Largest UT day of service returns to Rundberg neighborhood

Rajya Atluri

The Project, UT’s largest annual day of service, has committed to the Rundberg neighborhood for a total of four years — a change meant to strengthen existing community relationships.

Amory Baril, director for student engagement programs in the Longhorn Center for Community Engagement, said The Project normally partners with underserved neighborhoods for two years.

“The Project partners with one neighborhood in order to make sure that our relationships are maintained and that we’re not just coming into a neighborhood … and leaving without knowing whether or not it actually made an impact or was positive for the community,” Baril said.

On Feb. 27, hundreds of volunteers will spend nine hours serving the Rundberg community’s needs, whether that’s painting houses or building benches. The Project is organized by an executive team of student volunteers who then mobilize the student body over the course of a year. Outreach chair Joanna Chyu, Plan II and biochemistry sophomore, said a lot of work goes into identifying these needs.

“Our catchphrase is like ‘We go to an underserved community in Austin,’ but what does that really mean?” Chyu said. “We’re behind the scenes of figuring out, ‘So this community is underserved, but why? Is it because of social or economic factors or is it because it’s a bad location in Austin, and what are these disadvantages that these people who live there have that are out of their control?’”

This year, The Project has 18 different sites, which is more than previous years, said volunteer management chair and psychology junior Noora Bayrami said.

“Basically, the goal every year is just for us to go out to our sites and do the best we can,” Bayrami said. “We’re just trying to have a greater impact on the entire community of Rundberg.”

Baril said The Project is special because it mobilizes a large amount of people all at once, creating a big impact for the past 17 years.

“The Project and events like it really are amazing because it’s a really great visual of what a lot of people can do in nine hours,” Baril said. “You can see all over the city now, houses that have been painted by The Project volunteers and trees that have been planted and landscaping that still exists — it really does last beyond the time that we’re there.”