As a volunteer and director of the PBHA South Boston Afterschool Program in the Condon Elementary School, Shalini Pammal ’13 has been collaborating with other Harvard students to devise a curriculum that will build the students’ confidence, improve their social skills, increase literacy, and instill a love for reading and the arts. The South Boston Program is an enjoyable outlet for creativity, growth, and learning while emphasizing meaningful academic and social support outside the regular classroom. However, it’s not all work and no play for the children. Besides helping students with homework, volunteers read books, play educational games, dole out stickers for good behavior, and simply have some fun on the playground with the children.
Through these positive interactions, tutoring, and encouragement, South Boston Afterschool Program volunteers hope to foster the next generation of academically confident and conscientious citizens, telling them to “never let go of their hopes and dreams.” It is with this refreshing vision in mind that Shalini and other PBHA volunteers approach their service and better the community every day.
What have you learned while volunteering?
I have discovered what a significant impact I can make in these children’s lives; however, I have also observed the enormity of the system that within which our small program is operating. I have become deeply connected to issues of social justice since working with my PBHA program and have become a more conscientious, thoughtful, and motivated volunteer because of this involvement. The personal responsibility I feel to dedicate my best effort to the mission of our program, to deliver valuable, high-quality service to our program constituents, has dramatically increased with my continued involvement.
What do volunteers gain from participation?
Volunteers gain a unique sense of ownership in the organization, a duty to affect meaningful change and build assets within communities near Harvard and in the Greater Boston area, and most importantly, the power to become a valued member of a rare team of activists, visionaries, dreamers, and believers all working toward similar goals. Volunteers also gain intangible qualities such as thoughtfulness, inquisitiveness, and meticulousness that will be carried with them in any endeavor they pursue in life.
Why do you recommend students participate in your program?
I recommend students participate in my program if they are looking for an incredible learning experience outside Harvard in the South Boston community. The sense of satisfaction that students can glean from their experiences volunteering with these children is immeasurable and the enthusiasm that accompanies this work naturally blossoms with each venture into South Boston and the Condon Elementary School. There are also tangible opportunities to rise as a leader in the organization to transform curriculum, partner with community members and work with teachers and faculty at the school to improve programming and continue offering quality access to academic support, enrichment and social growth for our children.