Community Day marks a decade of making a difference

- September 15, 2017

Students (and the Dal Tiger) volunteer at the Discovery Centre as part of Dal's 10th annual Community Day last Saturday. (Jordan Zarvie photo)
Students (and the Dal Tiger) volunteer at the Discovery Centre as part of Dal's 10th annual Community Day last Saturday. (Jordan Zarvie photo)

Cloud-free blue skies last Saturday painted a perfect backdrop for the contrasting sea of peacock-blue and sunshine-yellow t-shirts that could be seen from a distance on the grassy fields of the Studley Campus quad and dispersed throughout the city.

Donning these cheery shirts with matching smiles were more than 240 students, staff and faculty members who came out to take part in Dal’s tenth annual Community Day after a busy first week of classes.

Participants arrived eager to get involved and enjoyed a morning of icebreaker activities and introductory speeches before veering off to spend their afternoons volunteering with one of fourteen charities or organizations within Halifax.

Opportunities included sorting clothing donations for the Souls Harbour Rescue Mission’s thrift shop and helping the Lions Club with highway cleanup, among others.

“Doing charity work doesn’t mean it has to be boring…[and] it doesn’t always have to be a big, huge, amazing event,” said renowned Nova Scotian drag queen Rouge Fatale, who delivered a lighthearted keynote speech to start the day.

Fatale spoke about the importance of volunteerism and shared stories about her own journey with community involvement. “There are so many ways of getting out there and representing and being a part of your community. It’s all about what you make of it…you can have fun and do community service.”

Cory Larsen, the Dalhousie Student Union’s Vice-President of Student Life, and Dal President Richard Florizone were also on hand, with the latter snapping a quick group “selfie” with the crowd before saying a few words.

"One of the unique things about Dal students is . . . they're passionate about changing things, kickstarting things, challenging things, giving back to society," said Dr. Florizone. "It's one of the things that really defines Dal . . . and it shows up in events like this."

(Nick Pearce photo)

Collaborative efforts

Grounded in humble roots, Community Day began ten years ago as a Residence Life initiative to introduce first-year on-campus students to community involvement opportunities outside residence halls and off school grounds. Though the premise behind the day has not changed much, the event itself has grown over the years to welcome off-campus students and an increasing number of neighbourhood partnerships. Particularly unique and exciting this year is the inclusion of Dal staff and faculty involvement.

This event provides a great opportunity for all members of the university community to participate together and foster a culture of service and community-engaged learning at Dal, says Jill Malolepszy, Associate Director of Career and Leadership Development and one of the staff volunteers for this event.

“We strive to provide our students with meaningful civic engagement opportunities,” said Maloepszy. “Community Day enables both new and returning students to better understand the important issues being addressed by diverse non-profit and government organizations in Halifax, and to begin building a sense of community with their peers and being of service to others that will hopefully extend throughout their entire experience as students at Dalhousie.”

(Nick Pearce photo)

Laara Richardson, a student volunteer on the planning committee for the event and a Dal Social Work student, echoed Malolepszy’s thoughts. “Creating a sense of community – that’s what we are all about today. We are here to be together, work together and to connect ourselves with something bigger than ourselves.”

FUN-damental building blocks

Over at the Discovery Centre, volunteers were hard at work prepping materials for upcoming interactive workshops and activities aimed to engage the children of today and leaders of tomorrow in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).  

“I think it’s really important to help kids in the community understand science,” said Megan Haley, a first-year Environmental Science and Sustainability student from Burlington, Ontario. “Just being able to do hands-on stuff in a place like the Discovery Centre is really important, so it’s cool that we get to [prepare] the materials they will use and help influence that relationship with science.”

In one room, some students were involved in dividing plaster powder small baggies for use in creating fossil replicas while others lent a hand in the Centre’s innovation lab.

(Jordan Zarvie photo)

At another table sat Haley and fellow first-year science student Sana Shibazaki from Japan. Both were concentrating on the meticulous task of cutting out dinosaur puzzle pieces and shared similar sentiments about their passion for science.

Like many others at Community Day, the duo also saw this event as a fun opportunity to get acquainted with the wider Halifax community and their new home and to meet like-minded peers.

Raising awareness

Over at the Atlantic Superstore on Quinpool Road, a group of dedicated student participants gathered on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to educate the public about the dangers of impaired and irresponsible driving.

First-year Sociology student Hannah Dempsey from Annapolis Valley was among this group and said, “This is [an issue] everyone needs to be aware of, and sometimes people don’t take it as seriously as they should.”

Toting pamphlets and symbolic red ribbons in hand, she stood by an entrance alongside second-year computer science major Mariam Ragab, who was also one of the team leaders for the event. The pair kept their spirits high as they encountered a steady foot traffic flow throughout the warm afternoon, and were able to spread awareness and collect some donations for the honourable cause.

“I think whenever there is a chance to make people aware…if we’re able to get people to grab onto one of the little pamphlets we have, it all helps,” said Dempsey.

(Nick Pearce photo)

Reducing barriers

Nearby, first-year Internetworking student Nisarg Gajjar from Gujarat, India and first-year Health Promotion student Matthew Moore of Chester, NS went door-to-door through the neighbouring streets with the Dalhousie Clothing Drive, an initiative organized by the Dalhousie Student Union.

After gathering ten full garbage bags of donated clothing, the team separated the items into three categories: professional business wear, winter clothing to be passed on to Dal’s International Centre, and casual pieces for the university’s clothing bank.

Malolepszy said of the plans for the donated professional attire: “We aim to launch a Tiger's Closet this academic year to provide much needed clothing to students who are interviewing for positions or entering a workplace that may require business attire. I was overwhelmed by the amount received and so grateful to know we can now begin to reduce a barrier faced by many of our students.”

(Nick Pearce photo)

‘It’s good for you’

After an afternoon well spent volunteering, participants returned to the Studley quad to wind down and enjoy a well-deserved BBQ celebration.

“I would recommend doing Community Day to anyone next year, and definitely get involved in your community,” said Hayley. “It's good for you and it's good for the people you're helping, so it's kind of a win-win, and it's a great way to spend a beautiful day.”

(Jordan Zarvie photo)


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