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Students Get Opportunity to Volunteer

Sunday, September 16, 2012

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Written by Peter Miller

On Saturday September 4 at 10am around 400 students met in the University Centre to begin a half-day event volunteering for community organizations across Guelph. Students got to choose between 30 different organizations for the Project Serve event at the university.  Organizations that were involved included Dunara Homes for Recovery, Guelph Centre for Urban Farming, the Guelph Youth Music Centre, and the Alzheimer Society of Guelph Wellington.

Project Serve Canada is a program that encourages volunteerism across the country. It was introduced at the University of Guelph as a way to provide students with an opportunity to help out with the community and to introduce participants to community service.

There were team leaders that helped organize students for each organization. Team leaders were made up of senior students, faculty, and staff. 

Julieta Correa is a PHD student at the Food Science Department, and was the team leader for students that volunteered at the Guelph Food Bank.  At the Food Bank, around 30 students helped with sorting and packaging clothing and food. Correa said she chose the Food Bank because she thinks it’s a good opportunity to share what she has learned in her classes.

“I think [the Food Bank] has a really nice way of sorting and packaging the food,” she said

“I think it’s a good opportunity to share our time, our knowledge, and help people that need our time and our help,” she added.

Pam Munghea is a second year student who was involved in Project Serve and volunteered at Guelph-Wellinton Women in Crisis.  Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis helps women who have experienced emotional, physical, sexual and/or financial abuse. The Centre provides emergency housing, one-to-one counseling, support groups, a 24-hour Crisis Line, and many more services to women in Guelph and Wellington County. The organization works to prevent violence and build a safer community for everyone.

Munghea participated in Project Serve to get more involved at the University of Guelph and the Guelph community. She has experience volunteering for a similar organization in Brampton and was happy to participate in Project Serve.

Stephen Santos-Mocon is a second years student who participated in the even for his first time. He volunteered for Habitat for Humanity because he wanted to learn about the organization and what it provides.

Stephen stated that what he really likes about volunteering is that it “let’s you get out there and learn about the environment you’re living in, and especially with stuff like Habitat for Humanity, it lets you learn more about stuff like social work, and what our community really offers.”

Project Serve has been occurring at the University of Guelph since 1997.  It provides a good experience for students to get involved with the community. However, volunteerism must always be looked at with a critical perspective. When students volunteer for those in need, it is important to be in solidarity with those they are helping, and not see the act of volunteering as a top down approach. Volunteering can be a way for students to educate themselves about systematic barriers that face people, including low income and marginalized groups, and also provide the opportunity for people to become advocates for better funding for social services across the country.  

Charities often fill in gaps and provide services that should be provided by our government. For instance, the United Way provides funding for community services. It gets it’s funding from private and corporate donors across Canada. The same corporate donors that fund many charities advocate for lower corporate taxes, and the gutting of social services in Canada.

However, community organizations can play a positive role, and when they are funded by public money, provide valuable social services to the community without contributing to the cutting of funding for public services from our government.

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