Launched this past week by NYU students, Hakook is an app that aims to help homeless people who are struggling with resources. Users meet homeless people on the street, ask them what they need, then drop a pin on their location. Other Hakook users are alerted to this pin and can fulfill the specific request, whether it is food, water, clothing or anything else. By creating this innovative and socially-engaging app, NYU students are taking what they learn and experience in New York and applying it to uplift the entire community.
Efforts such as the one behind Hakook are incredibly important. As members of the NYU student body, we have a responsibility to improve the impact this school has on the wider New York community through service, research or simply by becoming a conscious citizen. Many local residents often complain about the university and its seemingly disproportionate influence in the Greenwich Village area, and it is our duty to listen and respond to these grievances. It would be unjust to take advantage of the resources the neighborhood offers without returning the favor by utilizing NYU’s partnerships with local organizations. Children’s rights advocate Marian Wright Edelman said that service is the rent we pay for being, and at NYU, it is the rent we pay for the New Yorker status we hold so dear.
Hakook is just one example of this type of community service, albeit an exemplary one. No one expects every student to do something quite as ambitious as design an entire app. However, the reason NYU stresses service — whether it is through the CSALS office or school-based programs like CAS Cohort Day of Service or Stern Cares — is so students can have opportunities to help the city they live in. Students do not even need to take time to do an extensive service project to help their communities. The first step to progress is a change in mindset. NYU students should always consider the city, and particularly its less fortunate residents, when they observe the university’s impact. Becoming a conscious citizen — one who is attentive to the needs of the community around us — is enough to have difficult conversations with each other, the university and the Village itself.
Living in New York City is both a privilege and a burden. We are free to enjoy all that the city offers, but we must also use our new experiences to pay it forward. The innovative creators of Hakook, by helping the city’s homeless population, have done that exact thing so many times over. But outreach can be easy, too. Individuals can be “in and of the city” by being conscious of others when navigating the shared space that is New York.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, September 26th print edition. Email Connor Borden at [email protected]