Walking along surfside beach picking up trash, packaging meals at the Houston Food Bank and putting together an on campus hygiene drive to collect sanitary products for people who may not be able to afford them all make Houston and UH a better place to live.
The Metropolitan Volunteer Program is behind the scenes of every one of these activities, organizing members of the UH community who want to be involved in their community and better their city.
“By interacting with MVP students can give back and learn more about the community that surrounds them,” said assistant director of membership Ogechi Ngwakwe. “Volunteering benefits both the student and community because it helps to improve the environment and provide better opportunities.”
This semester’s activity list is still being planned, with their annual beach clean up tentatively scheduled for April.
“As we prepare for this semester, we have started to contact our partners for any events they might be planning or any ideas we would like to propose to them,” said Angel Flores, Director of MVP. “Our first step is to always ask what our partners need since we want to make sure we can provide the help they actually are in need of. Afterwards, we ask them how many volunteers they need and any description of what we will be doing the day of the event to give to our volunteers. From there, MVP sends out the request for volunteers through our social media and our newsletter providing them with all the information they need and how they can sign-up.”
Now that vaccines are widely available and more is known about COVID-19, there are more opportunities to get involved with MVP in person, help the greater Houston area and meet new people.
“I think getting involved with MVP can be the first step in being introduced to the social issues that are present in our community,” Flores said. “As an organization, we strive to provide information on where we take our volunteers and the reason we are there to volunteer. We introduce students to local efforts in combating social issues they might relate to and how they can potentially further help or take the ideas they learn and bring them back home to their own communities.”
For Flores, joining MVP was not something he planned, it just sort of happened during the first semester of his freshman year.
“I knew very few people coming to UH and very quickly I began to feel isolated going to class and back to my dorm,” Flores said. “I made the initiative to attend an event for Weeks of Welcome and it happened to be Day of Service, a collaborative event between MVP and the Center for Student Involvement. Since this event, I felt impassioned to attend even more events with MVP, at one point attending one to two events every week.”
Getting so involved with the program not only led to Flores becoming the head of MVP, but making friends with old and new members.
“Being a director for two years now, I can say I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing people,” Flores said. “Being able to go into the MVP office and interact with the many board members we have, it’s an enjoyable environment. I’ve also had the pleasure to talk to many past MVP members who are now working with local partners as employees or even higher positions, all through the introduction of the Metropolitan Volunteer Program when they were attending UH!”
MVP has led to Flores looking at Houston differently, in a good way. Knowing that so many people in the area want to donate their time to helping others has opened his eyes to the fact that there are great people in the UH community and in Houston.
“Through MVP, I have been able to learn a lot about the actions being done in regard to the environment and the well being of adults and children in the community,” Flores said. “When you see the number of items being donated and the capacity our partners are able to provide, it really opens your eyes to how much the Houston community loves to help one another, and the same can be said with the UH community!”
Being a part of MVP has given Flores experiences and opportunities he knows he wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else, and he says everything he has done at MVP has helped him grow.
“I have been able to really get to know myself as a leader and learn my style of managing an organization,” Flores said. “I have been put into many new situations and learned from each one, which has helped me respond better in future situations. I have also really found what I am passionate about, even going as far to change my major because I genuinely want to go into nonprofit work and do my part to help others once I graduate.”
He hopes that other students will join MVP, not only because it’s a great thing to do for your community, but because it can help you in your career after you graduate.
“I think MVP is a great opportunity to not only help our amazing community but also network,” Flores said. “Throughout our events, you will constantly be able to meet many people, from the people working at our community partners or even other volunteers from different backgrounds, you never know who you are sorting books next to.”
If you’re interested in getting involved with the Metropolitan Volunteer Program contact Angel Flores at [email protected].