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Global Days of Service

Global Days of Service

Alumni clubs around the world celebrate Founders Day throughout the month of March with meaningful community service projects.

Two Alumni volunteers carrying leaves at a cleanup event

Alumni Club of Rhode Island members celebrate Founders Day with an India Point Park cleanup.

In March 1877—long before women gained the right to vote in the US—Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf and 34 additional members of the Rhode Island Women’s Centennial Commission founded RISD with a total of $1,675. Fittingly, the college’s anniversary falls during Women’s History Month. This March, RISD celebrated the 145th anniversary of its founding with service projects around the globe.

Alumni volunteers at Lakeview Pantry
Volunteers from the Alumni Club of Chicago at Lakeview Pantry.

“When I began my term as president of the RISD Alumni Association in July,” says Rex Wong BArch 03, “I shared my vision of activating our global community, highlighting the work of alumni volunteers who live outside of the US and connecting their efforts with RISD’s Alumni & Family Relations office whenever possible.”

“It makes me wonder if the founders could have imagined, back in 1877, the worldwide impact their gift would have.”

Rex Wong BArch 03

Wong is proud to report that RISD’s network of alumni groups has further expanded, with new international clubs recently launched in Canada and Italy. “It makes me wonder if the founders could have imagined, back in 1877, the worldwide impact their gift would have,” he says. “Today, the RISD alumni community is truly global.”

Within this global community, nine alumni clubs spanning from Boston to Beijing organized community service events throughout the month of March to honor Founders Day through RISD Global Days of Service.

Alumni volunteer at Lakeview Pantry

“There is power in shared experience,” says Christine Holtz 00 PH, chair of the Pittsburgh club. “We form connections and share interests.” Holtz joined with five other Pittsburgh-area alumni to collect donated art supplies for Pittsburgh Public Schools.

In New England, 12 RISD alumni revisited The National Braille Press in Boston, a nonprofit publisher for blind children. “The tactile aspect of the braille and this year’s vacuum-formed page illustrations were thought provoking and opened up a lot of conversation about ways of learning and teaching,” says Mindy Home 99 IL, chair of the Boston club.

“For creative people who went through rigorous visual training, interacting with the world in a nonvisual way is intriguing.”

Mindy Home 99 IL

This year, the Boston club put together a children’s book called Touch the Stars. “For creative people who went through rigorous visual training, interacting with the world in a nonvisual way is intriguing,” Home says. “How do you describe stars to someone who’s visually impaired?”

Alumni print children's books at the National Braille Press

A braille children's book made by alumni volunteers
Alumni Club of Boston volunteers at the National Braille Press help assemble a children's book called Touch the Stars.

Pittsburgh and Boston weren’t the only clubs to incorporate art into their days of service. The Club of Beijing hosted a mask-decorating workshop at the Roundabout Charity Fair, the first-ever charity store in mainland China, which now gives to over 80 charitable organizations in the Beijing area alone.

Waterfront cleanups were another popular theme among the alumni service events. The clubs of South Florida, San Francisco and Los Angeles hit the beaches in partnership with such groups as Sendit4theSea, a student-led organization focused on environmental education, and San Francisco Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit founded by a group of surfers to protect Malibu from overdevelopment and pollution. The Club of Rhode Island partnered with Friends of India Point Park, an organization that maintains and advocates for the 18-acre historical park on Narragansett Bay.

Alumni volunteers at an LA beach cleanup

Several bags of trash collected during a beach cleanup
Volunteers from the Alumni Clubs of Los Angeles, San Francisco and South Florida honored Founders Day with local beach cleanups.

Rounding out the month of service events, the Club of Chicago gathered at Lakeview Pantry, an area food bank, on two separate occasions to unload, sort and ship arriving donations. In early April, the Club of New York will visit Project Cicero for their yearly used-book drive, which processes over 150,000 books for under-resourced New York City public schools each year.

“I think sometimes you get caught up in work and life,” Home says. “Meeting up with fellow RISD folks creates a different kind of community. There is an instant connection you feel when you meet a fellow alum for the first time. It’s refreshing and fuels my creative side.”

—Isabel Roberts

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