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YSOP is an organization with a national reputation for providing high-quality volunteer learning experiences for young people. Started in 1983 by Quakers, YSOP's work has two unique features. First, we use middle, high school and college students and young adults as volunteers to help meet the needs of homeless and hungry people in New York City and Washington, DC. Second, through YSOP's Workcamp program, we help schools, religious groups and community organizations engage students in service learning. By having our students interact with needy people they put a human face on a serious social problem. YSOP's volunteers' perspectives are broadened and we believe they will continue to participate in service activities as they become adults.
YSOP's intense immersion programs, known as Workcamps, help student volunteers to better understand service, homelessness and hunger. During Workcamps, students, in small service teams, volunteer at different sites around the city. YSOP volunteers prepare and serve at soup kitchens; they provide recreational activities to young and formally homeless children; they distribute food and supplies at food pantries; they socialize and bring snacks to people in drop-in centers. Occasionally they join in special projects we have been asked to staff, such as painting a new shelter with residents or distributing clothing at a clothing bank.
Before the Workcamp experience, YSOP holds an orientation that prepares participants for the day of service, paying careful attention to the issues of safety and expectations. After each day of service, everyone returns to YSOP to share their impressions of the day. Each team describes its work and the challenges faced. Team members answer questions from the group and make comments. Participants are encouraged to think of ways they can connect the YSOP Workcamp experience to their daily lives. After participating in a YSOP Workcamp, YSOPers may return to their own communities to become agents of change.
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