There are a variety of ways the campus community can get involved in community engagement activities, including Extracurricular Volunteering. Placements can consist of local and international volunteering opportunities. Below are some examples of projects carried out by students at the University of Ottawa.
Take the initiative, make a change - Jane Situ, Honours BSc in Biopharmaceutical Sciences – Genomics (CO-OP), third year
“I was told that my smile made people’s day.” For Jane Situ, a third-year student in the Honours in Biopharmaceutical Sciences (CO-OP) program, this was the most memorable remark of her volunteer experience and the driving force behind her desire to continue volunteering.
Jane always loved learning about a wide variety of topics outside the classroom setting. Therefore, she found it was only natural to volunteer and expose herself to a new learning environment. She enjoyed volunteering at the Canadian Museum of Nature as a summer programming assistant and at Saint Vincent Hospital in the patient unit as a way of connecting with others and building her communication skills. “I learned how to communicate effectively for the various audiences. Although the material and information I was responsible for teaching involved known facts, the way I explained things and the depth of detail I provided to different age groups would differ.” Volunteering at Saint Vincent Hospital, she was happy to give back and give thanks to a place that had helped her family in the past.
She took the initiative to reach out to the museum and the hospital, unaware that the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement was a resource available to her as a University of Ottawa student. When a friend introduced her to the Centre, she realized that she could include her previous involvement through the Community Engagement Navigator in uOzone. While in Navigator, she discovered another volunteer opportunity that interested her—research assistant to Dr. Angel Foster at the Faculty of Health Sciences. Participating in research outside of her faculty gave Jane “the chance to learn something new, gain experience in different methods of research and view health from a different perspective.”
Jane’s involvement has allowed her to learn not only a lot about her own interests but also a very valuable lesson about the importance of “becoming more aware of is the things happening around you— the issues, events and news—and proactively doing something about them to bring about change.” Jane urges other students to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. “Anyone can make a difference in their community…it’s a matter of taking the first step.”
Getting involved…for a smile - Raphaël Rivière, Doctorate in Medicine
Growing up is hard enough without having cancer. Smiling Over Sickness (SOS) wants to make sick children smile by raising awareness for pediatric cancer through fun and social events. Childhood Cancer Canada encourages FUNraising for more than 10,000 children battling cancer every day in Canada.
In 2016, Raphaël Rivière, a third-year student who wants to go on to complete his doctorate in medicine, shaved his head with SOS, which sparked his interest in supporting pediatric cancer research. This year, he and Sarah Lum led the organization, planning events and raising over $20,000. This experience has helped him better understand what he wants from his academic career and gain experience in networking, outreach and advocacy. One of the most rewarding events for Raphaël was the Shave for the Cure. “Through this event, we really felt that our hard work paid off. I felt very lucky to be working with such an experienced event organizer, my friend Sarah Lum.”
“Community engagement is bringing together different threads of the community to promote mutual growth and development,” says Raphaël. Building on this experience, he now recognizes the importance of having resourceful, passionate and committed volunteers to make an organization run smoothly. “Looking back, the effort was worth it to see all the smiles, and it made my experience at uOttawa truly memorable!”
Engineering Graduate Student Building a Diverse Skillset through Volunteer Work - Innocent Nwanze, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
This past winter, Innocent Nwanze’s eagerness to volunteer led him to the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement. An international student completing the last year of his master’s in engineering management, Innocent wanted to get involved as much as he could in the Ottawa community. Through the Centre’s extracurricular volunteering program, he found a position with CompuCorps, a local not-for profit organization that “provides at risk groups (Indigenous, youth, seniors and those living with disability) career and life skills training focused on access to technology (computers) and the Internet.”
As a volunteer tech mentor and technologist with CompuCorps, Innocent processes computers and other electronic gadgets. First, he wipes the computer clean of data and completes any necessary maintenance. He then installs software and operating systems and activates the computer with the product key and licence. The computers are then sold at affordable prices to not-for-profit organizations and at-risk groups in the Ottawa community.
This hands-on experience has allowed Innocent to develop his tech skills, while working in teams has developed his interpersonal skills. He has also enhanced his management and leadership skills by training new volunteers.
This community engagement opportunity means a lot to Innocent, who feels he is able to go out and contribute to society. One of Innocent’s most memorable moments was the day he trained a new volunteer. He was thrilled to share his knowledge with a fellow volunteer and to apply the hands-on experience he gained as a teacher’s assistant at the Telfer School of Management.
Through his volunteer work, Innocent has developed new skills, found value in contributing to his community and gratification through helping others. As he says, “When you give, you are equally making yourself happy.”