College Student Starts Online Volunteer Platform

BERLIN – A local student is using her passion for community service to connect individuals with local organizations through the use of a new website.

Last week, Salisbury University sophomore and Stephen Decatur High School alumna Jude Al-Hamad launched Community & Me, an online database for students and community members seeking volunteer opportunities.

“It makes it easier for students, or anyone interested in volunteering, to find local organizations or ways to help at home, especially during a pandemic,” she said.

Al-Hamad explained the website is a one-stop resource site. Community & Me features roughly 50 local organizations spanning nine areas of interest.

“It’s organized into nine categories, where you can find an organization that tailors to your interests,” she said. “If you like animals, you can find information about humane societies. If you like the environment, I listed groups that deal with environmental issues … You just click on it, it gives you a brief description of the organization, contact information, and a link to their website.”

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For Al-Hamad, Community & Me is driven by her love for community service. In high school, for example, she completed nearly 500 hours of service, volunteering at hospitals and libraries and tutoring students in after-school academies.

Al-Hamad was also actively involved in Stephen Decatur’s Connections volunteer group, Key Club, Surfrider Foundation Club and Leo Club. And in 10th grade, she helped launch an annual school fundraiser for Believe in Tomorrow.

“That’s really where I found my love for volunteering …,” she said of her high school career. “I think I found a purpose in volunteering.”

So when Al-Hamad was selected as a 2020 Millennium Fellow earlier this year, she knew exactly what she wanted to do for her semester-long project.

“When I applied I wanted to do something here for my community and the students in schools,” she said. “I wanted to involve the youth as much as I could with volunteering and start them young. I want them to realize it’s not just a graduation requirement. There’s a lot of fun to it, and there are benefits to you and your community.”

The Millennium Fellowship – a partnership between the United Nations Academic Impact and Millennium Campus Network – is a semester-long development program that challenges students to advance the United Nations sustainable development goals. As one of roughly 1,500 fellows, Al-Hamad is focusing on quality education and global citizenship.

“You apply and try to improve upon one of their goals,” she said. “There are 14 goals, and you propose an idea to better your community.”

In addition to listing local organizations, Al-Hamad said Community & Me also includes an events page for upcoming volunteer activities, as well as ideas for home-based service projects.

“There’s also a place where you can submit organizations or ideas so I can improve my website too,” she noted.

Al-Hamad said she hopes to expand her website, even after she graduates from the Millennium Fellowship program later this year.

“I’m willing to expand into places like Wicomico and hopefully make this a bigger resources for students to use all across the country,” she said. “But right now we are going to start off small.”

Al-Hamad encouraged individuals to visit the Community & Me website, https://communityandme.wixsite.com/volunteer, or its Facebook and Instagram pages.

She said the website is a great resource for anyone who wants to give back, but doesn’t know where to start.

“I think when living a life focused beyond your own personal needs, you help not only those around you but you learn more about yourself and what your purpose is in life, all while making a better community in general …,” she said. “It’s a win-win situation. What you give back to the community, you get in return.”

Al-Hamad, a Berlin native, graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2019. She is currently studying conflict analysis and dispute resolution at Salisbury University with plans to minor in international relations and psychology.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.