Public health volunteers engage the Omaha community

September 08, 2017

Image with caption: Public health volunteers harvested, weeded and cleaned up the Together Omaha community garden during Volunteer Day.

Public health volunteers harvested, weeded and cleaned up the Together Omaha community garden during Volunteer Day.

To kickoff the new academic year, incoming and current College of Public Health students, faculty, staff and alumni recently participated in the college's fourth Volunteer Day.

On Aug. 19, a total of 30 volunteers worked with Lutheran Family Services, Refugee Empowerment Center, Together Omaha and Habitat for Humanity of Omaha.

"Engaging in community service provides volunteers with the opportunity to become active members of the community and acquire life skills and knowledge, as well as providing a valuable service to our community partners," said Christine Arcari, Ph.D., associate dean for academic and student affairs in the College of Public Health.

Volunteers at Lutheran Family Services organized the donation center while volunteers at Together Omaha harvested and cleaned the on-site community garden and learned that one in five children in the city are food insecure. At the Refugee Empowerment Center, volunteers painted and organized the donation center and learned that refugees spend an average of 17 years in a refugee camp before resettlement.

Volunteers with Habitat for Humanity of Omaha demolished and painted alongside future homeowners, who are required to put 350 sweat equity hours into construction to qualify for a low interest loan to purchase the home. "I'll always remember the houses we worked on and think about the family who will enjoy it," said Steve Jackson, a 2006 public health alum.

Ali S. Khan, MD, MPH, dean of the College of Public Health, said volunteer day was a misnomer.

"It was volunteer day? We worked on supporting refugees resettling in Omaha, a community garden to feed people and affordable housing. I thought it was public health day.

"As we gutted a house to be rebuilt for a new tenant, I spoke with an employee of Habitat for Humanity. When we were done, he recognized that he was in the public health business, and the college may have a new student next year!"

Michael Sauter, MPH student, said volunteer day was a great way to start off the academic year by making a difference in the Omaha community.

"The Refugee Empowerment Center appreciated all the work we did, from painting the walls to cleaning and organizing the closets. It was truly amazing to witness everyone involved working together to help out the organization."

Volunteer Day was sponsored by the College of Public Health Student Affairs, Alumni Engagement Council and the Student Association.

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BIll O'Neill
September 08, 2017 at 7:23 AM

Terrific work by the COPH!