New club gives opportunity for humanitarian work

By Tasman Mattox | 2/22/18 3:13am

GVL / Courtesy - Humanitas Facebook

Many Grand Valley State University students feel a draw to volunteer work, and there are a lot of ways to get involved on campus. Humanitas, a GVSU club that started this academic year, is giving students a way to help those in need. 

“We just started back in September, and we initially talked about it back in spring,” said Abby Coberly, the club president. “Basically, it started with Professor Ivanovic, me and a few other students. He is a philosophy professor, and he thought we showed genuine interest in doing humanitarian work, so he said he’d be our adviser. He helped us get started.”

Humanitas is primarily a volunteer work group. Their biggest focus is helping refugees.

“Right now, we have a core group of about 10 people, and our main goal is to bring focus to humanitarian issues locally and abroad,” Coberly said. 

For many students, it can be hard to know where to start with clubs and outreach. 

“I’ve always been involved in my community, but I wasn’t really involved in anything at Grand Valley,” said Haley Cascone, one of the club’s general officers. “When I heard about this club, I knew the professor involved was super awesome and had some classmates in it already, so I knew I wanted to get involved.” 

Coberly believes that Humanitas can provide students with a place where they can learn about their privilege and how to use it in a way that is not patronizing to those being helped. 

“Personally, I see it as an issue of privilege,” she said. “I think it’s important that people understand that they have privilege and are able to use empathy and help people and give agency when helping them. Having that autonomy is important. We want to center those people and do what they think is important, not just what we think will help.”

Cascone said she likes being part of the group because of its intimate atmosphere and the variety of issues addressed. 

“I think we have a very unique dynamic," Cascone said. "We like to keep things smaller so each individual has a role in what we do. We also work both locally and internationally. We did the winter coat drive and did things for Puerto Rico last semester, so it’s very diverse.” 

Humanitas’ most recent endeavor was a Winter Warmth Drive, where they collected clothing for cold weather and then distributed anything donated to the homeless. 

“We have a very large homeless population in Grand Rapids, so we wanted to start gathering supplies to hand out to people. We were able to distribute those supplies,” Coberly said. “A lot of the people who came to get things left other things behind. This guy brought a box with hand warmers and left it when he came to get things.” 

For interested students, getting involved is simple. 

“Right now, the best way to get involved is when we have donation drives or fundraisers is donate to those things,” Coberly said.

Students can also get connected online. 

“We have a Facebook page and a Twitter, which I run, so there’s always information going on those, too,” Cascone said.

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