Sustaining social well-being through service

Soleei Guasp ’26 reorganizes books at Brighton High School.

Soleei Guasp ’26 reorganizes books at Brighton High School. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

3 min read

What started as a local first-year orientation activity in 2015 has evolved into an annual rallying call for civic activism across the greater Harvard community.  Through the 2022 Global Day of Service, 1,274 volunteers worked on 78 project teams supporting public service programs on five continents.  While the Global Day of Service is a symbolic welcome for incoming students, it also offers an important platform for community conversations about social well-being and addressing systemic issues related to poverty, racism, inequality, and injustice.

Volunteers from the greater Harvard community are matched with project assignments based on their interests — a core goal for the day is to help campus and community organizations attract and retain volunteers to support their work throughout the year.  Teams of volunteers organize voter registration drives, clean up parks and community spaces, develop curriculum and lesson plans with teachers, support local mutual aid programs in meeting the needs of their neighbors, and organize advocacy campaigns to bring visibility to human rights and social justice issues. 

This year, about half of the 78 project teams worked on projects in the Greater Boston area.  These projects included beautifying over a dozen community park spaces with the city of Boston and helping a half-dozen schools prepare classrooms, libraries, and playgrounds for a new school year.  Several teams worked on improving food access, from working shifts on a local community farm with The Food Project to preparing over 200 meals for Cambridge residents through Food for Free.

Several project teams worked on assignments dealing with prominent national and international issues.  Volunteers worked with Code for America’s Reimagine 911 project to improve emergency response systems, particularly focusing on  de-escalating the use of law enforcement in non-crime situations.  Through an ongoing partnership with the American Red Cross, volunteers worked to develop outreach materials and campaigns to recruit new volunteers for humanitarian relief efforts.  Volunteers also worked with Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW) to develop a comprehensive log of extreme weather situations in 109 metro areas across North America.  Additionally, volunteer teams worked to sustain year-round mobile health clinics in Latin American and African countries through MEDLIFE, to develop college advising resources for East London youth, and to support sustainable agriculture programs in Patagonia, the Himalayan Mountains, and Mongolia. 

The third annual Global Day of Service was organized by the Center for Public Service and Engaged Scholarship in conjunction with over a dozen campus partners. The concept for this program evolved from two major initiatives: a class-wide day of service in 2019 that engaged over 1,000 volunteers from Class of 2023 and the successful launch of Harvard Serves Everywhere, a virtual volunteering program developed in Spring 2020 that sustained student activism during the pandemic. 

If you know of any outstanding nonprofit organizations that are seeking volunteers to work on civic projects, please feel free to reach out to Travis Lovett at