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Project 351: Answering The Call To Service

By Talia Whyte

Gov. Deval Patrick joined over 400 8th graders representing every city and town in Massachusetts Jan. 15 to commence his administration’s ambitious youth service day – Project 351. The event was organized by the Patrick-Murray Inaugural Committee and took place on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to help honor his legacy of service. The youth ambassadors were selected by the superintendents and principals in their communities based on their strong ethic of service.

In addition to making a stop at the Catholic Charities Haitian Multi Service Center, Gov. Patrick, Lt. Gov. Murray and the ambassadors also visited other area nonprofits, including The Dimock Center, Greater Boston Food Bank, and Blackstone Elementary School.

Some of the donated books will be given to children of the four hundred Haitian earthquake evacuees living in the Boston area. A year on, evacuees are having a tough time adjusting to their new surroundings. As mentioned by the governor in the video, housing and employment are still problems for the new arrivals. Many evacuees used visitor visas to enter the United States and stayed with family, hoping to rebuild their lives. However, immigration applications have been delayed because of government bureaucracy and local families feeling burdened have forced earthquake-stricken relatives to move out, causing many of evacuees to become homeless. Many of them have gone on food stamps and taken refuge in hotels and shelters.

According to the Boston Globe, only 150 Haitian immigrants nationwide have received deferred action, a rare immigration benefit that allows them to stay and work for a fixed amount of time. This is approximately 19 percent of the 785 who have requested it. In Boston, the approval rate was higher, at nearly 60 percent, but only 89 people applied for it.

If anything, the service day will bring more attention to the issue.