RightRides for Women's Safety is an inspirational organization, led by an inspirational woman. Their core project, RightRides, PREVENTS harassment and assault by giving women and LGBT folks safe rides home. They are also part of New Yorkers for Safe Transit, which CHANGES POLICIES to make trains and buses safer. They are partners and cofounders of Hollaback!, a movement to end street harassment that allows women and LGBT folks to RESPOND to street harassment in a bad-ass way. This three pronged approach is visionary, and I can't wait to see what they do next.
I started volunteering for RightRides in 2006, first as a Navigator, then a Dispatcher, then finally as a Driver, too. There really are two reasons I volunteer for RightRides. First, it's incredible to be making such a tangible difference in New York City - I am, on my volunteer nights, taking a number of people home safely. Second, it's some of the most fun volunteering that I've ever done. Especially in New York City, where nobody has a car, it's a real treat to turn on the radio and drive around for an evening. Doing good while seeing the city? It's a win-win-win situation!!!
I spent the first several years after moving to NYC living in neighborhoods where I consistently worried about getting home safely every day. Once I found out about RightRides, I immediately signed up to volunteer, even though they didn't serve my neighborhood at the time, since getting home safely was so important to me, and I wanted others to be able to get home safely. I volunteered off and on for about 2 years, hearing so many stories of people getting attacked on the street or the trains, feeling the gratitude for a free, safe ride home. I also used the service several times once they expanded to my neighborhood and it was like a miracle--the trip home took about a third of the time the train would have taken, and I could rest easy knowing I wouldn't have any problems getting home.
RightRides for Women's Safety (RRWS) is a great organization that works to address public sexual harassment and assault in NYC. When I told friends I was moving to NYC, everyone gave me the cautionary tale of the subway perps. While working for a NYC politician, my college intern and I were riding the subway back from an event. My intern started telling that her roommate witnessed a woman being sexually assaulted on the subway line from Brooklyn to Manhattan. She heard screams for help, so the roommate got off the next station and ran to the train conductor who told her there wasn't anything he could do, and the train kept going. That story impacted me. I realized that in the political and policy world, no one was talking about this issue that affects every citizen. So, while researching this issue, I stumbled upon Right Rides. From there, I reached out to Oraia and signed up for a volunteer orientation. After my volunteer shift, I realized that this organization was not unique, but a necessity. After publishing the report, and moving to DC, my first ride on the Metro, a man exposed himself to me. I was the only person in that train car. While blaming myself for his actions, I realized that our nation's capital needs to have a RightRides. I contacted Oraia and started to figure out ways we can work together. From that, came the Board appointment and we are closer to bringing RRWS to DC. YEAH!
When Right Rides first started out I was at a point in my life where I couldn't really afford the luxury of taking cab rides home late at night. I was so thankful to have Right Rides to help get me home safely. I'd much rather pay for the service by giving of my own time, so I started volunteering for Right Rides too. I try to put in a shift for every time I utilize the service. There are so many people -- women, gay, gender queer, and beyond -- who can benefit from Right Rides, I just hope that Right Rides can continue to garner the added volunteer power to help more people. The system works great when there are enough people there to support it.
RightRides has always embodied amazing direct service organization to me. I first heard about the RightRides program when it launched five years ago, when volunteers had to use their own cars and RightRides only went to Lower Manhattan, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg. RightRides now serves 45 NYC neighborhoods in 4 boroughs, on Friday and Saturday night. Women, LGBTQ and genderqueer folks are all eligible for a safe ride home. In these tough economic times, less and less people can afford safe passage home, and more and more people are out working late. RightRides has grown exponentially, and really needs more volunteers to handle the number of ride requests RightRides receives every weekend. As a volunteer, I've met amazing, fun, and interesting people-- other volunteers and riders/clients both. Driving around and picking up people who just want to get home safely late at night gives me an amazing feeling of making the world a better place, one person at a time.
I found out about Right Rides through my Zipcar newsletter and instantly thought this is a worthy cause and something I could really get into. I have been volunteering for a little over 2 months and absolutely love it! I have had to ride the train home in the wee hours of the morning and as a woman alone, it can be quite scary. Knowing there is an alternative is very comforting and I see it in every grateful rider we see safely home.
I heard about Right Rides from friends and had the pleasure of using their services last Halloween. They make things simple and were so friendly. As a queer person, knowing that I could make it home safe on a crazy night in NYC was so reassuring. I since have gotten involved with the org by signing up to volunteer. I'm looking forward to giving back to this org and to our community!
I discovered RightRides through Zipcar, which generously donates cars for the service every weekend. I thought the idea behind the service--a free, safe ride home at night for women and LGBT folks--was brilliant, simple, and incredibly compelling. Volunteer training and the nighttime shifts are upbeat and friendly, and the time flies by.
When I first heard about RightRides' Mission, namely to provide women and LGBTQ individuals safe passage home at a time when gender-based violence is on the rise in NY, I was immediately interested. With a rash of violence directed toward women and LGBT people in the news recently, I wanted to do something to help alleviate the problem. Everyone deserves the piece of mind to be sure that when they leave somewhere late at night, they will make it home without harassment or danger of physical harm. That's what RightRides does: provides free rides, late at night to mitigate the threat violence to people who are unfortunately targeted with relative frequency. Along with a friend we signed up for a brief and easy training to familiarize us with the different duties and responsibilities of Drivers and Navigators. After the training session we were eager to start our first shift hauling people around late night Friday and Saturday. From my very first shift I knew this was an organization worth championing. First and (perhaps selfishly), the volunteering time itself is FUN! You get to drive around and explore parts of New York and the burroughs that you never would by foot, you meet interesting and friendly people, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that they all got home safe after a long night. I just finished training as a Dispatcher, which unlike the Driver and Navigator duties, you can complete from home. I'm looking forward to filing some time as Dispatcher to help field calls and direct teams to people that need to be picked up. RightRides is wonderful organization with a (small but growing) team of wonderful volunteers and organizers united by the belief that no one should have to constantly look over their shoulder out of fear of harm just because they're trying to get home and happen to be "different" (whether it's a difference of sex, gender, gender conformity, sexuality, etc.).
RightRides for Women's Safety is a wonderful example of a community-led and community-driven organization. Our free, late night ride home program has driven 3,000 riders home safely thanks to 150 driving team volunteers. We're also a founding member of New Yorkers for Safe Transit, working to make NYC mass transit free from sexual harassment and assault. Our work is necessary and it's empowering to be part of it. It's exciting to see so many people take the time and volunteer to ensure the safety of others, and where people can become involved in growing and shaping a grassroots movement to address gender-based violence.