Students Show Holiday Generosity

The efforts of various service projects on campus are diverse in their objectives but share the common trait of generosity. Students, staff and faculty are giving to the less fortunate within the UC Irvine community and elsewhere.
The Verano Holiday Project was started 15 years ago under the initiative of Kimberly Ayala, director of the Undeclared/Undecided Advising Program. The program helps graduate students with families during the holidays. UCI departments ‘adopt’ families residing in Verano Place by providing them gift certificates or household items that they need.
Norma Arevalo, assistant director of the Undeclared/Undecided Advising Program and co-chair of the Academic and Professional Women’s Committee of Community Service, expressed enthusiasm for the project.
‘A lot of the time, the holidays pose a challenge for some of our graduate students, especially those with families,’ Arevalo said. ‘If we can help, then we should. I’m glad that so many departments and staff are willing to share what they can.’
Every year, the program receives at least 20 Verano Place resident applicants. More than enough departments are able to meet the needs of these applicants.
‘I even had to call some departments this year to inform them that we could not pair them with a family to adopt,’ Arevalo said.
In the School of Social Sciences, Jeanett Castellanos, director of the Academic Resource Center, initiated a community service program that will help UCI students find volunteer service opportunities. For the first service project, the School of Social Sciences started with the Operation Christmas Child Project, which is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, a ministry of Franklin Graham.
‘[Students] fill shoeboxes with gifts for children [living] in war-torn or poverty stricken countries,’ said Andrew Gonzales, assistant director of the Social Sciences Academic Resource Center.
‘This project completely changes children’s lives in other parts of the world,’ Gonzales said. ‘It is incredible how one gift can make a world of difference to one child who has never received a gift.’
Gonzales emphasized what service projects offer to UCI students.
‘When these children see that people are willing to share with them, it can change their perspective,’ Gonzales said. ‘Our students have the opportunity to understand how community service can greatly impact the world around us.’
The Campuswide Honors Program also coordinated a service project called Texas Feed ‘Em, a poker tournament held at Arroyo Vista on Nov. 15. A donation of at least two canned goods allowed anyone to play. This year the event collected over 80 canned items that CHP donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County.
‘It allowed students to socialize and share in a common interest with their professors outside of class [while benefitting] the needy at the same time,’ said Emily Wong, a third-year biological sciences major who organized the event this year.
Vivian Au, a second-year psychology major, said that the service projects are not getting enough publicity.
‘I don’t think that the word gets out there,’ Au said. ‘Also, there’s a general sense of apathy at UCI.’
Leah Zaragoza, a second-year aerospace engineering major, thinks that UCI students need to do more charity work throughout the year.
‘I think community service is very important,’ Zaragoza said. ‘However, it strikes me that it is only during the holidays that we show [concern] for those who are hungry and in need. Poverty and hunger around the world is year-round.’