Finding Community: Shuka’s Badger Volunteers Story

Ever since high school, UW–Madison junior Shuka Konishi loved volunteering. When Konishi came to Madison her first semester, she found a home to continue volunteering with the Morgridge Center for Public Service’s Badger Volunteers program. 

Konishi (far left)
Konishi (far left) at Badger Volunteers site for LGBT Books to Prisoners

“The community is so great because everyone in Badger Volunteers really likes to volunteer, so I think it was an easy way to find like-minded individuals,” Konishi says. 

Since that leap of faith to join Badger Volunteers as a freshman, Konishi volunteered through the program every semester and now serves on the Badger Volunteers Executive Board as well as the program’s community development committee. 

Konishi also volunteers with School of Hope as a tutor for high school students in the Madison area. She enjoys working on the executive board and committee to help plan social events to connect people within the organization. With events like yoga during finals week and Zoom call gatherings, Konishi is thrilled to be a part of building the Badger Volunteers community. 

River Food Pantry 2020
Konishi with other Badger Volunteers’ members at River Food Pantry

“I’m just really excited to have events that I’m super interested in that I would like to attend, and offer that to the Badger Volunteers and any UW–Madison student,” Konishi says. 

Konishi believes Badger Volunteers is a great way for students to give back to their community while on campus. Badger Volunteers makes it easy to find opportunities tailored to students while helping them overcome potential barriers like transportation. Konishi said this is a key draw for her to the program, as it helps students find ways to support and learn from the community without incurring individual financial impacts.

In the busy day-to-day lives of students, Konishi thinks it can be difficult for students to find time and motivation to volunteer. With the Badger Volunteers support system, she thinks it is easier for students to get involved.

“It’s definitely easy for a student to be overwhelmed or feel like they don’t have time for things that they want to do, but I really enjoy the aspect that Badger Volunteers sets up an expectation for each person, and I think that accountability aspect of it really makes it a great organization,” Konishi says. 

LGBT, Konishi
Konishi with friends from Badger Volunteers

While Badger Volunteers has shifted online amid COVID-19, Konishi believes the organization continues to foster the supportive community she found when she first joined the program. There are not as many volunteering spots available, but Konishi thinks the remote opportunities are extremely rewarding and flexible for even the busiest of students in the virtual format. 

Now more than ever, Konishi says it is key for students to realize their place and role in their community outside the campus bubble during the pandemic. Konishi believes students should utilize opportunities to work in the community because it can bring a lot of perspective — making them feel connected and accountable to their community.

“Volunteering is a great way to open up your immediate circle,” Konishi says. “I think that as a UWMadison student, it feels definitely a little enclosing when you’re on a campus that is primarily going to be students, and I think that through volunteering, it’s easier to see that … there’s so many people that are within the community that you probably wouldn’t get to know otherwise.”

Konishi with other volunteers at River Food Pantry
Konishi with other volunteers at River Food Pantry

Based on her own experience in Badger Volunteers, Konishi urges students to explore opportunities available during the pandemic to enlarge their own sense of community and discover the multiple paths to service for students.

“Before joining Badger Volunteers, I saw volunteering in a certain way, but there’s so many different ways that you can affect the community,” Konishi says. “[Badger Volunteers] really educates students about how there’s a range of ways to give back.”