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Students reach out to volunteer during Reading Week

by Aurora Herrera

Instead of heading off to an exotic location during reading week,150 U of T Scarborough students will be doing volunteer work in the community on Wednesday Feb. 20 as part of the Reading Week Reach Out campaign.

The students will go out to agencies in the community to volunteer their services for one day at this year’s participating agencies, including: the Canadian Cancer Society, East Metro Youth Services, Goodwill, Juliette’s Place women’s shelter, Variety Village, Momiji Health Care Society, Red Cross Food Bank and Painting Project, and True Davidson Acres Home for the Aged. 

The event has been happening on the St. George campus for many years. In 2005, however, the office of student affairs and services decided to launch a program on the Scarborough campus.

Sumita Kanga, who was a second-year student at the time, was hired to coordinate the event in cooperation with the department staff. Now a fourth-year public policy major, she has been coordinating the volunteer day ever since.

Kanga said she works with community partners for two-and-a-half months prior to the day to plan and organize the volunteer activities. Volunteer tasks include painting, redecorating, administrative duties, as well as whatever is needed. Even though the volunteers are giving their time to these agencies, they say they gain a lot in return.

Student volunteer Chris Chen said he is participating because he hopes to make a difference. “I simply want to give back to my community,” he said. “I also wanted to take this opportunity as a break from studying for exams during Reading Week because I feel there's nothing better than finishing a day knowing you made a difference in someone's life.”

The event gives students exposure to volunteer service while connecting them to the community. They learn that they can make a difference and also get relevant experience in their field of study, said Kanga.

“A student majoring in women’s studies can volunteer at the women’s shelter and assist the agency while gaining practical skills,” she added. “Also if students are looking for a volunteer internship after they graduate, these connections will help.”

Volunteers travel directly from their homes to the participating agency on the outreach day, Kanga said. She is so is busy planning the day that she has not yet had the chance to go out and be a volunteer at an agency. Nevertheless, Kanga said she is satisfied with her own role in facilitating the volunteer opportunities. She said it has helped her to develop as a person.

“I’m interested in public policy and social policy, and so the day provides a connection to that,” she said. “It gives me a chance to apply what I’m learning and to address the issues that I read about in books. I hope that these volunteer opportunities continue and that we can build more community partnerships and expand our activities in the future.”

More information on the Reading Week Reach out can be found at:

Aurora Herrera is a fourth-year student in the journalism program offered jointly by U of T Scarborough and CentennialCollege. She is currently working as an intern in Marketing & Communications.







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