Students, alumni to pitch-in for cross-Canada volunteering blitz
Help others for a day. Be inspired for a lifetime.
That’s the overall message of this year’s MacServe Day of Service – a day-long volunteer initiative spanning three time zones and touching down in six major Canadian cities on Saturday, Sept. 29.
Branching out of Southern Ontario for the first time ever, this year’s Day of Service will unite current students and volunteers from McMaster’s national alumni base at placements in Hamilton, Mississauga, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver.
“Giving back to the community helps you build an understanding of all members of the community, and some of the hardships you may never think about during your daily life that others go through,” says Patrick Schenck, one of the co-captains of a team volunteering in Calgary.
“It also builds upon your sense of attachment to the community, giving you more pride to live where you do, and to know others care just as much as you.”
The St. Catharines native graduated from McMaster in 2011, and says he’ll do his best to “rally the troops” during his first ever Day of Service.
Calgary volunteers will be focusing their efforts at the Mustard Seed – a not-for-profit organization in the city’s urban centre that works to provide housing, employment and a safe and supportive environment for those in need.
“Calgary is a quickly-developing city with great turnover, and sometimes people can fall through the cracks,” explains Schenck. “Residential prices are skyrocketing, so it’s hard for some people to make the most basic of payments, such as food and shelter.”
His co-captain, 23-year-old Constance Ratelle, elaborated on some of the social challenges facing Alberta’s largest city.
“The city has been making progress with the Attainable Home Ownership program and including affordable units in new developments, but unfortunately there are still many people living on the streets, and Calgary's harsh winter is fast approaching,” says Ratelle.
Saturday will mark Ratelle’s third tour with the MacServe Day of Service – an experience she credits with challenging her perspective of everyday life.
Further west, the Vancouver team will be volunteering at the Sharing Farm Orchard in the nearby community of Richmond. The organization grows and distributes fresh produce to local charities, and promotes sustainability through a series of workshops related to food rescue, food security, organic practices, gardens and youth action.
In Ottawa, alumni volunteer activity will involve a cricket workshop and welcome day for new immigrants administered through the Catholic Centre for Immigrants, while the Toronto team will help out at The Gateway, painting rooms of the men's shelter.
MacServe activity in Hamilton and Mississauga will focus on meal preparation, cleaning, painting, environmental clean-ups and related activities at a variety of placements.
Hamilton volunteer work will take place at Wesley Urban Ministries, the Hamilton Victory Gardens, Wentworth Lodge, Connecting Countries Adopt-a-School (CCAAS), the Children’s Aid Society and the Living Rock centre, among many other sites.
John Smith, co-founder of Connecting Countries and a McMaster Social Sciences alumnus, commented on the benefits of having students involved in his organization. The local charity helps promote and construct safe, sanitary education facilities in rural Kenya.
“CCAAS believes that ‘giving back’ has no age boundaries,” says Smith. “McMaster’s youth continue to model the new order of philanthropy based upon passion and the will to do.”
Within the next few weeks, funds raised since last November through CCAAS will allow for the construction of 15 new sanitation toilets at Kanguu Primary School in Kenya’s Ol Joro Orok district. These new facilities remove the threat of school closure due to unsanitary conditions. MacServe student volunteers will be assisting at a "Toilet Run" in Churchill Park on Saturday, to aid students at another Kenyan school, Uiguano Primary School.
Adam Kuhn, manager of the University’s Student Success Centre (organizers of the MacServe Day of Service), knows first-hand that volunteer work can help broaden a young student’s mind.
“An event like this is hopefully just the beginning,” explains Kuhn. “The whole idea is to expose students to the larger city they live in, and show that there are tonnes of opportunities to be engaged and learn.”
Longtime Day of Service volunteer and McMaster alumna Charan Singh agrees.
“Time is a unique donation, in the sense that it is not monetary. It is innately human, and we all possess the ability to use it selflessly and for the wellbeing of others,” says Singh, who also participated in a MacServe disaster relief trip to New Orleans in February.
“‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’ I discovered this quote on my last experience with MacServe, and it has resonated with me in all my philanthropic endeavours.”
Volunteers are still being recruited for the Sept. 29 event, and those interested can email email@example.com for more information on the MacServce Day of Service, or to inquire about other volunteer opportunities offered through the Student Success Centre.