Students at the University of Calgary have many opportunities to get engaged with the community.
Calgary Serves is a program run by the Centre for Community Engaged Learning and is currently recruiting for its upcoming projects. Calgary Serves started at the U of C in 2009 and is a series of co-curricular service learning experiences that students can take part in during the year.
CCEL is a service-learning initiative that is different from other volunteer experiences because, according to the CCEL website, “the benefits of a partnership are shared equally between the service provider and the recipient of service.”
The first Calgary Serves project at the U of C was in 2009, when students volunteered with an elementary school in Vancouver. They learned about problems facing inner cities and how communities work to overcome them.
Calgary Serves has also provided students with reading week opportunities in Calgary through Homelessness at Home, Youth by Youth digital storytelling and volunteer opportunities in New Orleans.
Calgary Serves will run three reading week programs this year. Homelessness at Home will focus on the connections between homelessness and mental health.
The New Orleans project expanded this year into two separate programs. The first explores food security and social justice issues such as race and poverty while exposing students to urban agriculture. The second will look into community and participants will help build homes.
CCEL’s learning coordinator Alycia Lauzon has been involved with service learning on campus since 2006.
“They were incredible, eye-opening and life-changing experiences. It was a really profound experience — so significant in my university career,” said Lauzon.
Lauzon said that the primary changes to the program this year were in terms of size and partnership. Calgary Serves will continue to expand, giving more students the opportunity to participate.
Lauzon said that this has increased student and staff awareness of the initiatives presented by Calgary Serves and CCEL.
In 2012, a partnership with the Students’ Union helped increase funding, allowing the program to double its participants from 12 to 24 students.
Calgary Serves also runs an international program in May that gives students the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica. Volunteers live in a small island community on Isla Chira and learn about issues surrounding rural tourism while carrying out service projects and supporting English language learning in local schools.
Lauzon said that Costa Rica was chosen to be the international project location for many reasons.
“It’s not a totally undeveloped nation, so it’s not quite as huge of a culture shock for students, but it’s definitely different. [There are] really unique ecosystems, so developers want to come in and develop the space but local residents are really resistant to that,” said Lauzon.
CCEL’s service-learning assistant and fourth-year development studies student Brittany Vine has participated in Homelessness at Home and the program in New Orleans.
“It’s a great way to learn more about what is happening in the community, whether it’s in Calgary or abroad, and a way to learn while volunteering and bring that knowledge back,” said Vine. “There are learning opportunities and leadership opportunities.”
Applications are due October 12 at 4:30 p.m.