Volunteerism, Community Engagement Part of U of G Culture, Students Say

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Michaela Rye, left, and Ashley Collings are promoting student volunteer activities related to social justice

Reading week is a few months away, but the University of Guelph’s Project Serve is already gearing up to assist communities near and far in February.

Students Michaela Rye and Ashley Collings, peer helpers with Student Life’s Project Serve, were in the University Centre Thursday promoting winter student volunteer activities related to social justice.

Volunteer groups will take part next semester in four projects: promoting sexual health education in Guelph; undertaking service projects at Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation on Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula; working in inner-city communities in Vancouver; and exploring and helping to address issues of race and poverty in Mississippi. Details are available at www.Gryphlife.ca

U of G students are involved in community-building through their volunteer work, said Brenda Whiteside, associate-vice president (student affairs).

“U of G students continually impress me with their engagement around issues of concern to them,” she said. “They build homes and wells, fundraise for many causes, advocate for the environment and social justice issues. The city relies on our students’ volunteer activities such as Trick or Eat and Project Serve. I anticipate a continued, long-term involvement of our students when it comes to serving community.”

Rye and Collings said new students at the University are strongly encouraged to volunteer at home and abroad. Volunteerism is a key part of a successful university career, they said.

“A lot of students, when they first come to university, don’t understand the relationship we have to the town,” Rye said. “This is going to be your home for the next four years. That’s why it’s so important to get people involved and engaged, and to help them understand the impacts we can have on everyone around us.”

In mid-September, Project Serve Day enlisted about 400 U of G students, who volunteered with 25 community partners on a host of local projects, from cleaning, painting and restoration work, to helping out at the local food bank and sprucing up local parks. The day represented roughly 1,000 volunteer hours.

A potential volunteer force of more than 20,000 students helps drive numerous community-building projects, Collings added, with huge benefits to both sides.

“You feel like you’re doing something really good for your community, and at the same time you’re really discovering a lot about yourself and the values you hold, and what you’re most passionate about,” she said.