To serve and learn

On March 16 UVic Residence Life and Education in partnership with Volunteer Victoria held Project Serve Day, where 70 UVic participants performed acts of service at six locations in the Greater Victoria Area. Project Serve programs inspire students to be actively engaged in community and social change through volunteer action and structured, critical reflection about their experiences.

The Project Serve Day model is used by many institutions to introduce students to community service learning and applying their knowledge while making meaningful connections in their community.

The locations and activities included:

  • Aberdeen Hospital, where participants organized and categorized medical equipment;
  • Saanich Parks Pulling it Together Program, where participants worked on an ecological restoration of a Garry-oak ecosystem;
  • Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health, where participants sanitized toys and worked on volunteer data organization;
  • Fairfield Gonzales Community Association’s Creatively United for the Planet Festival, where participants distributed promotional materials and helped the artist in residence prepare a piece for the festival;
  • UVic Clean-Up, where participants teamed up with the Alumni Student  Ambassadors to pick up trash all over campus;
  • and Woodwynn Farms, where students helped clients with general farming activities.

The service was framed by reflection on the impact that their actions have on themselves, the organizations and the community.

Residence Life plans to make this an annual event and have already begun to work on the next Project Serve Day for September 2013.

Thoughts of a project Serve Day participant

My name is Torry Harris and I am a third-year psychology major at UVic. I got involved with Project Serve Day through my job as a community leader for Residence Life and Education. I try to get involved with every volunteer opportunity I am given. This motivated me to join the Project Serve Day team.

Throughout the last ten years, I have volunteered at various local organizations. Last summer, I was fortunate to lead a group of volunteers to India for five weeks to build a boarding house for an impoverished community through an organization that sends volunteers to developing countries all over the world. I have also volunteered on a trip to Guatemala, where I worked in a library.

Volunteering has influenced everything I do in life—from what I purchase, to the classes I take at university, to the articles I want to read in the newspaper, to the summer jobs I apply for. For me, being a volunteer and seeing the impact of volunteer work is the drive behind working hard in school and, above all, following my dreams. My degree in psychology will not just be something that I will benefit from, but will allow me to help others too. I know that I am young and have this “I can change the world” attitude, but I think that empowers me and I hope to never lose it.

Project Serve Day is based on community service learning, which integrates community service with intentional learning and reflection activities. On Project Serve Day, I worked at Woodwynn Farms, a therapeutic community that takes in homeless individuals and offers them an opportunity to change their lives with education and hard work. While there, the 20 other volunteers and I baled hay, got a tractor unstuck from mud, and aerated compost and soil beds.

The farm is beautiful, and it was very interesting to learn how it works. We worked alongside some of the residents there as well as many other volunteers. Woodwynn Farms broke down some stereotypes many hold about homeless people: that they are lazy, uneducated, unintelligent and that they do not want help from others. I am not surprised that Woodwynn Farms has a high success rate. The people who work there show respect and unconditional love to everyone who walks through their doors.

If you are looking to discover something about yourself, or even another culture, and want to help others by giving back, I would strongly recommend volunteering and community service learning at every opportunity you are given.


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Keywords: volunteering, community

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