The Rice Student Volunteer Program will be taking over the regularly scheduled volunteering efforts of the Rice Harvey Action Team, which will remain active long-term, according to Doerr Institute Director Thomas Kolditz.
According to RSVP co-presidents Carey Wang and Lynn Zhu, the organization is ready to take on the extra volunteers and responsibilities of being an R-HAT partner since they already have the organizational structures to accommodate them. R-HAT will also benefit from the extensive prior relationships that RSVP has built with Houston-wide volunteer organizations, they said.
“R-HAT gives us an infrastructure through which we can respond to the city’s needs,” Wang, a Will Rice senior, and Zhu, a Sid Richardson junior, said. “R-HAT has done a remarkable job of harnessing student interest, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to help students find ways that they can continue to contribute.”
R-HAT was originally a partnership between the Student Association, the Graduate Student Association, the Center for Civic Leadership and the Doerr Institute, all of which will remain partners in the program according to Kolditz. It was created during Harvey’s almost week-long battering of Houston to streamline the process of sending Rice students to volunteer in nearby areas of the city damaged by the storm.
“We've got this collaborative team that's ready to go to work,” Kolditz said. “RSVP will handle routine activities, but when it gets to crisis levels, we're going to jump in there.”
According to Kolditz, RSVP was informed that it would join R-HAT when R-HAT was founded.
Though most of the flooding has receded, many homes remain damaged and many families are still struggling. As a result, R-HAT will now enter a new operating phase, according to Associate Dean of Undergraduates and R-HAT coordinator Caroline Quenemoen.
Quenemoen, who oversees the CCL and RSVP, said she plans to develop a one-hour training session for all prospective volunteers, bring in a series of speakers to help process the damage inflicted by the storm and host an end-of-semester event focusing on next steps.
“Our vision at this point is to work with key partners in the city to offer sustained civic engagement opportunities and identify more complex projects requiring skilled volunteers,” Quenemoen said.
Kolditz said he is leading discussions to merge R-HAT leadership with the crisis management team. RSVP and other R-HAT leaders will also be given space in the Doerr Institute on the second floor of McNair Hall in the event of any possible future emergencies to allow for faster and more streamlined meetings.
Quenemoen said that while the CCL’s community partners still need time to assess their assets and needs before committing to long-term projects, her focus was on maintaining a strong student leadership in the volunteering efforts to come.
“[What’s] important to me is that we continue to contribute to capacity building efforts while at the same time developing a critical lens for understanding and responding to the social, economic, and environmental impacts of this storm,” Quenemoen said.