Dan Savage, American author, activist for the LGBTQ+ community and the voice behind Savage Love, recently posted a message to Instagram reminding the public that everyone appointed to Donald Trump’s cabinet so far has opposed LGBTQ+ rights, “just so there’s no confusion.”
It’s too easy to sit around feeling helpless right now, letting the dark cloud of anxiety regarding the future of America and its people make time stop. But the people need us. We need each other. We need to work together, to spread the message of inclusivity and take simple steps to make a positive change in somebody’s day. And if you’re not able to donate your money to worthwhile causes out there, there are still ways to get involved with local organizations that need volunteers and support, especially in a time where many of their missions are under fire by the president-elect and his team.
Volunteers for these organizations have a direct and positive impact on marginalized communities, and can assist families with legal issues and children of incarcerated parents. They can work on steps to spread anti-violence education and engender social change in their community. Last Saturday, history was made when the Army Corps of Engineers put a “temporary stop” on the building of the Dakota Access pipeline; it felt like the first good news of 2016. But more than that, it was proof that this stuff works.
Activism — whether through protests, ground relief, community engagement or otherwise — does work on a practical level, so long as we keep trying. In that spirit, here’s a roundup of local spots to volunteer your time, to work towards creating social awareness and change.
Arab-American Family Support Center
150 Court St. 3rd fl, Cobble Hill
Why it exists: Brooklyn has the third largest Arab population in America, and the Arab-American Family Support Center is a stronghold whose social services work to empower families new to the United States by creating positive growth in their youth, promoting civic participation and guaranteeing their well-being. Their programs are based on the foundation of strengthening the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian immigrant (AMEMSA) communities, while creating an open atmosphere of acceptance and appreciation for all nationalities and beliefs.
Why they need you: The AAFSC is dealing with one of the most challenging periods in their organization’s history as their communities. The AMEMSA communities of New York City are being increasingly subjected to a paralyzing climate of xenophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry since Trump was elected. Just six days after the election, the F.B.I reported a 6 percent rise in hate crimes fueled by attacks on muslims, which, has left them vulnerable, exposed and needing support.
The AAFSC serves over 6,000 low-income people each year through their six main programs: the Preventive Services Program, Adult Education and Literacy Program, Youth Program, Legal Services Program, Health Program and Anti-Violence Program.
AMEMSA communities depend on AAFSC’s critical support, safe space, and services. The organization wouldn’t be able to provide comfort to a community in need without the help of their supporters and volunteers.
What’s involved: If you’re more inclined to work with adults the Adult Education and Literacy Program is currently seeking volunteers where individuals can be a conversation partners for ESL students or volunteers can help students study for their citizenship exam. Both of these programs take place on weekdays from 9am-1pm. Otherwise, they are also looking for volunteers for their Youth Program where people can tutor children in the after school program. This takes place on weekdays from 3pm-6pm. Or during the weekend on Saturdays from 1pm-5pm, volunteers can work with youth participating in their Traditional Arts Program.
Center for Anti-violence Education
327 7th St., Park Slope
Why it exists: Since 1974, the Center for Anti-violence Education has been empowering people and communities affected by violence. The organization offers self-defense, violence prevention and martial arts classes for children, teens, women, LGBTQ+ individuals and more. Their goal is to break the cycles of violence in underserved communities while providing education, physical strength and leadership skills. Their classes always operate on a sliding-free scale and have free spaces open for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and childhood abuse.
Why they need you: They’re always looking for volunteers.
What’s involved: The CAE is currently looking for volunteers to help with outreach for classes and events which entails distributing flyers about upcoming classes and stuffing letters for program outreach. Volunteers skilled in light electrician work, site maintenance, database work and more are a great help to the organization as well.
76a 5th Ave., South Slope
Why it exists: The Imani House helps to rebuild communities and has been working with low-income youth, families and immigrants for over 25 years. The Brooklyn based nonprofit’s programs are set with the goal to empower individuals to take leadership in their lives as they focus on improving their communities as a whole.
Why they need you: The Imani House services over 20,000 people a year. They receive calls every day from adults who want to enhance their lives by taking first steps, which may be learning how to read or working towards a GED. Volunteers are currently needed for tutoring, GED, ESL and Adult Literacy.
What’s involved: Tutors will work with adults on reading, writing and learning how to speak English (past students of the Imani House have become GED graduates and are now in college).The Imani House is seeking tutors who are enthusiastic about helping adult learners reach their specific goals in literacy.They offer tutor training workshops in the Laubach Way of tutoring and certify after 25-50 hours of service. For the Adult Literacy Program, the organization asks that all volunteers be at least 21 years old. Contact Jackie Lowe at (347) 546-4939.
Red Hook Initiative
767 Hicks St., Red Hook
Why it exists: The Red Hook Initiative’s programs work to create social change to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
Why they need you: Be a part of the Red Hook community and the change. Their services in education, employment, health and community development strive to provide young people with a brighter outlook of the future so that they can have the confidence to pursue their dreams, live as independent adults and prosper within their communities.
What’s involved: In the past, Red Hook Initiative has had volunteers work as tutors, outreach workers and tech support. Individuals interested in learning how to get involved with RHI further can fill out a simple contact form on the organization’s Volunteer Opportunities page and they’ll be in touch with upcoming openings.
Brooklyn Community Pride Center
93 Montague St., Ste. 339, Brooklyn Heights
Why it exists: The Brooklyn Community Pride Center strives to be Brooklyn’s leading resource network of programs and services for the LGBTQ+ community.
Why they need you: From young to elderly folks, the organization provides a safe and neutral space for LGBTQ+ individuals seeking physical and mental health services and social support. The BCPC allows all people to be part of an active community that celebrates, heals, learns and creates together.
What’s involved: Currently, The BCPC is looking for program volunteers to help with operations and event support for their YouthPride (ages 12-24), ElderPRIDE (age 50+), and Transgender/Gender non-conforming (age 18+) programs. Volunteers work on planning, facilitating, supporting and evaluating programs. Individuals will be expected to attend a weekly team meeting, which is made up of other volunteers and program coordinators. Ideal candidates will have prior experience working with the LGBTQ+ population or in a relevant setting.
Why it exists: The Brooklyn Pride organization works to produce community events all year that memorialize, educate and celebrate the Stonewall Riots. Some of their events include, a Pride Fun Run, Multicultural Festival, Parade, and a Pride After Party. Their website is currently under construction.
Why they need you: The organization welcomes everyone who wants to volunteer. Their only request is that volunteers come with respect for the LGBTQ+ community.
What’s involved: They are looking for individuals to help with event set up, research, fundraising efforts and more.
Brooklyn for Peace
41 Schermerhorn St., Cobble Hill
Why it exists: The concept it so simple, eliminate war and the social injustices that are its causes and respond with peace. Brooklyn for Peace educates and informs the public on international and domestic issues. The organization works with the community to be a reliable source about issues of war and peace with the outlook of improving the world for generations to come.
Why they need you: BFP encourages people to participate in any capacity they can. There are a whopping seven committees and three task forces looking for volunteers at Brooklyn For Peace: Arts & Culture, Climate Action, Fundraising, Peace and Economic Justice, Israel-Palestine, Peace Fair, UNICEF, Anti-militarism, Darfur/ Africa, Diversity and Outreach
What’s involved: Attending educational forums, joining a working committee, writing letters, posting flyers for event promotion, making phone calls or staffing information tables for the organization at events and festivals. Office volunteers are also wanted in which case computer skills and that sort of thing would be useful to have. If you are interested in being a part of Brooklyn For Peace, they suggest you email them your information and specify any special interest or if you would like to help out in a general way and how you would like to volunteer.
Legal Information for Families Today
32 Court St., Ste. 1203, Cobble Hill
Why it exists: Before Legal Informations for Families Today was formed in 1996, there were very few sources of information and guidance for self-represented families in the Family Courts. While most New Yorkers in the Family Courts have no legal representation, LIFT provides access to legal information, “know your rights” publications, community and community education to these underrepresented families and children.
Why they need you: LIFT welcomes individuals of all ages and backgrounds to help them promote access to information and justice for children and families in this under resourced, overcrowded, complex world of the Family court.
What’s involved: Their volunteer opportunities include financial literacy workshop facilitators, mentoring, helping families in the NYC Family Courts, answering legal questions on LIFT’s hotline, language translation, helping on LIFT’s website, assisting with legal education workshops, and helping New Yorkers access justice in Brooklyn Criminal Court.
Some training is required for specific opportunities such as answering questions on LIFT’S Family Law Information Telephone and Email Hotlines.
Why it exists: 2,700,000 children in America have a parent in prison. 105,000 of these children live in New York State. Children of Promise’s main program is located in Bed-Stuy which, is a community that has one of the highest rates of incarceration in NYC. This organization works to embrace kids that have incarcerated parents and give them a chance. The organization serves more than 350 children through their programs.
Why they need you: Children of Promise is greatly impacted by the work of their volunteers. The organization encourages individuals to get involved in their mentoring, corporate services, after school groups and weekend tutoring opportunities.
What’s involved: Roles range from assisting children with their homework and developing a mentorship to sponsoring special experiences for students. Volunteer opportunities are available 6-days a week, Monday through Saturday. To become a part of Children of Promise, attend an orientation to learn more details about volunteer opportunities, fill out an enrollment form online and you’re ready to go.
Brooklyn Free Clinic
840 Lefferts Ave., Crown Heights
Why it exists: As the future of affordable healthcare in America begins to look even more grim, we need places and people involved in organizations like this one. Since 2006, The Brooklyn Free Clinic, a student run organization, has been providing free healthcare and access to a network of specialists, who have volunteered to treat their patients for free, to the uninsured people of Brooklyn.
Why they need you: BFC’s volunteers are made up of students and physicians from the SUNY Downstate College of Medicine, College of Health Related Professions, College of Nursing and School of Public Health. Also, know a doctor? Are you a doctor? BFC is always looking for new licensed physicians to donate any amount of their time to the organization.
What’s involved: Due to legal restrictions, BFC can only accept students of SUNY Downstate as volunteers right now, but they are working on ways to incorporate outside volunteers. And just FYI for those seeking care, appointments are available for uninsured patients at BFC every Wednesday from 5-7pm.
“The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day; a movement is only people moving,” said Gloria Steinem.
Ain’t that the truth.
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