achievement of incarcerated people.
If you are interested in learning more about their volunteer opportunities and, if appropriate, applying to participate click here.