Community Day inspires volunteer spirit
Residence students give back
Katherine Wooler - September 13, 2012
“Diversity of opportunity” is what Dal ResLife’s Melissa MacKay hoped to offer students on this year’s Community Day, an annual event that promotes community involvement to students in residence.
Community Day gets students out of their dorm rooms and into the big wide world of volunteering—or, at least, volunteer opportunities throughout Halifax—encouraging them to make a difference for an afternoon.
“Students come from all over and they’ve been active in their communities in other places,” explained MacKay, who has coordinated Community Day for the past few years. “This is an introduction to volunteering in Halifax.”
This year’s Community Day, which took place Saturday, September 8, involved many new partner organizations, providing more outreach opportunities outside of the immediate university neighbourhood.
First-year costume studies student Helena Smith saw Community Day as a fun way to get to know new peers and a new city, choosing to volunteer at the recently developed Common Roots Urban Farm.
“I sort of lived on a farm back home so I have a really huge respect for agriculture in the community,” said the British Columbia native.
Dal residents learned about sustainable food practices as they took part in harvesting, watering and fertilizing at the hybrid community and market gardens on the corner of Bell and Robie Streets.
What does the farm offer its volunteer workers?
“The pleasure of doing stuff with our bodies and our hands,” answered Jayme Melrose, project coordinator for the urban farm. “I hope it helps people connect a little bit to the city and a piece of land.”
Engineering student Chris Gagnon enjoyed working the land, even if that meant an afternoon of shoveling sod.
“I wanted to get my hands dirty,” he said.
Chris Gagnon (right) working at the Urban Farm. (Katherine Wooler photo)
Students used the sod to build a decorative bench near the farm’s perimeter, adding to Art Fence, a social art project connected to the community garden.
While other students lent a hand at the Ronald MacDonald House, Feed NS or the Ecology Action Centre, some assisted Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Habitat for Humanity or Frontier College, and one group offered their organizational skills at the Green Street Salvation Army.
Community Day was the first time that first-year commerce student Li Chen had encountered Salvation Army, and he was impressed by the store’s concept.
“I wanted to help a charitable organization that may not have enough funds and help to relieve their burden,” said Chen.
More than one reason to get involved
The Discovery Centre (on Barrington Street) also had a troop of students sprucing up the kitchen and birthday party room.
“It’s the behind the scenes work that is very important,” said Discovery Centre science educator Ruth Munro. “We’re a charitable organization and depend on volunteers.”
Madeline Park, part of the Discovery Centre cleanup team, was new to the city but keen to volunteer in order to open up her job prospects.
“I volunteer to find out what I’d like to do,” said the science student, who also donates her time at the hospital.
“We make science accessible to as many people as possible,” explained Munro. “It’s great to have these enthusiastic people come in.”
Jacqueline Murphy wasn’t new to the area or volunteering. In her final semester of an economics and history degree, She is also part of the Rotaract service club, through which she participates in community outreach programs.
“I just find it so rewarding. We’re so advantaged to have so much and some people don’t have that opportunity.”
The Discovery Centre, Common Roots Urban Farm and many other organizations, including the majority of this year’s Community Day, partners will be at the volunteer fair in the SUB this Thursday (September 13).