If you have participated in a Days of Service Project, check out the Facebook album and tag yourself in pictures.
The value of hands-on experience - Matthew Duquette, Faculty of Health Sciences
For students interested in studies beyond their bachelor’s, hands-on experience can be as valuable as academic accomplishments. This became evident to Matthew Duquette, a first-year health sciences student, when he decided to pursue a career in medicine. “People want hands-on experience. So what better way to gain experience than volunteering? When I saw a poster in my residence building saying that the Centre was looking for potential volunteers to work with seniors, I jumped at the opportunity,” says Duquette.
Matthew started volunteering by taking part in his residence-led Days of Service project with the Garry J. Armstrong seniors’ home. Days of Service is a community engagement initiative that develops volunteers’ teamwork skills. Although Duquette first got involved to benefit his education and career, he quickly realized volunteering can be about much more than that. “At this point it is no longer just about the experience, it’s about how much fun I have. Working at the nursing home is one of the most fulfilling and joyful things I have ever experienced. I can’t get enough and I can’t wait to see all those smiles again.” Days of Service is a great way for students like Duquette to not only gain important experience in their field but also to make new friends and create positive memories.
Since his initial involvement with the Armstrong Home, Duquette has become an active Days of Service member. He has realized that volunteering isn’t only about going somewhere and working. It’s also about developing relationships with one’s team and with people in the community.
Duquette will serve as a team leader in his next project with the Armstrong Home, now that he has completed the Centre’s team leader training. He will organize and lead a new group of students.
Duquette has learned that to achieve his goals in medicine, he will have to use concepts he’s learned in class in real life situations with community members. He’s also learned how rewarding that can be. “Getting involved with your community will bring fulfillment to your life like nothing else can.”
Snowsuit Fund: Snowball effect - Ahmed Abdelrehim, Faculty of Engineering
Ahmed Abdelrehim is a second year international student in the Faculty of Engineering. Originally from Cairo, Egypt, Ahmed started first year as a resident of the Friel Community Engagement Living Learning Communities. He saw posters about a one-day project with the Snowsuit Fund, spoke with his community adviser, Max Touchette, and decided to sign up. That was the start of something great.
At the Snowsuit Fund, Ahmed quickly saw the impact of his work. Seeing children’s faces when they received a new snowsuit was rewarding. He had just wanted to get Canadian experience to prepare for his first CO-OP work term, and ended up getting so much more: “It has helped my English because I serve clients. I feel much more comfortable talking to professors and other students in English because of it.”
Ahmed has already devoted 38 hours to the Snowsuit Fund this fall and plans to continue into February. In November, he took the initiative to help out at the annual Snowsuit Fund Gala. Held at the Chateau Laurier, this upscale event was a completely new experience for Ahmed: “I made some new friends and had fun while giving back.” Proceeds from the gala will allow over 1,500 children to stay warm this year.
Ahmed’s involvement this year has been part of his strategy to live a balanced life. “Last year, I pretty much went between residence, the library and the cafeteria. This year, I wanted to have a well-rounded experience, so I signed up to help the Snowsuit Fund on an ongoing basis, and I joined the water polo team.”
What would he suggest to other students hesitating to get involved? “You are missing a lot. You have to do it! You can manage your time and contribute a few hours a week — it’s not a big deal. It’s not a burden. It makes you happy.”
Making a difference … one day at a time
Days of Service projects are one-day community engagement opportunities that allow students to contribute to the National Capital Region. Launched in April 2014, this initiative has grown significantly and plays an important role in enhancing the student experience.
It offers a truly win-win opportunity: students give back to their community without signing up for a long-term commitment, and community partners are able to recruit students to participate in their hands-on, short-term service projects. The Centre has planned 57 days of service for the 2015-2016 academic year and so far, students have responded to the call 205 times. Students from eight different faculties have volunteered for these projects, with the majority hailing from the faculties of Social Sciences, Science and the Telfer School of Management.
Although this initiative is open to all students, it is a great fit for those who have never volunteered or who have little volunteer experience and who want to familiarize themselves with the National Capital Region. These projects are ideal for international students, students living in residence – especially those living in the Friel Living Learning Communities – or students who have busy schedules. The program is successful because it requires only a very brief time commitment and its projects are timed to be predictable and to occur at the right time during the semester. Students can pick from a list of volunteer opportunities on the Community Engagement Navigator and on the Centre’s website. These one-day service activities allow students to discover their local community, build soft skills and expand their networks. Community partners benefit by having the Centre engage and train a team leader to help with the logistics of pulling a group of students together and travelling to a specific location.
To date, Days of Service volunteer projects have included sorting over six tons of food at the Ottawa Food Bank and serving 2800 Thanksgiving dinners at The Ottawa Mission. The Coldest Night of The Year walk-a-thon, in which uOttawa students participated, raised nearly $40,000. Students baked, decorated and distributed 523 cupcakes to homework clubs at 15 Community Houses to celebrate and encourage academic perseverance. They have also used the MarketMobile to deliver fresh fruit and vegetables to as many as 1280 individuals.
Students also participated in local environmental projects, such as filling and removing more than 15 bags of litter from Strathcona Park and Sandy Hill as part of the Tim Hortons Cleaning the Capital initiative. They also spent over 25 hours weeding, beautifying, and removing invasive species from local green spaces with the Volunteer Gardeners of Clare Park and the Rockcliffe Park Residents’ Association.
In the Friel Residence Living Learning Community, ten students developed their own initiative and solicited donations from other residents to fill and distribute 25 backpacks containing basic necessities to the people who use Odawa’s Shawenjeagamik Aboriginal Drop-in Centre. Funding to purchase additional items came from the Community Engagement Residence Initiative Fund, which was set up in 2015 by the Employee Giving program.
Since Days of Service initiatives are having such a tremendous impact on both students and the local community, we hope to be able to offer even more opportunities in the coming year!