Junior Dilshad Dinshaw watches his computer sitting on the floor of the District House basement dance studio every Friday waiting for his class of local elementary school students to log on for their weekly dance lessons.
Dinshaw is the director of Creative Movement with Balance, the volunteer program that provides free dance lessons to elementary school students in the district, through GW Balance, a student dance organization. She said teaching dance, working with kids, and keeping them engaged on a screen has been a challenge while streaming the Omicron variant.
It has certainly been harder during COVID-19 to run the organization,” she said in an email. “Trying to keep in touch with primary students, parents and staff became extremely difficult without any in-person interaction. Students found it difficult to pay attention to class on Zoom, and it was harder to attract as many of GW Balance members to help teach the classes.
Dinshaw is one of half a dozen students who said they struggled to stay connected with the district community through volunteer work this year after much of their previous work relied on face-to-face interactions. and face-to-face relationships. Members of GW Service organizations said they are still trying to supplement in-person service opportunities, but transitioned to a hybrid method of volunteering this year in an effort to continue serving the district community.
Amy Cohen, executive director of the Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, said students who sign up to volunteer for a day at the center should look to virtual service opportunities, and the Nashman Center has established partnerships with the National Archives. , the Smithsonian Transcription Center, where volunteers transcribe historical documents and biodiversity data, and Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop, an organization that shares poetry and fosters a sense of community among incarcerated people.
Many other partners have also turned to online opportunities,” she said in an email. “We asked the community organizations we work with how GW could help them fulfill their mission.”
She said the Nashman Center has provided material needs such as coats and gloves for the first time to families who have been left without work. She said many of the volunteer courses offered this summer and fall focused on more capacity-building work, including research support, evaluation and new program guides or volunteer management.
All the organizations we work with follow the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] DC health guidelines and guidelines to limit the spread of the coronavirus,” she said. “Many child care centers and nonprofits have limited the number of students in the classroom at any given time. At the Nashman Center, we also follow the advice of GW and DC.
Senior Leila Wynnyckyj — the GW chapter president of Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity — said the organization can still achieve in-person service opportunities despite the recent spread of the Omicron variant, including trips to Charlie’s Place, a shelter for people experiencing homelessness located in Kalorama Heights.
We go there almost every day of the week and help them with breakfast, lunch preparation and stuff like that,” she said. “We also maintained our partnership on COVID.”
She said the organization has also turned to virtual volunteer opportunities, such as transcribing historical documents for the National Archives and the Smithsonian Institution. She said the chapter also worked with the Free Minds Book Club and Writers’ Workshop this year.
Maddie Billet, a second-year political science and environmental studies student, said she volunteers with GW Compost and found community service work through her service sorority, Epsilon Sigma Alpha. She said her sorority reduced its required hours of service from 12 to nine hours a week due to the lack of volunteer opportunities available due to the pandemic.
We usually have lots of in-person service opportunities, but the Community Services Chair just can’t find a lot that we’re still doing in-person given the coronavirus,” she said.
She said the organization has stopped volunteering with St. Mary’s Court, a safe housing option for older people and people with disabilities in Foggy Bottom, due to the population facing a high risk of developing severe coronavirus symptoms.
I think with the recent surge, hopefully things will open up again,” she said. “But I especially love working with St. Mary’s nursing home, and it really sucks that we can’t go there in person.”
She said the organization has begun hosting campus clean-ups, where volunteers pick up trash all over campus during the semester to try to provide a form of in-person volunteer work that doesn’t involve face-to-face interaction. person to person.
Anna D’Amico, senior educator and pledge educator for Alpha Phi Omega, said the organization has removed restrictions limiting student service to chapter-affiliated opportunities so they can perform any service independently. . She said the decision was made because the online service had made it difficult for students to connect with the local community.
We really wanted to make sure that now that we had bodies in the district, we were going to help them with their soup kitchen and their clothes closet and all that kind of stuff,” she said.
D’Amico said that now that the students are back in DC, the organization is trying to provide as many in-person volunteer opportunities as possible.
We also tried to be aware that not everyone was comfortable with in-person service, but ultimately we had a responsibility to serve our community to the best of our abilities” , she said.