Community Service Programs

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Service At Fairfield University

Campus Ministry offers an abundance of ways to get involved and give back. We look forward to matching you with the right service option for your interests!

“Fairfield University, founded by the Society of Jesus, is a coeducational institution of higher learning whose primary objectives are to develop the creative intellectual potential of its students and to foster in them ethical and religious values and a sense of social responsibility. Jesuit Education, which began in 1547, is committed today to the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement.” – Mission Statement, Fairfield University

As a Jesuit community, we believe that faith demands a commitment to the work of justice. This means confronting the structures of our world that perpetuate poverty and injustice. As the Jesuit order declared in 1975: “The mission of the Society of Jesus today is the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement.” This mission takes many forms, including works of service, justice, dialogue, and advocacy around the world.

The U.S. bishops refer to social justice as part of a larger umbrella of activities called social ministry. This broad term includes direct services that most Catholics would call charity: food pantries, clothing drives, and homeless shelters. Our faith calls us to respond immediately to the requests of individual families by providing them with the temporary assistance they need: a bag of groceries, a winter coat, or a place to sleep. But it is only one part of social ministry.

The other part is the social-justice side. This includes actions aimed at resolving the root causes of injustices. Here, the key question is, Why? Why can some people afford to buy food, clothing, and shelter, while others cannot? These questions should go deeper and challenge the ways in which we vote, shop, help and more. Our mission here is help build men and women with and for others.

Here are some ways you might choose to engage issues of injustice in the world around us:

KIDS
As the youngest and often most vulnerable members of society, working with children creates unique opportunities to see issues from their perspective. Children are keenly aware of discussions about bias, diversity, discrimination, and social justice and these conversations tend to happen formally in middle and high schools. Young children too have a keen awareness of and passion for fairness. They demand right over wrong, just over unjust. And they notice differences without apology or discomfort. Working with and on behalf of children who experience injustice in their homes, educational systems and more is a great way of working for a more just world. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Boys and Girls Club (two locations): Volunteers assist in many areas, such as homework help, arts and crafts, gym activities, or assisting with special programs. Weekend and evening opportunities are available including refereeing and coaching.
  • Big Brother/Big Sister: Volunteers spend quality time with a child and make a difference in the child’s life. “Bigs” and “Littles” come together for days of fun and games as well as weekly meetings at school.
  • Bryant School: Creative and enthusiastic bookworms needed! Have you always loved to read? Do you want to instill the same passion in the hearts of children? You will read with students and develop activities to facilitate discussion. We host a weekly book club, pencil pals program and monthly read aloud days.
  • Caroline House: Caroline House is a unique organization that teaches English as a second language to immigrant women. In order to attend English classes and “break the cycle,” daycare is provided for their children, ages 1-4. Volunteers assist the staff by reading, playing, and doing arts and crafts with the children and working with computers.
  • Discovery Museum: Volunteers educate, excite, and engage visitors in the exploration of science, technology, and ideas through interactive experiences that promote new insights. The Museum seeks to enhance public understanding of science and technology by providing instructive experience through participant interaction with hands-on physical science exhibits, Planetarium programs, the Challenger Learning Center and various educational programs.
  • McGivney Community Center: Volunteers work with children, ages 6-14, as tutors in the homework room, assistants in the arts and crafts room and computer room, or on the basketball court as coaches and teammates. There are also opportunities for greater involvement and leadership: start your own Friday program for the McGivney kids, incorporating your own gifts and talents (dance, theatre, chess, etc.).

ANIMALS

Social justice includes animal protection and acknowledging that our behavior affects animals matters both morally and politically.  Here are some ways to do that:  

  • PAWS (Pet and Animal Welfare Society): Volunteers socialize shelter animals by walking, playing, and spending time with them to show them unconditional love. You will also be involved in mobile clinic visits.
  • Hop Along Hollow: Volunteers socialize rescued rabbits by playing and spending time with them to show them unconditional love.
  • Equine Therapy: Volunteers work alongside physical and speech therapists to aid kids and disabled veterans in programs focused on health and learning.

VULNERABLE POPULATIONS

There are some in our communities who lack access to basic resources. These programs match students with members in these groups and aim to build friendships across perceived divides.  Here are some ways to do that:

  • Champions: Champions is a mentoring program for Bridgeport children, ages 6-13, who currently have one or even both parents incarcerated. The program is committed to enhancing the resiliency of children by providing supportive interactions through one-to-one mentoring. Mentors meet weekly with mentees during the child’s lunch hour.
  • Best Buddies: Best Buddies pairs college students with people who have mild to moderate intellectual disabilities to spend time together. Fairfield has an active chapter and hosts activities such as holiday parties, game nights, movie nights, field days, etc.
  • Adopt-a-Grandparent: Offer your talents, read a newspaper, play cards, do arts & crafts, polish nails, give rides to appointments or offer your attention and quiet conversation to seniors in assisted living here in Fairfield. Monthly technology workshops for seniors are also your companionship is invaluable!
  • Lifebridge Community Services: Working to inspire and empower people impacted by poverty through a range of complex social, economic, and financial issues, you can be a part of creating the meaningful change required for sustained, multi-dimensional support tailored to the diverse and complex needs of folks in Bridgeport. Volunteers are needed to sort and staff clothing banks, tutor, provide financial training, and help with food distribution.
  • Special Olympics: Working with a global movement of people creating a new world of inclusion and community, where every single person is accepted and welcomed, regardless of ability or disability. Be a part of making the world a better, healthier and more joyful place -- one athlete, one volunteer, one family member at a time.  In addition to helping athletes improve their performance and encourage the discipline they need to set goals and become community wellness leaders, you will be providing athletes with a mentor and a friend.
  • Woofgang & Co: Volunteers needed to help young people with disabilities in their business baking treats and creating blankets for pets. There are opportunities to work in the workshop and the storefront in downtown Fairfield.

REFUGEES

Welcoming the stranger is central to our work in the area of social justice. Locally, we work with the International Institute, a statewide nonprofit organization that assists refugees and immigrants resolve legal, economic, linguistic and social barriers so that they become self-sufficient, integrated and contributing members of the community. The Institute achieves this mission by providing a compassionate array of high-quality legal, social and educational programming and by promoting cross-cultural understanding and decent treatment for all. Here are some ways to do that:

  • CIRI (Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants): Volunteers are needed to be mentors or tutors who will be matched with arriving refugee clients. Visits to the office, the refugee homes and tutoring on campus.

FOOD INSECURITY

Food insecurity is a huge issue in our world and it disproportionately affects women and children. Researchers have found that African-Americans and Latinos are more likely than people of other ethnicities to live in areas where there is little to no access to the fresh fruits and vegetables that are necessary for a healthy diet, known as food deserts. Instead, people have no choice but to eat unhealthy animal products and convenience foods. In addition to lacking access to healthy foods, marginalized groups also have less access to health-care resources. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Bridgeport Rescue Mission: Bridgeport Rescue Mission is a Christian organization that provides shelter and addiction recovery programs for adults as well as running a soup kitchen and mobile soup kitchen serving thousands of meals to the community each month. Volunteers serve meals at the facility and then travel in the mobile soup kitchen to serve hot meals, give out clothing, and offer hospitality.
  • Connecticut Food Bank: Food justice is a hot issue. Get involved direct food distribution programs and by promoting public awareness about the problem of hunger. The Connecticut Food Bank is the largest centralized source of emergency food in Connecticut and last year distributed enough food to provide more than 19.2 million meals.
  • Prospect House: Prospect House is a homeless shelter in downtown Bridgeport. They offer emergency shelter, as well as meals and ongoing social services to clients. Volunteers plan a dinner menu for 60, shop for the ingredients, cook and serve the meal, and visit with residents.
  • Operation Hope: Volunteers provide non-perishable food and toiletry items to the needy in our community. The goal is to provide enough groceries for several days; nothing fancy, just wholesome food. Volunteers may plan food, toiletry or clothing drives, or raise money for items needed, and make deliveries once each month to the pantry/closet.
  • Black Rock Food Pantry: Volunteers help to stock and organize the pantry once a month as well as helping guests to shop during visits. This program serves local working families with small children who stretch their budgets to include rent and utilities and often lack resources for food. An annual cleanup and painting day is held in the spring.
  • Thomas Merton House & Family Center: The Merton Center serves breakfast and lunch on a daily basis to approximately 200 guests and provides a range of essential social support services. Volunteers help prepare and serve meals and clean up. There are also opportunities to facilitate the development of children through play at the Family Center. Most importantly, volunteers extend hospitality, friendship, and comfort to the guests.

HOUSING
Families in need of affordable housing live everywhere: small towns and villages, sprawling cities, your community. Housing need presents itself wherever people live and work, and it takes many forms and has far-reaching effects. While the vast majority of Americans feel stable and secure in their current situation, housing insecurity touches nearly half of adults at some point in their lives. A majority of Americans believe that it is challenging to find affordable quality housing in their communities and more than half of all adults say they have made at least one trade-off in order to cover their rent or mortgage. Such trade-offs may include taking second jobs, cutting back on health care and healthy food, and moving to less safe neighborhoods. Here is how you can help:

  • Habitat for Humanity: Join this global nonprofit housing organization working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in approximately 70 countries to ensure that everyone has a decent place to live. Volunteers help families build and improve places to call home because affordable housing plays a critical role in strong and stable communities. Volunteers raise awareness and help with build days on sites.
  • Habitat for Humanity Restore: Volunteer with these home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, building materials and more to the public at a fraction of the retail price. Proceeds are used to help build strength, stability, self-reliance and shelter in local communities and around the world. 

MORE! Have an idea for a new project? Want to brainstorm new approaches? Contact Katie Byrnes in Campus Ministry at kbyrnes@fairfield.edu or 203-254-4000 x2901.

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