Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 20, 2009: Beginnings

Welcome to the Urban Volunteer Post, the online blog of the Urban Volunteer Corps. The Urban Volunteer Corps is a St. Louis-based organization committed to reviving communities and fostering youth volunteering and academic accomplishment through innovative outreach programs. Our mission statement is simple: through helping America, we help the world, and through helping the world, we help America.

At our roots, right now, we are Sean Diller, Emily Camp, and Kami Narayan. I'm Kami Narayan, the more-or-less permanent blog writer. Sean and Emily and I met early this summer through our work with Grassroots Campaigns, Inc., a national, Boston-based, fund-raising organization involved in contract work with the League of Conservation Voters (aligned with my second-favorite magazine, Missouri Conservationist!), and Save the Children, a seventy-eight-year-old independent nonprofit relief organization working to help children in abject poverty in the United States and abroad.

Sean and Emily and I gained our experience in fund-raising and non-profit organizations the hard (but fun) way, running the St. Louis branch office, sending out canvassers, keeping meticulous records for our clients, and knocking on community doors in the peak of summer heat to raise money and awareness for poverty-stricken children from Mali to Mississippi. All three of us, to some degree, can say that it was one of the best jobs, if not the best, that we've ever had. But now we're hanging out our own shingle. We're starting our own non-profit. We're beyond excited about it, mostly because we really believe in it, and really think it's going to work. Here's what we're up to:

Urban Volunteer Corps is recruiting young adult community volunteers. Our volunteers commit to a six-month-long volunteer program, and there is tremendous flexibility: we maintain a list of accredited charities that we recommend, but our volunteers can recommend their own, or choose to work in a position that is not involved with an organized charity but does actively benefit the community in a way that the volunteer can demonstrate. The program is rigorous in its terms, demanding integrity and commitment, but deferent to academic and familial obligations, revolving around a schedule that our volunteer and his or her supervisor, or "volunteer sustainer," create and adhere to. Upon completion of this program, our volunteer will have shown us and his or her community a dedication to the improvement of self and others evidenced by attendance and hard work.

We believe this should be encouraged and rewarded. Our volunteer, now an associate of UVC, will be provided with a dual travel-scholarship opportunity consisting of an expenses-paid opportunity to travel and volunteer abroad, with additional grant money deposited into a post-secondary education scholarship.

So, at its core, UVC works like this: volunteer, travel, go to college. It's that simple. St. Louis communities, and brethren communities nationwide, are in grave need of dedicated activists among their own youth if they are to survive and recover. UVC believes in encouraging and rewarding the young men and women that are the linchpins of this recovery. That's our mission, simply put. Encourage and reward.

UVC is also pretty sweet in that it's non-sectarian and non-partisan. We're affiliated with no one but ourselves, so our only motives are our own. And in case you're reading this post, humbly titled "Beginnings," and don't personally know either Sean or Emily or me, you should know that we're about as different as three human beings can be. Sean and Emily are dedicated to both the American and international aspects of this project; I would not have committed to it had I not believed that its effect on American youth in particular would be substantial and beneficial. And we're going about our objectives in innovative and realistic ways. One of the things that's my favorite about our recruitment policy for volunteers is that no writing sample is necessary. Sometimes the most passionate community advocates, especially those from the demographic of "at-risk" youth, don't have a level of writing talent that's comparable with their speaking or outreach talent. UVC won't hold that against them. We just want to talk to them. And hire them. And watch them rebuild their own communities.

That's all for now (but there's plenty more to come),
Kami Narayan
The Urban Volunteer Post
Urban Volunteer Corps
St. Louis, MO

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