First Link project Smith volunteers at Gardening the Community in September 2013
The CSO Contributor: Fall 2013
CSO Mission Statement 
Our mission is to support student engagement in meaningful community service work and leadership training that enhances the educational experience, meets community-identified needs, provides opportunities for reflection, models the development of effective, collaborative community partnerships with local nonprofit organizations and encourages a lifelong commitment to community engagement.
Long-Term Projects in this Issue: 
MA Fair Housing Center
Fit Together
Arise for Social Justice
Homework House
Kensington School
Drop by the Spring Community Service Fair in the Campus Center Carroll Room on February 5, 2014 from 4 to 5:30!
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Massachusetts Fair Housing Center (MFHC)   
MFHC accepts over 300 housing discrimination complaints per year, and has obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars for victims of housing discrimination. MFHC has also successfully advocated for affordable loan modifications allowing homeowners to remain in their home and avoid foreclosure. In addition to this legal work, MFHC provides extensive education and outreach services to community groups, service providers, landlords, realtors, newspapers and others. 


Excerpted from: MFHC


Arise for Social Justice Mission Statement
We're a Western MA low-income rights organization which believes we have the right to speak for ourselves. Our members are poor, homeless, at-risk, working, unemployed & people pushed to the side by society. We organize!-- voting rights, homelessness, housing, health care, criminal injustice & more!

"It can be hard to contextualize the theoretical knowledge we learn about in class. For me, working in Springfield is invaluable to my academic experience." -Lucinda Klarich-Kahn '15, on her work with Arise for Social Justice


Homework House

In the free program, there is one tutor for every two students in grades K-6.

"From learning the alphabet to spelling words or struggling with multiplication to being able to divide, each child who steps foot in Homework House becomes a better student." -Emily Boerger '15, on her work with Homework House

A Smith volunteer at Homework House plays a game with two young students in Holyoke.

Fall Blood Drive: Success! 

Our goal was to donate 128 units of blood (1 unit is about 1 pint), and we surpassed this goal with a total donation of 129 units over two days!

While about 38% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, less than 10% does each year. But one donation can help save the lives of up to three people! (Source:
Please join us in our Spring Blood Drive on February 25th from 11 to 5 and February 26th from 1 to 7!
Thank you to Audrey Nam (above right), the CSO Blood Drive Chair, for helping to make this blood drive so successful!
Meet the CSO Student Board!
Top row, from left: Tori Wolf '16, Emma Schlam '16, Alice Wang '15, Sibyl Brown '14
Bottom row, from left: Talia Abner '14, Kimberly Kupinski '15, Audrey Nam '15, Selina Lee '16
At Work for Legal Justice
by Christine Melhorn '14 and Lily Ritter '15
At Smith College, we're known for having the best housing out of any school in the country. This semester, though, we've been volunteering at the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center (MFHC) in
Holyoke, which has really opened our eyes to how lucky we are to have such a comfortable living situation.

Founded in 1989, MFHC provides free legal services to people living in western and central Massachusetts who feel that they have been discriminated against in terms of housing. Generally, people seeking such assistance have encountered discrimination either in their search for new housing or in their current housing situation due to their status as a member of a protected class such as race, gender, or receipt of public housing subsidies. MFHC pursues legal action on their behalf.

During our time interning thus far, we've gotten to help prepare a number of cases. Last week Christine interviewed a young single mother with three children who was a previous victim of domestic violence and attempting to be transferred from her current placement in public assistance housing. This woman has received threats from her former partner via voicemail, and described how scared she was for her children's lives.

Lily worked on a Civil Rights Complaint for the Attorney General on behalf of a tenant in Springfield whose landlord and neighbors were harassing him, vandalizing his property, and leaving him death threats because of his sexual orientation.

These situations have angered us over the flaws in our social system that have placed these people in these positions, and we have become much more aware of our own privilege. While interacting with these clients and working on these cases can be somewhat jarring, the ability to better understand the experiences of people with lives very different from our own is, in our view, a key characteristic of community service.
Further information: Massachusetts Fair Housing Center
Contact: Whitney Abel, (413) 539-9796 x107,
Getting Fit- Together!
by Kyle Gouchoe-Hanas '16


Fit Together is a wellness center located in Florence, Massachusetts, and is designed to help people with physical and emotional challenges. As a volunteer at Fit Together I worked with several clients including a young woman who required the use of a walker. I aided her as she used the weight and cardio machines and kept track of her reps and weight. This inspiring woman came with a goal to be able to walk only with a cane. In order to improve her stability she needed to improve her strength, and I watched as she worked with extreme determination, showing improvement every week. The Fit Together community is welcoming, friendly and supportive and my time there affirmed the notion that helping others is the best way to help yourself.


Further Information: Fit Together (ServiceNet)

Contact: Kate Moeschler, (413) 584-1508,

Life Cycles: A Catch-22
by Lucinda Klarich-Kahn '15

I had been working at Arise for Social Justice for almost exactly a year. Arise is a nonprofit economic justice organization in Springfield directed by two sisters who are both outstanding community activists, Michaelann and Liz Bewsee. It was my first time returning this school year. I hugged all of the staff in greeting, I chatted and helped them organize colored folders containing archival material: newsletters, pamphlets, and fliers for various events (a new improvement since my last visit.) On my way out, I'm stopped by a man at one of the public access computers. He needs help logging in. He complains a bit as I log him in onto the desktop. He feels sick. Yes, yes, I'm sorry sir. I double click the Internet icon.


He begins to tell me about his nephew. A good kid, he insists. Happened to get mixed up in the wrong crowd. His nephew used to meet him at the bus stop as he came home from work at the factory. They would walk home together; talk about life. His nephew was pretty smart. But he got involved with the wrong people, and just three days earlier, someone put a gun to his nephew's smart head and shot him a few blocks from here. And now, the man tells me, now he goes to the gun factory and it makes him physically sick to put these guns together. The same guns that leave the factory and end up in poverty-stricken regions, such as parts of Springfield.


He can't quit his job. He doesn't have the fiscal mobility to disengage with a career choice that makes him feel so awful. He's still trying to pay off a fine associated with a DUI he got in 1988. He wasn't able to pay it then, and he's still not able to now. He tries to log onto an online system that tracks his payments. The gun factory is his only viable option as a source of stable financial support.


The narrative of participation in economic systems is rarely linear, despite what we are led to believe. The perpetuation of poverty is based on a cyclical discourse, in which the multi-dimensionality of oppressive systems creates a cycle of limited opportunities and disenfranchisement for minoritized communities. In Springfield, nephews are mixing with the wrong crowd. It can be hard to contextualize the theoretical knowledge we learn about in class. For me, working in Springfield is invaluable to my academic experience, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.


Further Information: Arise for Social Justice, Inc.

Contact: Michaelann Bewsee, (413) 734-4948,

Homework House: The House of Success

by Emily Boerger '15


I started volunteering at Homework House during my first year and have found great satisfaction with this wonderful organization. It takes students who are at the greatest risk for academic failure and pairs them with a tutor for the year. These children often come from non-English speaking families or families who are struggling to make ends meet. This is why I find Homework House to be so rewarding; I am helping someone who truly needs help.


To watch a child improve because of this program is commonplace, but nonetheless it is just as rewarding. From learning the alphabet to spelling words or struggling with multiplication to being able to divide, each child who steps foot in Homework House becomes a better student.


I worked with two first graders all of last year and their story was just that. Manuela* and Alicia* came in with the ability to do simple addition. Subtraction had not yet been introduced, and when it was, Alicia* continuously replaced the minus signs with addition ones. As comical as it was, Alicia* needed to learn subtraction. Slowly but surely both girls began to add double digits and no longer hated subtraction simply because they didn't understand it.


Each first grader I saw last year, together with their tutor, conquered a topic they were not comfortable with in the beginning. But it was not without a little bit of fun. One of the best feelings was seeing all of the children play a game they loved, that had to do with addition. It was also pretty cool when they were able to get their homework done quickly because they understood it, in order to get to the gym and play. Some bring a book to the gym, or a piece of paper to write sentences, demonstrating that Homework House truly fosters a love of learning. 


Getting to see Manuela* and Alicia*, along with the other children, grow academically was so inspiring. Even though they were only in first grade, watching them try hard to understand a concept made me that much more determined to do well in my own classes. This inspiration was instilled in me again this year when on the first day the 3rd grader I would be working with told me he "really needed to work on reading," sat down, got a book, and worked through it. These kids are truly smart; they just need a bit of help getting started. 


*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.


Further Information: Homework House

Contact: Melinda Pellerin-Duck, (413) 265-1017,

Building Lasting Relationships with Kids
by JoJo (Xiaozhou) Wang '16 

The Kensington School program aims to support refugee children in a new school environment. Every volunteer has a partner, or student, from the Kensington School in Springfield to work with. We help the children with their academic work and chat with them to improve their spoken English. Most of the refugee children cannot speak English fluently, and some speak only a little. They always find it hard to engage in the class activities or to finish their assignments. Sometimes they tend to be shy, timid, and silent-- maybe because they are overwhelmed by such a tough situation at school. We are there not only to help and support, from my point of view, but in a way to accompany them while they are going through many challenges and difficulties. It is the company, the relationship between me and my partner, Lyla*, that I enjoy and appreciate the most.


I remember the first time that Lyla* and I met each other. She said, "Hello," to me, looking down at her feet. She was really upset and silent that day because she had been told she would have to stay in the fourth grade classroom for another year. However, she started to talk more when we were drawing some pictures together and I kept asking about her favorite colors, animals and flowers. Later on, every time we finished an assignment together, Lyla* would say, "Phew..." and look at me with a big, satisfied smile. Sometimes she will say, "Thank you so much," with her eyes blinking. 


I am happy that I can help. I am happy that she can feel she is supported, and keep working no matter how hard the tasks are. After we met several times, she introduced her two closest friends and we started to have lunch together every time I visited her. We four chatted at the table, and sometimes played spelling games. Before I went back home for the summer, the three girls asked me for my cell phone number. I didn't think they would call me until my phone rang one day when I was in my room. Since then I am even more convinced that this program is not only about tutoring, but a relationship, a friendship.


*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.


Further Information: Kensington School Refugee Tutor/Mentor Program

Contact: Ellen Lord, (413) 585-2793,

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Community Service Office, Center for Community Collaboration | Wright Hall, Lower Level | 5 Chapin Drive | Smith College | Northampton | MA | 01063