Social Activism and Volunteerism. Guest Post: Mariam Yaldram, UMBC History Student

Mariam Yaldram, UMBC History Student at USG

Have you ever wondered what social justice is all about? What comes to your mind when you hear these words. In this time of age, more than ever, we need social activists and more volunteers. You hear it on the news—activists protesting about social justice such as institutional racism, health care, and low-income. And you say, “So what” and “why bother,” “it’s not like I will make a difference.” But certainly you can make a difference in yourself and someone else’s life. Thus, social justice is important for us because “It informs all that the basic human needs of the poor matter less, and it therefore fails to display concern for all community members. Social justice therefore requires action to preserve human dignity for all, particularly those who suffer from systematic disadvantage.” You should also care because it feels good when you help someone who is struggling. I care about social justice because I want my fellow human beings to have equality and dignity. Furthermore, according to Manish Gaur, explains the importance of social justice. For example, he argues that, “Equal human rights; fairness, equal treatment, and equal opportunities to obtain jobs, healthcare, and the like. While society tries to focus on their “rights” of all humans, it’s an evident fact that, unfortunately, equality doesn’t come for all. When it comes to human equality, some situations and circumstances prevent us as humans from experiencing equal treatment within our current society. The categories of religion, race, and gender (to mention a few) are where we typically tend to see the social injustice that keeps us from living in a society where all humans are treated and deemed as equals. From healthcare to education and employment, here are a few reasons why working toward obtaining social justice is essential in our society.”

What can you do to actively fight for social justice? The answer lies in volunteerism. You not only participate in hands-on activities but you learn about social justices and its practices. For example, I had the privilege of participating in Habitat for Humanity with Montgomery College and learned about homelessness and environmental disasters. Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity was a great experience, not only did I make friends, I learned to build houses, how to use construction tools and meet with families whose houses were destroyed by disasters. Another volunteerism that I participated in and was meaningful to me was volunteering at the Steinbruck Center in D.C. This organization works with the homeless population in D.C. specifically women and helps them with rehabilitation. From this I learned about social justice issues such as gentrification and institutional racism. Both these experiences at Montgomery College were pathways for me to learn about social justice and volunteerism.

But as a UMBC student at the Universities at Shady Grove student, you too can learn about social justice and volunteerism. For example, there is a series titled, “Diversity Learning Series” which is a workshop and activity based series where students will have the opportunity to make new friends, share their thoughts, discuss social justice issues, think critically about their social identities, diversity, equity and inclusion, engage in fun activities and learn new skills. I have attended this series for over two years now and I have learned a lot from it. I learned to be out of my comfort zone, to challenge my bias and stereotypes as well as reflect on my own thoughts and thinking. Though the deadline for the series ended, you can still participate in social justice and volunteerism by creating your own club or organization that reflects social justice issues. You can also volunteer your time with Center for Student Engagement and Financial Resources (CSEF).

Here are some social justice organization you can volunteer at:

  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Council of America-Islamic Relations
  • United We Dream
  • Big Brother Big Sister

These are just some of the organizations you can volunteer for. But you can also volunteer at your local chapter and find local organizations that participate in social justice. You can also contact your main campus for volunteer activities. For example, I am a UMBC student and my contact for volunteer opportunities will be at the Shriver center.

If you know a good organization for volunteering in social justice issues, please email me at mariam8@umbc.edu. I would love to hear from my fellow peers. 

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