A day on, not a day off. Seriously.

12 Jan

For those of you who don’t have to work next Monday,  January 19th, because it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, please consider participating in a volunteer project on that day. Since 1994 the day has officially been recognized by the United States Congress as a national day of service, so y’all better cowboy up.

I tend to be wary of one-day service projects. In my experience, which includes two years worth of well-intentioned AmeriCorps-led projects, they are often thrown together, and are more about creating a quick, visible change, rather than something lasting or even particularly necessary.

So, as you’re looking for the right project (I recommend looking here or here), you might consider asking these questions:

  • Was the community involved in evaluating the necessity of this project? Is it fulfilling a critical need?
  • Is this project sustainable? Will its effects be felt beyond this day?
  • Is the community affected involved in the planning and execution of the project? If you’re painting a mural at a school, are the students going to be working along side you? If you’re planting a community garden, did the community ask for it? Do they have the resources to maintain it?
  • Is there an opportunity for you to contribute your skills or your passion? Is there an opportunity for you to learn?

If you can’t find an existing project you want to work on, you could always organize your own! My sister and her friend are testing their organizing skills by putting together a beach clean-up/canned food drive.

This is how I dressed every day for two years.

This is how I dressed every day for two years.


2 Responses to “A day on, not a day off. Seriously.”

  1. madds14 February 1, 2009 at 11:47 pm #


    My school is interested in doing a service day. What do you suggest we could do? How could we plan the event for about 300 students middle school aged students?


    • hannahkane February 2, 2009 at 5:14 pm #

      Great question, madds14. I could probably write a whole post on planning service projects for kids. I’d say the most important thing is to get the kids involved in the planning of it – honestly, that’s probably how they’ll learn the most anyway. Have them interview their family and neighbors to find out what projects are most needed in their community. 300 is a lot of people to occupy – if you can divide them into smaller groups, that would be ideal. Kids have a lot of skills – they can paint, garden, read, write, sing, etc. Ask they how they think they can best use those talents to benefit others. For ideas on how to connect service to academic curricula, check out Learn and Serve America’s National Service-Learning Clearinghouse.

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