Project Serve, a one-day community engagement event that sees hundreds of University of Guelph students volunteer with local service agencies and not-for-profit organizations, returns this weekend for its 25th anniversary.
On Saturday, Sept. 17, more than 400 students, staff and faculty will arrive on the U of G campus to be assigned to work with one of more than 20 local organizations. They will then start cleaning up community gardens, repairing forest boardwalks, sorting food donations and more.
Giving back to the community has always been one of the hallmarks of U of G’s “Improve Life” motto, but student Jayden Lakhani-Travis says Project Serve is also about having fun and getting to know the larger Guelph community.
“The event is just a really good way to meet other students, maybe make a few friends and get off campus to learn about the city they will call home for eight months a year for the next few years,” he said.
Lakhani-Travis is a third-year international development studies co-op student who is spending this term working with Experiential Learning Hub to help co-ordinate Project Serve.
“What we try to do each year is match the interests of each volunteer to an ideal volunteer opportunity,” he said.
“Some volunteers are happy to be assigned anywhere and help out any way they can, while others want to learn more about the work of a certain organization, and so this is a great way for them to do that.”
‘They could really use Project Serve volunteers to lend a hand’
This year, volunteer opportunities include helping to sort donations at the Guelph Food Bank and working on landscaping at Marianne’s Place, an emergency shelter that provides temporary housing for those experiencing gender-based violence.
The Green Legacy, an organization that helps plant trees in Wellington County, will once again welcome Project Serve volunteers to assist their nursery operations with watering, weeding or transplanting trees. The Guelph Community Orchard Project is seeking volunteers for similar tasks.
Another 50 students will head to Hanlon Creek Park to along with City of Guelph employees to help with boardwalk repairs and restoration. Several arts-based groups such as Otherwise Studios look forward to welcoming volunteers to help with preparing take-home arts kits, canvas-frame construction and more.
“So many of these organizations are super excited to have us come out again,” said Lakhani-Travis. “The pandemic really put a dent in volunteerism, and so many of these service organizations are busier than ever. As a result, they could really use Project Serve volunteers to lend a hand.”
Event to encourage students to keep volunteering
These organizations benefit and so do the volunteers, says Lakhani-Travis.
“The event is a great way to dip your toes in the water of volunteering and see if you are a good fit with an organization, so maybe you can keep it going and earn the rewards of giving back,” he said. “That’s really the big goal of this event: to open the door to encourage more volunteering in the future.”
For those unable to attend on Saturday, Project Serve events throughout the year will include a clean-up day in October at the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming on the U of G campus as part of Sustainability Month.
Student Volunteer Connections
Experiential Learning Hub